Cyclocross

Lucinda Brand continues standout season with another solo at Superprestige Boom

World champion extends overall lead in the Superprestige series with ninth win of season.

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Lucinda Brand (Trek Baloise Lions) won the Superprestige Boom on a day of rain and deep mud Saturday. The world champion’s ninth victory of the season was measured, her performance faultless.

Inge van der Heijden (777) took second place, just holding off Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) on the final lap. Brand now leads the Superprestige rankings with 71 points, ahead of Betsema with 68 points.

The race took place at the De Schorre park in the village of Boom, south of Antwerp. Fans of Belgian techno raves will recognize the venue – it hosts the famous Tomorrowland electronic music festival. The atmosphere at today’s Superprestige race was more restrained; stricter COVID-19 regulations in Belgium forced the organizers to close the VIP and public beer tents.

The venue’s natural amphitheater shape lends itself well to creating a challenging course. There are two long climbs, one of which goes around a huge wooden statue of two sleeping trolls. The other climb starts on cobbles then transfers to a steeper grassy section, forcing the riders off their bikes. The flat grassy sections, usually fast and flowing, were made harder today by heavy mud that soon caked the riders. By the end, Brand’s rainbow stripes were almost completely obscured.

In pouring rain, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin-Fenix) was fastest away from the start but van der Heijden soon took the lead and opened an impressive gap. Brand, Betsema, Alvarado and Maghalie Rochette (Specialized Feedback Sports) formed a chasing group and held the gap at six seconds by the end of the first lap.

Van Der Heijden won the 2019 U23 worlds in Bogense, Denmark, but since then has struggled to make the transition to elite racing. Today the 22-year-old from Schaijk, Netherlands, looked to have rediscovered her form and her confidence. Brand was alert to the danger and set off in pursuit.

The catch was made on a long run-up on the second lap, and for a while it looked as though van der Heijden would be able to hold Brand’s wheel. Then the younger rider lost her front wheel on a tricky slow off-camber bend and went down. Brand didn’t need another invitation to attack.

Behind, Betsema had a problem with her left shoe. Her pit crew had a spare, but cold and wet hands are not good for fiddling with Boa dials and the change was agonizingly slow. It was particularly unfortunate because Betsema looked to be on a really good day. After the shoe change she charged back through the field, passing Alvarado and Rochette and setting off in pursuit of van der Heijden.

Van der Heijden was strong enough to hold Betsema off by seconds by the line. 17-year-old Zoe Backstedt (Tormans Circus) excelled in the tough conditions, taking an excellent ninth place.

For those road riders making their return to cyclo-cross racing it was a very wet baptism of fire. Christine Majerus (SD Worx) finished in 13th place and will be aiming to build her ‘cross form through the busy Christmas period.

The next Superprestige race is on the 27th December at the Heusden-Zolder motor racing circuit, scene of the 2016 world championships. The series concludes in mid-February at the classic Gavere venue. Before that, however, we have the snow of Val Di Sole in the World Cup and the return of Marianne Vos to look forward to.

Superprestige Boom, top-5:

1 Lucinda Brand (Trek Baloise Lions: 47.24
2 Inge van der Heijden (777): +0.37
2 Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal): +0.43
4 Maghalie Rochette (Specialized Feedback): +0.59
5 Fem van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal): +1.04