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The Boxing Day races in Zolder saw opposite conditions from the deep mud and heavy rain of the last World Cup round in Namur, though the same riders came out top. Van der Poel’s victory was his fourth World Cup win in a row, while Brand took her second-straight World Cup victory.
Lucinda Brand (Telenet Baloise Lions) won the women’s race with a finish line sprint to edge out Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado (Corendon-Circus).
The pace was hot from the very start of the race, with Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) shooting from the third row of the grid to take the front, with Alvarado and Annemarie Worst (777) challenging.
With the hard dry ground, mini-pelotons formed through the early laps, and as the intensity eased slightly, a goup of seven came together – Brand, Worst, Alvarado, Vos, Inge van der Heijden (CCC-Liv), Eva Lechner (Creafin-Fristads), and Sanne Cant (IKO).
The group fractured and reformed through the race, but by the final lap, Brand, Worst, Vos and Alvarado had gone clear. Brand piled on the pressure through the circuit, leading the bunch with a pace that separately drew out Vos, and then Alvarado.
Vos and Worst couldn’t match Brand’s final surge, and the Telenet Baloise Lions rider went into the final straight with only Alvarado remaining.
Brand led out the long, dragging sprint, and though Alvarado stayed close, she was unable to come around the Dutch ‘cross champion, who took her second-straight World Cup victory. Worst narrowly beat Vos in the sprint for third.
Alvarado now leads the standings by one point over Katerina Nash.
- Lucinda Brand (Telenet Baloise Lions): 47:49
- Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Corendon-Circus): +00:01
- Annemarie Worst (777): +00:13
Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) soloed away halfway through the race to take a comfortable-looking victory in the men’s.
The race started out fast and furious, with riders sprinting from the start grid. Zdenek Stybar (Deceunick-Quick-Step) came to the front from the middle of the pack but collided with Toon Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions), taking both riders out of the front group. Aerts was riding with four fractured ribs after a heavy fall in the fight for victory at Namur, Sunday.
Ahead of the crash, 10 riders led the race, with van der Poel, Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels-Sauzen Bingoal), Quinten Hermans, (Telenet Baloise Lions) and Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels-Sauzen Bingoal) all in contention.
The front pack remained together much of the first half of the race, with van der Poel always sitting toward the back as if just waiting for his moment.
It was lap 4 where the world champion decided to make his move, and accelerated from the bunch with no-one able to match him. By the time he crossed the line for lap 5, he had already taken 13 seconds over the group behind him.
The chase group failed to commit to working together to bring back van der Poel, despite the flat dry course favoring a bunch effort. Instead, they seemed more intent on marking each other out in a race for second place.
By lap 8, van der Poel was over 20 seconds ahead, with the chase group down to four. Hermans led the group, with Sweeck, Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels-Sauzen Bingoal), and Gianni Vermeersch (Creafin-Fristads) sitting on his wheel.
Van der Poel eased off in the final laps but remained comfortable at the front of the race, and won by six seconds to take his fourth-consecutive World Cup win. Sweeck edged out Hermans in the sprint for second.
Aerts failed to make it back to the front of the race despite a hard chase after the opening lap crash, and finished 14th. However, he maintains his series lead over Vanthourenhout, who finished fourth. Iserbyt, third in the overall standings, finished the race in 13th place.
- Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus): 1:02:22
- Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels-Sauzen Bingoal): +0:00.06
- Quinten Hermans (Telenet Baloise Lions): S.T