After spending some time behind Eva Lechner in the cyclocross World Cup standings, Sanne Cant rode her way back into the overall series lead Saturday with a thrilling victory in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium, dispatching Katie Compton in the final lap to take her second World Cup win of the season. The win should come as a particularly welcome result for Cant, who narrowly missed out on the victory at the last world championships, as the 2016 worlds race will take place on the same terrain in just over a month.
The action was delayed at first by a false start when one start light showed red and another showed green. When things did get underway, it was Lechner (Colnago-Sudtirol) who charged into the early race lead. Cant (Enertherm-BKCP) got off to a slow start but quickly worked her way through traffic towards the front of the race, taking advantage of a few short but steep climbs and several technical sections, one of which saw Kaitie Antonneau (Peanut Butter & Co. Twenty12) hit the deck.
“I don’t know what happened but I was maybe in 10th position, but at the first lap there was a lot of wind and they fell [back], so I could go to the front,” Cant said.
Ellen Van Loy (Telenet-Fidea) grabbed the lead before the end of the first lap. By the time the riders crossed the finish line for the first time, Cant was right behind her, forming a strong quartet with Lechner and Sabrina Stultiens (Liv-Plantur).
Compton (Trek Factory Racing) made it a quintet at the front early on in the second lap, and then the veteran from Wilmington, Delaware charged up the steep final climb of the circuit to take the race lead. Just as Compton made her presence known at the front of the race, Lechner saw her chances disappear when she went over the handle bars on the tricky descent. Stultiens lost ground as well, leaving a trio of Compton, Cant, and Van Loy at the front of the race.
Late in the third lap, Cant tried to put Compton behind her for good on the same climb that Compton had used to her own advantage a few minutes prior, but Compton closed the gap and retook the advantage not long after the third crossing of the finish line. The duo did, however, dispatch Van Loy, who couldn’t hold on to the hectic pace at the front of the race.
Cant remained locked on Compton’s wheel throughout the rest of the fourth lap as it became clear that the race victory would come from the leading pair. She held her fire until midway through the fifth and final lap, when she launched a devastating attack that Compton could not match.
“I had a better feeling in the uphill than Katie, so I pushed all on the last climb,” Cant said.
Although Compton appeared to be hot on Cant’s heels most of the way up the climb, Cant finally distanced her going up and over the top and getting back up to speed after remounting. Compton could not bridge the gap coming into the final straightaway.
Cant crossed the line with both hands held high on a time of 45:02. Compton settled for second place seven seconds behind. Van Loy finished a distant third at 24 seconds, with Thalita De Jong (Stichting Rabo Women) nearly nabbing a podium spot a further three seconds back.
Cant’s second World Cup win of the season gave her enough points to surpass Eva Lechner in the overall World Cup standings. She now leads the women’s world cup 222 points to Lechner’s 205, with Compton in third overall at 173.
The World Cup series continues January 17 in Lignières, France.