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Reigning world and European champion Lucinda Brand (Trek Baloise Lions) repeated her 2020 victory in Tabor with an exciting, late-race victory over Puck Pieterse (Alpecin Fenix) on Sunday.
Last year, Brand won alone with a comfortable margin. Today she had to fight all the way to the finishing straight after a fast and tactical battle.
Brand came to the race equal on points in the overall UCI World Cup rankings with Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal). The Dutch rider could only finish finish, a result that puts Brand into the overall lead with 187 points, 19 ahead of Betsema.
A small town in the South Bohemian region of the Czech Republic, 60 miles south of Prague, Tabor has a long history in top-flight cyclocross.
It has hosted the world championships in 2001, 2010 and 2015, and is scheduled to host them again in 2024. There have also been 14 World Cups in Tabor since 1998. For the world championships in late January, there is often snow on the ground. November in Tabor, however, is much like November in Belgium. Conditions for the race were chilly and dry. The ground was tacky but firm, and most of the riders were using intermediate mud tires.
Some 50 riders from 15 nations took the start. Missing was Belgium’s Sanne Cant (IKO Crelan), who stayed at home to recover from the mild concussion she suffered in a crash during the sighting lap at the Superprestige Niel Jaarmarktcross on Thursday. Great Britain’s Anna Kay (Starcasino) chose not to travel to Tabor, instead racing and winning the GP Leuven in Belgium on Saturday. Returning from a collarbone break at the start of the season, Kay will be aiming to be competitive in the World Cups in December.
Tight action from start to finish in Tabor
Under-23 World Cup leader Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Fenix) was the fastest away from the start, though Brand shot through on the inside of the first corner to take the lead.
As the first lap settled down Brand and Pieterse set the pace, and it was clear that Pieterse was feeling strong. By the time they completed the first lap a sizeable group had formed, including Betsema, Kata Blanka Vas (SD Worx), Annemarie Worst (777), Shirin Van Anrooij (Trek Baloise Lions), Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin-Fenix), Alicia Franck (Proximus) and cyclocross veteran Eva Lechner (FAS Airport Services). Behind, American champion Clara Honsinger (Cannondale Cyclocrossworld) and Pan-American champion Maghalie Rochette (Specialized) had been held up in traffic and were chasing hard.
On the second lap, Pieterse used her technical ability to bunny-hop the tricky uphill barriers. She was the only rider to do so and because the other riders lost momentum as they dismounted on the slope, Pieterse was able to open up a gap. Brand and Vas slowly closed to Pieterse and the trio drew clear.
Brand, however, was playing a game of patience. Whenever she came close to the front of the group she chose not to attack, letting the younger riders burn themselves out. A lull in the action at end of third lap meant the group reformed, this time with seven riders. Brand slipped to the back and once again it was Vas and Pieterse who led.
On the fourth encounter with the barriers Pieterse again bunny-hopped, and attacked hard over the hill that followed. The 19 year-old from Amersfoort in the Netherlands, a talented mountain biker, looked to have opened a decisive gap.
After second in Overijse behind Vas, and second in the European Championships, Pieterse was chasing her first World Cup win. But youthful ambition was undermined by the experience behind her. First Betsema, then Brand, gave chase and the attack was shut down by the end of the fifth of six laps.
With the bell ringing in their ears, Brand went hard into the first grassy section. Betsema and Pieterse were in close attendance. Into the barriers for the final time and even Pieterse’s bunny-hopping couldn’t beat a determined Brand, who dug deep to go clear over the top of the hill.
A furious last-minute chase by Worst tightened Brand’s lead but it wasn’t enough. The Trek rider won by three seconds, with Pieterse outsprinting Worst and Del Carmen Alvarado for second. She will have to wait a little longer to put her arms in the air. Rochette finished in 10th place and Honsinger in 11th.
Next week the World Cup returns to another long-standing venue, Koksijde, Belgium. There the challenge is the long sections across the sand dunes. The teams will be digging out their file tread tires this week.
|1||Lucinda Brand||Trek Baloise Lions||52.0|
|2||Puck Pieterse||Alpecin Fenix||0.03|
|4||Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado||Alpecin Fenix||0.04|