How Lucinda Brand balances cyclocross with road racing—and excels at both

Lucinda Brand is one of the best riders on the road and in cyclocross. She balances the two disciplines by taking short breaks and avoiding back-to-back race weekends.

Photo: Getty Images

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One of the headline moves in the women’s peloton this fall was Lucinda Brand’s transfer from Sunweb to Trek-Segafredo. The move to the U.S.-registered outfit should give the Dutchwoman opportunities to show off her naturally aggressive style, and provide the team with options in a variety of races.

Highly regarded as an intelligent racer, 30 year-old Brand is also one of the most sport’s most versatile athletes. Good against the clock, she can climb, sprint and, as one of the world’s top cyclocross racers, her bike handling, descending and positioning are second-to-none.

After being part of the Dutch sextet to win the mixed team relay at the Yorkshire road world championships, she finished eighth in the individual time trial, 3:15 behind American winner, Chloé Dygert.

She has bagged numerous top-five finishes in bunch finishes against the world’s fastest sprinters and, had her chain not dropped in the final 300 meters of the Giro Rosa’s toughest mountain stage this July, Brand would have finished higher than sixth overall.

Brand was part of the winning mixed relay team at the 2019 worlds, and placed eighth in the ITT. Photo Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

“That is a problem eh?” she laughed when VeloNews asked what her versatility offered her new squad. “It’s true you can put me in any race, just say where you need me to focus and I will train and I will improve that part.

“We want to do a good spring and there will be a big job for me, not always as a leader, but as a final rider. Then you can play your cards, race aggressively together and hopefully some races will turn my way.”

Two places behind Brand, Trek-Segafredo’s top finisher at this year’s Giro was Italian, Elisa Longo Borghini who remains on the roster. So how will they coexist?

“I think it should work out very well for us both,” Brand said. “If you have two riders in the race you can try to make tactics different and other teams need to choose, so I think it can be very helpful for each other to be together instead of alone.”

Before we see her on the road in Trek-Segafredo’s striking blue colors, she will race a different Trek bike in the red, white and blue of Dutch cyclocross champion, riding for Telenet-Baloise Lions.

The move to both new teams came after she spoke with ’cross legend and team manager Sven Nys at the start of this year.

“He knew of my ambition on the road and asked if it was an option to join Trek-Segafredo,” Brand said. “I knew if I made a change I wanted a road team that has a really high level of professionalism and shares knowledge from a guys’ team, and there are not many teams, so it was a logical step.”

After a hugely successful 2018-19 season, Brand’s return to the mud has been a good one. She won her first outing on November 11 at Jaarmarktcross, was fourth in the Czech World Cup in Tabor, with an aggressive performance at Sunday’s Koksijde race taking her to second place. However, competing all year-round takes a toll. So, how does Brand balance the ’cross and road?

Brand dominated much of the race at Koksijde but was left with second place. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

“During the road season I have more small breaks than others, then I really try to balance it with a lot of endurance training and I have not done so much cyclocross-specific training yet,” Brand said.

She also avoids double weekends, missing the DVV Trophee in Hamme last Sunday.

“It’s quite an impact on your body,” she said. “Of course I could handle a double weekend but I also need to look further than that, if I did every single weekend it’s so hard for your body to recover and there’s no space to have real normal training in between.”

However, for Brand, the two disciplines do compliment each other.

“My strength and explosiveness is trained very well in cyclocross, and of course with my skills I can save a lot of energy in the bunch,” Brand said. “The other way around, I think my endurance from the road is very helpful in cyclocross especially in the last few laps.”

Despite her successful start to the ’cross season, Brand’s sights are on the world championships which will take place in Switzerland early February.

She came close last year, finishing second to Belgian rival Sanne Cant and but for poor luck and crashes she may have taken the rainbow bands in the Danish mud. Come this season’s championships she hopes to be in even better form.

“Last year was I really good around Christmas and maybe a bit too good to keep that really high level,” she said. “So we are going to plan a little bit more ahead to get the fitness and form at the right moment. The world championships is a big goal but we’re also going to aim for some world cup wins.”

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