Cyclocross

Superprestige Zolder: Mathieu van der Poel goes solo, Lucinda Brand wins from sprint

Chaotic men's race takes several contenders out of contention in opening laps while women's race comes down to tight five-way battle.

Lucinda Brand powered to a sprint win while Mathieu van der Poel was ruthless in capitalizing on setbacks from his main rivals to take victory in Zolder on Saturday.

Brand won from a four-up sprint, beating Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado and Annemarie Worst to the line to claim her ninth victory on the season.

In the men’s, van der Poel took his fourth win of the season while Wout van Aert battled back from a puncture in the opening lap to come through the field and take second place.

“The feeling was good, and I had a good pace from the beginning,” van der Poel said after his win. “With a flat tire for Van Aert, I knew I didn’t have to wait to bring him back. I chose my moment and I didn’t expect to be alone that soon, but I had a good pace and I could hold it to the end.”

The race got off to a chaotic start, with Tom Pidcock and Toon Aerts both caught up in a crash in the opening lap that left them toward the back of the peloton.

Later through the opening lap, Van Aert lost his place in the front group due to a rear-wheel puncture, forcing him into the pits and landing into a chase group with Aerts in the middle of the bunch.

Van der Poel attacked in the middle of lap two and was never seen again.

Eli Iserbyt and Lars van der Haar were leading the chase around 15 seconds back before Iserbyt crashed hard into the barriers. The young climber fell heavily, and while conscious, was clutching his elbow and in visible pain as he was carried to an ambulance.

Heading into the fifth lap, Van Aert had powered his way back through the field to link up with van der Haar, Daan Soete, Laurens Sweeck, Corne van Kessel and Michael Vanthourenout in the chase bunch as van der Poel time trialed away, over 30 seconds ahead.

Pidcock and Aerts were in a group around 10 seconds behind them.

Having sat in the middle of his chase pack for a handful of laps as the pursuing sextet marked each other out, Van Aert turned on the afterburners on the penultimate lap to take a comfortable lead in the race for second place as van der Poel continued to stretch his lead.

Van der Poel rode faultlessly through the final lap to win by 38 seconds, with Van Aert taking second. Van der Haar put in a late acceleration from the pack to claim third.

Pidcock finished in ninth place.

Brand led out the sprint and took it by a few bike-lengths. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

Brand won a tight battle in the women’s race.

The 31-year-old took victory from a four-up sprint after she had scrapped with Del Carmen Alvarado, Worst, Denise Betsema and Inge van der Heijden through the five-lap race.

Brand led out the final acceleration and brought her big road power to the fore to net her ninth victory of the season, with Alvarado and Worst filling out the podium.

The fast, flowing course made for a close battle after Betsema, Worst, Alvarado, van der Heijden and Brand came together in the second lap. Riders took turns in laying down big attacks in an effort to break the group, with Worst and Betsema going clear as a duo for a lap before Brand pulled the quintet back together.

Van der Heijden yo-yo’d on and off the group three times as mistakes and stumbles left her repeatedly chasing back.

After so many failed attacks through the race, the lead group started cat-and-mousing in the final lap, allowing a chase group of five to briefly made contact before Betsema, Alvarado, Brand and Worst again went clear. Van der Heijden was unable to maintain contact with the foursome and fell back into the chase group.

Having laid down a big attack at the start of the final lap, Brand continued to take the offense through the last circuit. Despite having been on the front for so long, she led out the sprint and was able to hold her power through to her third victory in four races.

“It was really fast and really hard to get away. I tried a couple of times but never got more than 50-100 meters,” Brand said after the race. “So I knew it would be a sprint and the only question was against how many. I’m happy I managed to take it my way.”

Racing resumes at the World Cup Dendermonde on Sunday.