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Marianne Vos (Jumbo Visma) and Lucinda Brand (Trek Baloise Lions) renewed their cyclocross rivalry at the World Cup in Rucphen on Saturday, and it was Vos who triumphed after a tense and tactical race.
The pair escaped from Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) on the last lap and Vos used her lightning sprint to take the win.
Dutch riders filled the top-seven of the ‘cross but there were no crowds to cheer their home heroes due to strict new COVID measures in the Netherlands.
Brand’s absence from last week’s snowy Val di Sole race allowed Betsema to get closer in the overall World Cup ranking, but with five races left Brand is now in a commanding position. She has 282 points, against Betsema’s 269 points.
— UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup (@UCIcyclocrossWC) December 18, 2021
After the drama and beauty of Val di Sole, Rucphen was a return to more traditional cyclo-cross landscapes.
Based around a reservoir and an athletics track, the course was flat and punctuated by several short steep banks and two sets of wooden steps. After a mainly dry week, the track was tacky but not muddy. The most memorable feature was a spiral carousel which looked enough to make the riders dizzy. It looked good on television but made little impact on the outcome of the race.
In damp and misty conditions Vos was the sharpest out of the blocks, sprinting away with Brand, Fem van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) and Puck Pieterse (Alpecin Fenix) digging deep to stay on her wheel.
Behind, Clara Honsinger (Cannondale Cyclocrossworld), Maghalie Rochette (Feedback Specialized) and Ceylin del carmen Alvarado (Alpecin Fenix) all got shuffled backward into the pack and were left with a lot of chasing to do.
If Brand had stiff legs from last week’s training camp she quickly shook them off.
The world champion went clear with Vos but when they realized that an early attack wasn’t going to pay off, the two stars backed off the pace, allowing a regrouping in the middle of the race. Betsema, Annemarie Worst, van Empel and Pieterse joined Brand and Vos and the tactical games began.
— GCN Racing (@GcnRacing) December 18, 2021
Lacking a sprint, Betsema tried to make the pace difficult. Vos and Brand, however, were able to sit in behind Betsema and play a waiting game. Coming into a tight chicane on the fifth of seven laps, Brand and Vos both tried to hustle Betsema off the front of the group.
Betsema held her position, and was duly notified that an attack was imminent. Vos went first, attacking over a bridge. Betsema and Brand clawed their way back then Brand wound up her big engine on the final lap. She succeeded in dropping Betsema. Dropping Vos is an altogether different challenge.
At the barriers, just before the finishing straight, Vos tried to pass Brand, with the intention of being first through the final corner, but missed her pedal on the remount. Brand opened up the sprint. Vos, however, had enough time to unleash her devastating kick.
U.S. champ Honsinger and American teammate Katie Clouse finished down the pack in 27th and 26th respectiely.
After the race the teams were quick to get cleaned and packed and on the road. Sunday sees another World Cup in Namur, a two-hour drive south from Rucphen. Last year Brand won Namur and Honsinger had a breakthrough performance to take second. This year Brand will again be the favorite to win.
UCI Cyclocross World Cup Rucphen elite women’s results
1. Marianne Vos (Jumbo Visma) 54.14
2. Lucinda Brand (Trek Baloise Lions): at s.t.
3. Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal): +:08
4. Fem van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal): +:17
5. Puck Pieterse (Alpecin Fenix): +:19