Cant defies Dutch dominance to win world championships

Challenge from Brand blighted by pit-lane crash with own mechanic.

Sanne Cant (Belgium) out-powered four Dutch riders to take her third consecutive world title in Bogense, Denmark, Saturday. Cant looked flawless as she contended with a lead group that was dominated by riders from the Netherlands throughout the race. The Belgian was able to capitalize on a fall from main challenger Lucinda Brand (Netherlands) with two laps to go, enabling her to win by nine seconds.

“The first (world championship) was unexpected, and this one, I really can’t believe it”, said Cant. “Last year, I was so happy but this is just amazing. I’m a Belgian rider in front of three Dutch riders. They didn’t make it easy for me, but I answered with my pedals.”

A slight increase in temperature from the day before made for a slippery, muddy course as ice on the ground melted, with conditions made more tricky by rain prior to the start.

As expected, the Dutch showed their power from the start of the race, with Annemarie Worst, Denise Betsema, and Marianne Vos making the top five, joined by Cant and Ellen Van Loy (Belgium).  Having been swamped at the start line, Nikki Brammeier (GB) fought through the crowds and made her way into fifth by the close of the first lap, with Van Loy falling back as she slipped on a steep off-camber that caused many riders problems all race.

By the second lap, Jolanda Neff (Switzerland) had managed to fight her way from the fourth row of the grid to join Worst, Cant, Betsema, and Vos at the head of the race. Behind, Brand attempted to bridge to the front group after crashing at the start of the race, with Brammeier and Kaitie Keough (USA) following.

Cant was unfazed by being outnumbered by the Dutch riders, and set the pace for her adversaries to follow through the majority of the middle of the race.

By lap five, Brand had joined her three Dutch teammates and Cant at the front of the race. After her huge efforts in the initial laps, Neff had fallen out of the lead group, and was 15 seconds behind, battling with Keough and Brammeier to stay in touch with the leaders. Brammeier’s challenge ended when her chain became stuck in her frame, causing her to lose a lot of time as she struggled to rectify the issue.

Brand’s endurance from the road shone through as the race progressed, enabling her to come past Cant and take the lead toward the end of lap five, and she looked to be by far the strongest of the Dutchwomen. Despite the ferocity of Brand’s attack to move past her, Cant remained calm and stayed close. However, Brand’s intensity caused Vos and Worst to fall back slightly, with Vos notably looking to be struggling.

In what was possibly the pivotal moment of the race, Brand fell when changing bikes as the race entered the penultimate lap, a miscommunication with her mechanic causing her to slip and lose precious seconds. She was able to link up with Vos when she re-joined the race, but looked to have sacrificed a lot of energy in staying in contact with the leaders.

Cant continued to grow in confidence as the race moved into the dying stages, distancing the quartet of Dutch riders, which was now led by Vos, who clearly had refound her form after looking labored earlier. Brand closely followed her, with Worst and Betsema losing ground, falling victim to the relentless pace of the charging Cant.

In the final lap, Brand moved into second and chased desperately, clearly attempting to capitalize on the flat sections where she could use her speed from the road. Just as she looked to be clawing back some crucial seconds, however, she fumbled again on the off-camber that had been causing her problems through the race. This left Cant to solo across the line, winning in 47:53, with Brand crossing the line nine seconds later, visibly distraught. Vos followed her after a further six seconds.

“It was a really fast race and there was a lot of wind so it’s normal the gaps weren’t too big,” said Cant. “It was a real tactical race because I was there with three or four Dutch riders so I had to be smart.”

Betsema finished fourth in what was her first World Championships race, and Worst came fifth, to make four riders from the Netherlands in the top five.