New Tests for Women
While the Kerstperiode has long been a staple of men’s racing, new rules requiring promoters to run women’s events in more circumstances opened up a number of opportunities for women to race as well, including today in Baal. And, in the absence of American Katie Compton, who started only one race — in Namur — in the past two weeks, World Champion Marianne Vos showed that she remains the undisputed best in the world, claiming eight straight victories in two weeks.
In fact, the only rider to win a major race here in these two weeks was Daphny Van Den Brand, who capitalized on Vos’ decision to race in Luxembourg today with a solo victory over Belgian Champion Sanne Cant in here Baal.
“It was a heavy race, but I felt my legs were very good, the best of the whole week,” said Van Den Brand, who finished second three times in a row before the win today. “My condition is really good, but I don’t know if it’s good enough for the Dutch championship, because I was sick a couple of weeks ago. When there’s four races in a week you feel it, your recovery is not so good.”
Van Den Brand, now in her final season of racing, will be hunting for an eleventh national title next week in Huijbergen on a course that suits her attacking style and hopes to improve enough to claim a final world title as well.
“I don’t know if I can beat Marianne next week, but it’s my kind of course. It’s the last chance for that jersey, but I also have the European Champion’s jersey and am UCI leader and GVA Trofee leader, and you can’t win everything. But I’m going up, up, up, up and I can grow to the World Championships. I think Marianne is at her best right now; I don’t think she can keep improving all the way to the World Championships.”
But Vos has been unbeatable in the past two weeks, and, following a training trip to South Africa in early December, said she thinks she has the form to repeat as the World Champion.
“Nothing is ever guaranteed in cyclocross, but I feel really good and I hope to stay on this form for the national championship. I don’t think this is my peak form, it’s just the beginning,” Vos told VeloNews earlier in the week.
The bigger challenge for Vos may come from Katie Compton, who has climbed as high as the second step of the World Championship podium, but never higher. The two have hardly faced each other this season. Compton was clearly not at her best in a third place finish in Koksijde in November, on the same course where the championship race will run later this month. She looked stronger in Namur, but her chances for a good result were destroyed when she dropped her chain just moments after the start of the race. Again she was forced to settle for third place.
“Of course I’ll be ready for her,” said Vos, “and for sure Daphny will be really good in Koksijde too. But last year Katie was way, way far in front. So it’s going to be a very interesting race. I don’t know how it will go, but for sure Katie’s going to be good.”
But while Compton has assured herself a chance to challenge Vos at Worlds, a handful of other Americans came to Belgium during the Kerstperiode to try an earn a spot on the national team.
Katie Antonneau, who turns twenty today, locked up her spot on the team with a brilliant 10th place finish in Namur. Meredith Miller, Amy Dombroski, and Nicole Duke also have met the qualifying standard earlier in the season.
New Englander Mo Bruno-Roy came to Belgium looking to earn a spot as well, but, despite excellent results in Diegem and Essen, fell short in both World Cup races and will have to wait to if a slot for the team should open p.
“I think overall the trip was very good. It’s hard for me to do five races in ten days,” she said after her final race in Belgium in Zolder on Monday. “I hope this pays off, because there was no real racing in the US the past couple of weeks. So I think this is good in that aspect, but I’m disappointed overall.”
For Belgian-based Christine Vardaros, meanwhile, Kerstperiode was not a vacation, it was just another opportunity to race her bike. At the end of two weeks, the American, like almost everybody who started a race in the past two weeks, said she was tired, but happy.
“After seven races in two weeks, I’m feeling better and better each time,” she said, covered essentially head-to-toe in mud after finishing 14th today. “For me, the harder the racing the better, so today was a great day for me. It just felt good to be a racer racing.”