Annemarie Worst (777) drew on her extensive aptitude for riding sandy 'cross courses to take an emphatic victory among the dunes of Koksijde at the seventh round of the UCI World Cup in Belgium.
Worst distanced fellow Dutch rider Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal) through the sand dunes on the penultimate lap and carried the advantage all the way to the finish line to take her first victory of the season.
“It’s really big for me,” Worst said at the finish, after commenting on a recent struggle the 777 rider has had with her back. “When I raced, every lap my confidence grew and I was really happy with it,” the 25-year-old added.
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One of the Classics on the cyclo-cross calendar, the Duinencross, or ‘cyclo-cross of dunes’, is a red-letter day for race fans from all over Europe due to its famous parcours and ease of travel. Having been cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, both riders and fans were keen to get back to the famous dunes.
The recently crowned under-23 European champion Shirin van Anrooij (Baloise Trek Lions) had a lightning-quick opening lap and did well to get ahead of the melee on the first large dune. The 19-year-old, who races for Trek-Segafredo on the road, was reeled back in by Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin-Fenix) as the favourites massed at the head of the race.
Although having shown promise in the sand, Carmen Alvarado, who won the last time the Duinencross was held in 2019, suffered a puncture on the second lap and was distanced by the leading six.
Capitalising on the Dutch Champions misfortune, Worst put in her first burst of the day on lap two and quickly distanced the rest of the group. She would soon be joined and then attacked by Betsema at the start of the third lap.
So much of Koksijde relies on the momentum a rider carries through the sand sections and of course their running abilities. Eventual winner Worst was clearly stronger on the dunes, but Betsema carried a good pace through the connecting sections to stay with her.
Brand, who received extensive sand tuition from Baloise Trek Lions team manager Sven Nys at their training base in Lichtaart before the beachside 2021 World Championships in Ostend, battled away in third and was held at an arm’s length by the duo.
On the fourth lap, Worst once again attacked Betsema through the first long sand dune, and showed her prowess by staying on the bike for longer than her rival, who had to use the barriers for support at one stage.
Having extended her lead to 17 seconds on the final lap, Worst had enough time to give out the customary finish line high-fives before raising her arms in victory on the airbase finale.
The victory comes at a promising time for Worst with the Dutch national championships on a sand-filled Zaltbommel course on the horizon.
That race will prove one of the battles of the season if the Koksijde results sheet is anything to go by as American champion Clara Honsinger (Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld), who finished 10th, was the first non-Dutch finisher.
Brand held on for third but her gap in the general classification was cut to just 14 points by Betsema.
With Team Jumbo-Visma confirming that Marianne Vos will return to the European scene at the World Cup round in Val di Sole, yet another Dutch name is looking to get a result in the lead up to the World Championships in Fayetteville.
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