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RUDDERVOORDE, Belgium (VN) — Briton Nikki Harris (Telenet-Fidea) kicked off the Superprestige series with a resounding solo win on a technical course here in western Belgium. Though Sunday was a gorgeous, sunny fall day, heavy rains on Saturday meant slow, tacky conditions on a drying, but still muddy, track.
Harris, whose star has been on the rise for a year now, took advantage of the absence of some of cyclocross’ biggest names — among them world champion Marianne Vos and British champion Helen Wyman — to claim an unchallenged win, but nonetheless made a statement about her intentions for the season.
“It was very hard work, even though I had a good gap. I was surprised to have a gap so early, but I was able to go flat out anyway,” said Harris, adding that the real test will come during the first World Cup race in the Czech Republic in two weeks’ time.
Behind her, Sanne Cant, the local favorite, who broke definitively into cyclocross’ elite ranks with a third-place finish in last year’s world championships, fell early and found herself chasing from deep in the field from the first minutes of the race.
Riding with blood streaming down her right knee, Cant managed to claw her way back into the race, but too late to make much of a dent in Harris’ commanding lead. Instead, she grappled for second place with Sophie De Boer.
Cant, visibly in pain, could not match the Dutchwoman’s finish, and had to settle for third. Dutchwoman Arenda Grimberg took fourth ahead of Belgian Ellen Van Loy.
Harris’ American teammate, Amy Dombroski, was part of the race for second early, but fell from the chase group later in the race and had to settle for sixth place. Dombroski told VeloNews.com that she saw positive progress, but was still trying to recover from the transition from North America to Belgium.
“I was happy with my start,” she said. “The last few races I’ve been having to play catch-up in the start. I was there where I needed to be at the start this time, but just didn’t have it for a whole race today. It was a bit of a slog.”
American Christine Vardaros had a disappointing outing, finishing 13th.