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Iserbyt rode a faultless race to ride away from an elite trio of Wout van Aert, Toon Aerts and Michael Vanthourenhout.
Brand’s victory came with some controversy, however. The Telenet Baloise Lions rider profited from unintentionally obstructing Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado in the pit lane when the pair were clear at the front of the race with two laps to go, giving her a split second’s gap that converted into victory.
Though Brand’s victory still stands in the record books, she was subsequently fined for her sloppy bike change.
“It was absolutely not the intention to run down someone,” she said after the jury’s decision. “We entered the pits together and I didn’t know where her mechanics were. But they were close to mine, so I made a choice [of] what to do, and that was the wrong choice. ”
Although Brand’s win will be remembered for the wrong reasons, the 31-year-old’s ride was an impressive one nonetheless.
The Dutchwoman, who also rides for Trek-Segafredo on the road, took to the front of the race from the very first lap, going clear with Alvarado, and Denise Betsema. Bestsema initially looked the strongest but began to fade midway through the race, from which point it was all Brand and Alvarado at the front.
Alvarado took the first advantage after Brand stumbled, powering clear over the heavy grass of the hilly course. Brand was able to make the bridge from a long way back, however, and from there on the pair were remained locked together through the fourth lap.
The race changed complexion on lap five when Brand and Alvarado went into the pits together as Betsema trailed behind. Brand entered first, meeting her team and throwing her bike to the ground, unaware Alvarado was directly behind, leaving the world champ obstructed for a split second.
The pit lane altercation gave Brand a small gap, and the 31-year-old was able to hold off her young rival from there, winning her fourth consecutive race this month, taking her tally to six for the season.
“I noticed that I was a bit stronger on the climbing parts,” Brand said. “But Ceylin was excellent in the descents, so it was very difficult to break. Fortunately, it worked out in the final and I was able to maintain that difference ”
Though Betsema was distanced by the charging lead duo in the middle of the race, she managed to hold on for third behind Alvarado to make an all-Dutch podium. U.S. national champion Clara Honsinger took sixth.
The men’s race played out with a similar narrative, as the strongest riders separated themselves at the front early on before errors and fatigue made the gaps.
Toon Aerts was the first to take to the front of the race, while Van Aert got his customary slow start, riding in the middle of the pack through the first lap. Michael Vanthourenhout and Eli Iserbyt joined Aerts at the front of the race while behind, Van Aert slowly but surely worked his way through the field before eventually making contact at the front of the race.
Once in the lead bunch, Van Aert began forcing the pace to repeatedly gain half-gaps, only to see one of Vanthourenhout, Iserbyt or Aerts bring the group back together each time.
The front quartet stayed together through the middle of the race before the attrition of a tough, technical course that was stacked with cobbles and short hills began to take its toll. Van Aert and then Aerts both faltered while Vanthourenhout hesitated slightly, leaving Iserbyt to go clear with two laps to go.
Iserbyt continued powering away at the front of the race while behind, the three chasers separated, with Vanthourenhout second, Aerts third, and Van Aert fourth. From there on, there was no change as 23-year-old Iserbyt rode the perfect race while the chasers behind were unable to bring the action back together.
Iserbyt crossed the line first with a comfortable advantage, leaving Vanthourenhout, Aerts, and then Van Aert to come second through fourth.
“I didn’t have a good feeling today – that’s a shame,” Van Aert said. “I completely missed my start and when I took the initiative at the front, it was impossible to try. But it is what it is. In the final, I had nothing left. ”