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Thirty women started the elite world cyclocross race, but within a few minutes only two of them were racing for the win.
In a display of Dutch dominance, the duo of Marianne Vos and Lucinda Brand launched themselves clear early and came to the line together, with Vos unleashing a clearly superior sprint to take the win.
In the closing laps, Vos took a few digs on an uphill and also through some technical bends to drop Brand. She could not. And out of a few corners, Brand tried to get rid of Vos. She could not.
“We know each other so well, it is really, really difficult,” Vos said of Brand, who won the 2021 title and also the Fayetteville World Cup. “I know what she’s probably going to do, and she knows what I am probably going to do. It makes for an interesting race to watch, but also for a nerve-wracking race for ourselves.”
With only a few corners to go, Brand came nearly to a standstill, trying to coax Vos to take the front. She could not.
“We both knew that the best position for sprinting is in second place,” Brand said. “It was a long sprint, with still wind. And I am kind of a slow person in comparison to Marianne.”
“It is good for the history, maybe,” Brand said with a wry laugh.
This is Vos’ eighth cyclocross world champion title.
How it played out
On the first of seven laps, the Dutch trio Marianne Vos, Lucinda Brand and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado motored away from the field. Within two laps, Alvarado had come off the blistering pace of her compatriots on the fast 3.1km course.
The race sold 7,000 spectator tickets for the weekend, and fans from Fayetteville to Flanders gathered around the key parts of the course, such as the tall staircase and the steep descent off the manicured rock hill.
On the fourth lap, Silvia Persico nearly clawed her way up to a fading Alvarado, but didn’t quite make contact.
Wearing number 1 as the defending champion, Brand initially led Vos with the number 2 on her back through the circuitous course, sometimes opening a bike length or so gap out of a corner that Vos would fluidly close into the next obstacle.
On the long stairs, the pair ran in synchronicity.
With three laps to go, Vos set the pace at the front while Persico caught Alvarado, 30 seconds behind the leaders. Behind them, it was only more Dutch riders coming through, with Yara Kastelijn, Manon Bakker.
American Clara Honsinger moved up into 10th after a relatively slower start.
With two laps to go, Vos sat up and took a drink, and looked back at Brand. Brand declined to pull through.
Some 30 seconds behind, Persico chased hard, with Alvarado locked onto her wheel.
Coming into some tights bends, Brand went to the front of the two-woman Dutch machine.
On an uphill pitch, Vos took a dig and came over the top of Brand but could not drop her. Through some S bends, however, Vos’ smooth flow was able to open a gap to Brand of a few bike lengths.
Glancing over her shoulder, Vos kept the pressure on, trying to maintain her advantage. On the stairs, however, Brand was back on terms, and she rolled to the front after the steep drop off the hill.
On the final lap, Brand led through the finishing straightaway, with the Arkansas crowd pounding the boards on the barriers.
Around the course Brand stayed at the front, even when Vos took a final test attack on the backside climb. On that same climb about 40 seconds later, Alvarado tried to pry herself clear of Persico.
Up the stairs for the final time, Vos nipped at Brand’s heels.
Behind, Alvarado slid out on a corner, relinquishing third to Persico.
Out of one of the final tight corners, Brand came nearly to a standstill, looking at Vos to take the front. Vos would not.
And so, coming into the final straightaway, Brand led it out, but Vos unleashed the sprint that had won her so many titles before.
And so it was that Marianne Vos added the year 2022 to her collection of world titles from 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
2022 UCI World Cyclocross Championships Elite Women Results
- Marianne Vos (NED), 55:00
- Lucinda Brand (NED), at :01
- Silvia Persico (ITL), at :51
- Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (NED), at 1:04
- Yara Kastelijn (NED), at 1:05
- Manon Bakker (NED), at 1:39
- Maghalie Rochette (CAN), at 1:59
- Helene Clauzel (FRA), at s.t.
- Inge van der Heijden (NED), at 2:12
- Sanne Cant (BEL), 2:27