Lucinda Brand and Wout van Aert take victories at Zilvermeercross

'Cross racing returns with low-key race that Alvarado and van der Poel both sat out.

Lucinda Brand and Wout van Aert took victories in the sand and snow of Zilvermeercross on Saturday.

The low-key race was the first of the cross calendar after a two-week pause in competition.

Many top riders sat out the event, including Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, Sanne Cant, Tom Pidcock and Mathieu van der Poel. They are all expected to be making their returns to racing at next weekend’s double-bill of Flandriencross and World Cup Overijse. From there, it is just one week to the world championships in Oostende.

Van Aert won the men’s event in his first race in the Belgian national champ’s jersey, profiting from his running speed and technical chops on the sandy course.

The Jumbo-Visma star led the race from early on after going clear with Laurens Sweeck and Dan Soete. Behind them, David van der Poel and Lars van der Haar led the chase before Soete fell of the leaders’ pace to join the pursuit.

Van Aert made his winning move with three laps to go, punching away when Sweeck made a slight error. Van Aert soon gained over 20 seconds and was never seen again as he soloed to victory, winning by over one minute.

Meanwhile, behind van Aert, van der Haar dropped van der Poel heading into the final lap to secure third place behind Sweeck.

Brand rode away from Denise Betsema in the final lap to take victory in the women’s race.

The pair had been at the front for much of the race as Yara Kastelijn, Marianne Vos and Puck Pieterse led the chase. Vos came closest to shutting down the gap to pull it back to within 10 seconds, but was unable to make the final contact.

Betsema and Brand went into the final lap locked together until Brand began to squeeze the pressure midway through to ride away from her rival and win by four seconds.

Vos took third, while U.S. national champion Clara Honsinger finished eighth.