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Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) went solo early in the race and stayed away to take an empathic victory at the Cyclocross World Cup in Belgium.
After a great start in the USA, the CX World Cup returned to Europe for a terrific homecoming on the world-famous Zonhoven course. With sunny, dry and unusually warm weather for the time of year, it was an electrifying and leg-sapping race on the iconic sand dunes.
It was a very fast start, the field stretching into one long line on the way to the sand. The main event of the Zonhoven course is “The Ditch”, a steep descent into the basin and run back up the other side, twice. The first to emerge from the natural amphitheatre was Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Fenix), and by the end of the first lap, the 19-year-old had been joined by four others, including Betsema and Lucinda Brand (Baloise Trek Lions).
Betsema first came to the front at the start of the second lap and she barely saw another rider’s wheel for the remainder of the race. Pieterse held on until the end of lap three, but then began to fade. Meanwhile, Brand rode a steady race, catching and overtaking her young rival on the fourth lap to cement her runner-up position.
With Betsema taking a second victory in 24 hours – after Saturday’s Superprestige Ruddervoorde – Brand crossed the line 46 seconds later. European champion Ceylin Alvarado (Alpecin-Fenix) snatched the last step on the podium, marking a strong comeback, after leaving her young teammate Pieterse behind on the final lap.
For the first time in her career, Betsema now leads the World Cup, taking over from Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) who is taking a short break from racing after a busy season.