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Hard work pays off for Lucinda Brand at cyclocross world championships

Newly crowned world champion to target Paris-Roubaix, Olympic selection and U.S 'crosses through 2021.

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Hard work more-than paid off for Lucinda Brand at the cyclocross world championships Saturday.

Having been bettered by compatriots Annemarie Worst and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado at both the 2020 cyclocross worlds and also last year’s Dutch nationals, Brand turned the tables to top an all-Dutch podium Saturday and cap a standout season that has also landed her the World Cup overall win.

Brand’s first-ever cyclocross world title and rise to the top of the Dutch pecking order was, ironically enough, forged under the eye of Belgian CX legend Sven Nys and a block of tune-up sessions in the heart of Nys’ home country.

“This title is indeed the fruit of hard work,” Brand said in her post-race press conference. “Months of hard work with Sven has paid off. All those training sessions with him have paid off.”

“In recent weeks I was more in Belgium than in Rotterdam,” she continued. “I almost feel Belgian! And because of that, I drove around confidently. I was not always in the ideal position, but I knew I could make it up.”

When coronavirus put a stop on the 31-year-old’s road season with Trek-Segafredo last spring, Brand turned her attention to tuning up her ‘cross form. Having long been elbowing with the best of her Dutch compatriots through her cyclocross winters, Brand took the pause in road racing as an opportunity to balance up her raw road power with the technical efficiency that had previously left her lagging against cyclocross specialists.

The result was regular skills sessions under the guidance of double world champ Nys and rides with male Belgian teammates from her Trek-Baloise Lions ‘cross team. For the final build to the Ostende worlds, Brand based herself in the heart of rival territory in the bid to make a difference on her Dutch colleagues.

Brand’s success over her Dutch rivals came after training in Belgium under the mentorship of CX legend Sven Nys. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Image

After seeing her chances at a world title go up in smoke in Dubendorf last winter as mechanicals hindered her progress in the final lap, Brand was the most consistent across the tricky Ostende course and its combination of deep sand, high bridges, and technical grassy passages this weekend.

The race came down to a tense three-way fight with Worst and Denise Betsema, and while her younger rivals each had sectors where they stood out and others where they suffered, Brand was able to stitch each passage together flawlessly.

The consistency landed her the victory she had long been so close to having finished in the top-4 of the previous four world championships.

“After so many times being so close, and now finally after such a great season is really great,” Brand said after the race.

“The intention was to give everything [in the last lap],” she continued. “I stayed very focused until the end, and I am very proud of myself. Finally, it worked – it’s very liberating to be able to put your hands in the air. I had no part of the course where I could really make a difference, but the hardness of the combination of all the parts was in my favor.”

2021: From Roubaix to the USA, with a stop-off in Tokyo

Brand will center her road season around Paris-Roubaix and the Tokyo Olympics Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Image

With a world title and World Cup overall in her pocket, Brand will trade her ‘cross rainbow jersey for the blue and white of her Trek-Segafredo road team. The Dutchwoman is slated to start her classics season at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in late February in what will make for an early taste for the cobbles ahead of her major goal: the inaugural women’s Paris-Roubaix.

“I want to have a nice spring, with Paris-Roubaix as the main goal, to help force my qualification for the Olympic Games in Tokyo,” she said.

Whether Brand squeezes into the all-star Dutch road team in Tokyo or not, she’s hoping to get back into her cyclocross champion’s jersey as soon as possible in the fall. Having typically enjoyed a short reset between her road and CX schedule, the prospect of rocking the rainbow bands is pulling Brand toward the early-season ‘crosses in the U.S.

“I definitely want to participate in the American crosses at the start of the new cyclocross season, if they come,” she said. “Having this title doesn’t mean I’ve achieved my goal in cyclocross. On the contrary, I want more.”