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Lucinda Brand squeezes out battling Alvarado at GP Sven Nys

2020 world champ Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado enjoys best race of season after struggling to hit the podium through the winter so far.

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Lucinda Brand (Baloise-Trek Lions) continued her winning streak into the new year, winning the X20 Trofee Baal – GP Sven Nys on Saturday.

Brand has dominated the season so far and made it five wins from five Saturday, but it was far from straightforward.

2020 world champion Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin Fenix) returned to her former best after struggling so far this season, pushing Brand as close as you can get in a tense final lap battle.

Brand crossed the line just three seconds ahead of Alvarado, who won the GP Sven Nys in both 2019 and 2020. Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal) finished third and retained her lead in the X20 Trofee series.

U.S. riders Clara Honsinger, Katie Clouse and Madigan Munro swept positions nine through 11, with the Canadian Maghalie Rochette taking eighth.

Brand paid a tearful tribute to countrywoman Amy Pieters in her post-race interview. The world champ had been wearing a helmet with “Amy” painted in pink across the top in support of SD-Worx rider Pieters, who is currently in an artificial coma after a training accident.

“It’s a very difficult time. It’s nice to win. But meanwhile we know that it’s not that important,” Brand said. “My thoughts are with Amy and her family. I hope they can get some power out of it.”

Brand, Betsema and Alvarado had taken a slim lead over the chasers in the first lap before Betsema lost a handful of seconds and began her race-long chase.

The differing style and strengths of world champ Brand and the former title-holder Alvarado made for a yo-yo-ing battle at the front of the action. Brand gained ground on the heavy boggy mud sections while Alvarado had an advantage on the more technical segments.

It was only on the third lap of four that Alvarado lost ground after her front wheel became stuck in a deep rut at the bottom of a descent.

Brand held a six-second gap over Alvarado heading into the final lap and the race looked over. But Alvarado didn’t give up and slowly winched her way back to the charging Brand mid-way through the final lap and an upset looked on the cards.

Brand was able to distance the resilient Alvarado when the Alpecin-Fenix rider got caught in the traffic of lapped riders on a muddy climb. Alvarado again battled back and came close to regaining contact to Brand, but the course was just too short, and an exhausted-looking Brand crossed the line three seconds ahead.

Betsema came back after a last-lap error to secure third and retained her lead in the X20 Trofee.