Lucinda Brand (Baloise Trek Lions) delivered a cyclocross masterclass on her way to another dominant UCI World Cup win in Besançon. The world champion blew away the field in France on a course that suited her broad and powerful skillset.
The 32-year-old made the race winning move on the first of four long laps on the mud-caked course to take her seventh victory of the season and extend her lead in the series classification. Pan-American champion Maghalie Rochette also put on an impressive performance and finished second, her highest placing in a World Cup since the Canadian’s victory at the Iowa City round in 2019. She also breaks the two-week streak of all-Dutch podiums in Word Cups.
“I made sure I was leading in the first part of the race so I could choose my own lines and I think that was a big benefit,” Brand said of her unmatchable performance. “I constantly could take the time to find the right lines and push the power where it was needed.”
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Besancon is a new course on the World Cup circuit but has been used extensively in the French Cyclocross Cup and National Championships. Cold wet weather greeted the riders in Doubs and made the course muddy and heavy, which would suit riders who race well in tough conditions
Buoyed on by their local crowd, French sisters Helene and Perrine Clauzel (A.S. Bike Crossteam) went like rockets off the start line but were soon caught by the group. Brand, who started strongly compared to previous rounds, made the early move on the first lap, and hardly looked back, using her qualities to create a small gap and immediately putting the pressure on her series rival Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen–Bingoal).
With Brand almost out of sight, a group of five which included Betsema, Fem van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal), Inge van der Heijden (777), Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Fenix) and Rochette formed to give chase.
Course degradation played a huge part in the fortunes of many of the starters, so tactics became crucial with most riders choosing to go for half-lap changes on the long 3,350 metre lap.
On the second lap, Betsema gapped her teammate van Empel as she went on the hunt for the world champion. A few little mistakes cost the 28-year-old in the pursuit though, opening the door to Rochette who soon joined then overtook the Dutch rider on the penultimate lap.
The French speaker, who has travelled to Europe after a strong racing block in the United States, thrived in the wet Besancon conditions and rode a perfectly-judged race to get into a podium position for the final lap. Clearly stronger in the heavy running sections, Rochette quickly put daylight between herself and the chasers with Betsema dropping back to join Pieterse in the fight for third place.
Brand rode the closing stages just as strongly as her dominant opening lap, showing an impressive consistency throughout the race to win in her mud-spattered rainbow jersey.
A beaming Rochette then finished 26 seconds back with Betsema able to hold off the charging youngsters for third place. So often dominated by the Dutch riders, the top ten had a North American flavour to it with Clara Honsinger finishing seventh and Katie Clouse ninth (both Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld).
The result means that Brand, who is expected to skip the round in Val di Sole on December 12, extends her lead over Betsema to 29 points at the halfway stage of the series.
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