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Kata Blanka Vas lands breakthrough World Cup win in Overijse

Hungarian champion beats fellow youngster Puck Pieterse after an engrossing battle

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The new generation in women’s elite cyclocross continues to make strides, as Kata Blanka Vas (SD-Worx) took a convincing victory in the UCI World Cup in Overijse, Belgium.

Vas sat out last week’s race at Zonhoven to recover from her travel from the United States, and it proved to be a wise decision. Vas won by 15 seconds from under-23 World Cup leader Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Fenix) after a series of errors saw early leader Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) slip out of contention.

“I didn’t expect this,” Vas said. “But I felt so good I just tried to get to the front, my legs were very good. I could concentrate on the whole race and everything went well. It means a lot to win my first World Cup.”

The course for this classic race is always tough, cutting back and forth across open farmland, then through a neighboring wood.

With several stiff climbs on every lap, the course usually favors climbers, but the descents are fast and slippery, and the technical features can trip up the unwary. Heavy rain over the last few days made the ground soft; there was a great deal of very wet mud.

60 riders lined up for the start in the center of Overijse. With a long uphill sprint on the Loensdelleweg lane, many riders chose to ride smooth tire treads with high pressures, then changed bikes in the pits at the top of the hill. However, this strategy unraveled when a big group of riders got tangled in the pits, initiating a chaotic first lap that allowed Betsema, who did not change bikes, to draw clear.

Behind the World Cup leader, Vas and Pieterse chased. Behind them, a large group included Lucinda Brand and Shirin Van Anrooij (both Trek Baloise Lions), Inge Van Der Heijden (777), and Heléne Clauzel (A.S Crossteam) tried to get on terms but struggled with the heavy conditions.

On the second lap Betsema slid out on a treacherously muddy descent and Blanka Vas and Pieterse joined her at the front of the race. A lap later, Betsema crashed again, this time more heavily, losing 15 seconds, and she never got back to the two young riders ahead of her. As Brand fought desperately to get back up to Betsema, Vas was applying the pressure to Pieterse.

The Hungarian rider’s endurance showed on the long slog climbs at the top of the course and she was composed enough to dive down the descents to a famous victory.

Brand outsprinted Betsema for third place, and some valuable World Cup points.

Honsinger dived back into European racing with a strong fifth-place. (Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

U.S champion Clara Honsinger (Cannondale showed again that she likes the hard courses, with an excellent fifth place finish.

As well as being a breakthrough performance by Vas, a host of exciting young French racers demonstrated their abilities. 18-year-old French Junior Champion Line Burquier (A.S Crossteam) finished 6th, senior French Champion Amandine Fouquenet (Arkéa Pro Cycling Team) took 9th and Heléne Clauzel (A.S Crossteam) took 13th.

Tomorrow the riders will line up for another classic, the X20 Trofee Koppenbergcross.

Held every year on the 1st November, a public holiday in Belgium, the women’s race has been renamed the GP Jolien Verschueren to commemorate the popular Belgian rider who died in July from brain cancer. Verschueren, who combined racing with a career as a schoolteacher, won the Koppenbergcross in 2015 and 2016.

2021 UCI Cyclocross World Cup Overijse Elite Women Results

  1. Blanka Vas (SD-Worx): 48:07
  2. Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Fenix), at :15
  3. Lucinda Brand (Trek Baloise Lions), at :33
  4. Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal), at :33
  5. Clara Honsinger (Cannondale, at :44