Shirin van Anrooij (Baloise Trek Lions) took her second Cyclocross World Cup victory of the season on Monday, battling through the mud of Gavere to win ahead of teammate Lucinda Brand.
After neutralising Puck Pieterse’s (Alpecin-Deceuninck) attacking start, Van Anrooij spent almost all of the race in the lead, holding on to take her second win in a matter of days after conquering the Exact Cross in Mol on Friday.
It was a Baloise Trek Lions head-to-head for much of race as Brand tried to chase down Van Anrooij, but it was the young talent who proved stronger than the veteran, who is returning from injury. Van Anrooij's victory today marks the continuation of a remarkable run of form, finishing off the podium on only one occasion all season.
Despite struggling in the mud in the middle of the race, Pieterse fought back to take third, whilst Brit Zoe Bäckstedt (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) finished in fourth, her best result in a senior World Cup.
“At first I was riding at the front and I didn’t know that Puck was actually not on my wheel anymore because I just didn’t look back," Van Anrooij said at the finish. "I tried to ride my own pace. And then I saw Lucinda coming closer but I knew the final part suited me really well because that’s where I could drive away from Puck, so I just tried to keep the pressure and ride my own race, and it worked.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
In what has become a familiar sight this cyclocross season, it was Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Deceuninck) who started strong in Gavere, pulling out a small gap on the bunch after just a few minutes of racing. No stranger to a long solo effort, it looked possible that the U23 World Cup leader could be away for good, but a big acceleration in the second halfo f the opening lap saw Shirin van Anrooij (Baloise Trek Lions) take over at the head of the race.
At the end of the first lap, Van Anrooij had a ten second advantage on Pieterse. Pieterse briefly caught up with Van Anrooij on the second lap, but slipped back down the positions as her bike struggled with the thick, cakey mud.
Behind Van Anrooij, it was her teammate Lucinda Brand who staked a claim for the podium on the second lap, returning to her best after a hand injury sidelined much of her early season, though Blanka Vas was hot on the heels of the former world champion. After a strong start, Zoe Bäckstedt was holding onto fourth at the halfway mark as Pieterse tried to cling on to a top-5 position.
It was the climbs that proved to be Brand’s strongest point, powering up the muddy inclines and putting her road abilities to good use in the cyclocross season. The course’s main climb saw Brand claw back vital seconds on her teammate and rival Van Anrooij, cutting into what had been a 20 second gap. Brand began pushing the limits on the third lap, having some close calls on the descents as she took risks to try to close the gap.
Those risks allowed Brand to catch Van Anrooij soon after the pits, but the younger rider was not giving up and soon reclaimed her place in the lead, accelerating again to pull out a gap again as Brand felt the effects of the chase back on. At the bell, Van Anrooij had rebuilt a 12 second lead on Brand, with Vas another 13 seconds back in third. In the fight for positions, Bäckstedt ceded a place to a resurgent Pieterse, but in turn overtook Vas to hold onto fourth.
After a big effort to shake off Brand, Van Anrooij solidifed her lead in the final lap to win by a clear margin, her third win and 10th podium finish of the season. Brand held on for second, whilst a second wind from Pieterse saw her climb back up to third.
Despite missing the Gavere round of the World Cup after crashing at the previous round in Val di Sole, Fem van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen) holds onto the overall lead, but Pieterse is closing the gap, now only 40 points down on the lead.
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