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Koksijde: Betsema battles back in aggressive win

Betsema races from nearly 30 seconds back to hold off Brammeier. Vos finishes off the pace but retains series lead.

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Denise Betsema (Marlux-Bingoal) attacked relentlessly to squeeze out Nikki Brammeier (Mudiita) on a freezing, windy day in Koksidje, with Annemarie Worst (Steylaerts-777) holding off a hard-battling Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado (Corendon-Circus) for third.

“What a weekend. After yesterday it was already great,” said Betsema, referring back to her win at Ambiancecross Saturday. “I was able to move up all the time. I can’t believe that I’ve won.”

World Cup leader Marianne Vos (WaowDeals) went out hard, taking the lead immediately and spreading out the field, with Sanne Cant (Corendon-Circus), Katie Compton (KFC Racing), Brammeier, Alvarado and Worst chasing on her heels. Betsema had a slow start and missed the initial selection.

Vos dominated the majority of the first lap, however, dropped back as the race started lap two, with Brammerier, Cant and Worst crossing as a lead trio. Vos was breathing heavily and looking labored through lap two and looked to be paying for her earlier efforts. At the front, Brammeier dominated the race, with Cant and Worst marking her closely. A chase pack including Betsema were over 20 seconds back.

As the race entered the third lap, Brammeier, Worst, Alvarado, Cant, and Compton had formed a clear lead bunch, crossing the line within five seconds of each other, with Brammeier first, always looking strong and in control. She attacked several times, but Worst was always able to match her, repeatedly pulling the chase group back.

Behind, Betsema had separated herself from the chase group and was chasing hard, and was only 3-4 seconds behind the lead quintet. Half-way through lap three, she was back in contact. The newly-formed group of six was being paced by Cant, with Brammier still looking very confident on her wheel.

It was now Cant’s turn to attack repeatedly. All of the group managed to stay with her except Compton, who started to look fatigued and fell off the pace. Cant’s attacks gained her a few seconds going over the line into lap four, however, Betsema dragged the group back together, with Compton now detached, five seconds behind in sixth place.

Having regained contact with the group, Betsema looked confident, attacking repeatedly. Although the group stayed together, Cant looked to be struggling, briefly losing contact. Compton had now slipped into seventh, with Alice Maria Arzuffi (Steylaerts-777) moving into sixth.

Going into the bell lap, Betsema and Brammeier had taken a few seconds over the group and were constantly swapping the lead, with Alvarado and Worst chasing together. Halfway through the lap, Betsema put in a massive move to distance Brammeier, who by now had been joined by Worst. Betsema quickly gained a four-second gap, only to lose some of that time when struggling to remount after a sandy climb. However, she retained composure to immediately accelerate again, keeping the chasers at bay.

Betsema went on to take the win in 45:53, posting the fastest lap of the race as she did so. Alvarado battled hard to take third but was beaten to the final podium spot by Worst.

“This is one of my favorite courses,” said Brammeier. “I trained to be good here. I’m super happy to be on the podium.”

World Cup leader Vos finished 12th after her fast start but remains the series leader.

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