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Denise Betsema took a solo victory while Laurens Sweeck took a narrow win at Superprestige Middelkerke on Saturday.
Newly-crowned world champion Lucinda Brand finished third in the women’s race and sealed the series overall, adding to her season haul of the rainbow jersey and World Cup overall. Toon Aerts secured the men’s classification with a sixth-place finish on the day having been put under pressure by Eli Iserbyt, who took third in Middelkerke and second in the standings.
Betsema went clear early in the women’s race and held off a chase from Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado on the boggy, hilly course to score a solo win. World champ Lucinda Brand took third, around 40 seconds behind Alvarado.
“It’s very nice to end my season like this with another victory,” Betsema said. “Of course there are some more races and I hope for more.”
Betsema, Alvarado and Mannon Bakker all dodged a pile up in the first lap to move into the lead of the pack. Season star Brand was one of the fallers and found herself mid-bunch, and began to steadily work through the traffic as she looked to defend her series lead.
Betsema and Bakker pulled away from Alvarado only for a series of tumbles to see 22-year-old Bakker distanced, leaving Alvarado to chase after Betsema. The margin between the two leaders yo-yo’d up and down through the race, though Betsema, third in the worlds last weekend, was able to recover from a final lap crash to win by over 30 seconds.
Brand may have crossed the line third, but the 31-year-old did enough to to defend her lead in the classification and seal the overall victory, adding to a standout season that has seen her sweep the titles so far. She also leads the X20 Trofee, which has two races remaining.
“It’s great to win another classification,” Brand said. “It’s been a really good season and this crowns it, to win a classification means to be strong all season.”
The men’s race was without dominant racers Mathieu van der Poel, Wout Van Aert and Tom Pidcock, all who have now switched into road mode and hung up their ‘cross bikes until the fall.
Sweeck won for the second consecutive year on the tricky Middelkerke circuit, with teammates Michael Vanthorenhout and Iserbyt taking second and third place.
Although team Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal swept the podium, it made for a bittersweet day after Iserbyt narrowly missed out on taking the Superprestige overall.
Had Iserbyt finished ahead of his teammates, the youngster could have overhauled Aerts’ points total to take the classification on the final round, dependant on Aerts’ finishing position. However, it was not to be for the Belgian team, who lost out on the Superprestige overall by just two points.
“It was difficult today,” said Iserbyt after narrowly missing out. “The course changed all the time and in the mud I couldn’t do my thing as much. The overall victory was never really there. From halfway through the race it also became more difficult for me. I didn’t have a super day, but maybe we could have done better with the team to take the overall victory. ”