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Cyclocross

Lucinda Brand on worlds team relay: ‘If they want the best riders they should look at the date’

The reigning world champ and Fayetteville World Cup winner says course changes have made it harder since the fall.

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The 2021 cyclocross world champion Lucinda Brand has spent a few days riding the Fayetteville course for the 2022 world championships, but she and her Dutch teammates skipped the team relay event on Friday ahead of her elite race on Saturday.

In fact, many nations skipped the non-medal test event, with only seven team taking the start — and the U.S. and Canada each fielding two teams. So, North Americans aside, only three nations put riders forward for the one-lap-per-rider relay.

Related: Italy beats USA in inaugural cyclocross worlds team relay

“It’s a cool idea but it’s still really a Europe-based sport,” Brand said.”It was maybe not the best idea to start the challenge here, and then with the troubles of COVID of course it made it even more difficult.”

The day before the event, with many riders pulling out of the worlds overall due to COVID or other challenges, the UCI changed the format from six riders to four.

“I am glad that they changed some of the rules. Maybe that wasn’t so nice for some of the people who were planning on racing and then were not, but then at least they can still have the event,” she said. “We will see on TV how it is going and what it looks like. Maybe next year we have some more teams, because now there are not so many teams.

Brand’s main suggestion for how to make the event more successful would be to schedule it earlier in the week, instead of the day before the elite women’s race.

“For the medal contenders it is maybe less interesting now for some of the categories because it is so close to their own race, and of course you don’t want to waste any energy,” she said. “If they want to have the best riders participate then maybe they can have a look on which date they put it on.”

American Clara Honsinger was third here in Fayetteville at the World Cup earlier in the season behind winner Lucinda Brand and second-place Denise Betsema. Honsinger raced the relay Friday, which she said was a good way to preview the course at race pace.

Betsema is pulled out of the 2022 worlds due to COVID, but former world champs Marianne Vos, Sanne Cant and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado are here.

Lucinda Brand tests out the stairs on the Fayetteville course before her race. (Photo: David Stockman/Getty Images)

Changes in the course

When the World Cup was held in Fayetteville, it was in muddy conditions which slowed down the otherwise fast course. Organizers altered the course to make it a little longer, doing things like building massive hill with a pedestrian underpass, and rerouting what had been a straight-shot, super-fast descent.

There has been speculation that the fast course could make for more tactical bunch racing. Brand disagreed with that assessment.

“No, I think maybe a bit more for the boys than for the women,” she said. “Of course it is a fast course. And also there is not so many technical sections, but you see how the downhill has changed. There is now more technique needed and also way more chance you make a little mistake.”

“You also should not underestimate the climbs, they are really tough. They added some stuff to the course since the beginning of the season, and it made it so you have no time to recover,” she said. “It definitely will be a hard race, even if it is fast, that means more laps and that means more climbing and you will feel that in the final.”