Lucinda Brand (Sunweb) went solo from the middle of the race to take a confident victory in slippery, tricky conditions at Namur, Sunday.
“[This victory] is super important, it’s such a tough race to win, it shows I’m definitely on top of this level,” said Brand.
Racing was furious from the gun, as the pack tackled the steep uphill off the start line. Ellen Noble (Trek Factory Racing) took the lead and immediately gained a few seconds, with Eva Lechner (Creafin Tüv Sud), Marianne Vos (WaowDeals), and Annemarie Worst (Steylaerts-777) behind.
After her fast start, Noble tired and slipped back. Halfway through the first lap, Vos, Worst, and Denise Betsema (Marlux-Bingoal) took the lead. After a slow start, Nikki Brammeier (Mudita) had worked her way through the pack to take fourth position, with Brand, Lechner, Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado (Corenden-Circus), and Kaitie Keough (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) forming the chase group.
The technical course with slippy off-camber sections and steep descents favored Brand’s strong descending skills. By lap two she had caught the front trio, with Brammeier on her wheel; leaving Brand, Vos, Worst, Brammeier, and Betsema all within seconds of each other. Lechner chased behind in sixth.
Brand’s ease on the fast descents showed as the race went on, and by midway through lap three, she had pulled away, effortlessly gaining 16 seconds as those behind her struggled with the technical course. Brand set the fastest lap of the race so far in the third lap as she started to build her lead. Vos lead the chase in second, with Worst behind her. Brammeier and Betsema were shortly behind Worst.
Behind, Jolanda Neff had chased from the fifth row of the grid and worked her way through the field, and caught and dropped Lechner to take sixth. By lap four she had made contact with those battling for the remaining podium spots behind Brand. This bunch of five remained close to each other, with only seconds separating each.
As the race crossed the line for the final lap, Brand had a 21-second lead, with Vos in second and Worst six seconds behind her.
Brand continued to stretch her lead during the final lap, looking at ease throughout. She crossed the line for the win in 45:40. Vos came in 27 seconds behind her, and Worst five seconds after her. Brammeier held on for fourth.
Neff continued to improve throughout the race, and gained further places in the closing stages, taking fifth, setting the fastest lap of the race as she did so. After such a strong start, Noble finished 17th. Keough came eighth.
“It’s a super tough course here anyway, and with all the slippery dirt, it makes it even tougher,” said Brand.