Lucinda Brand closed in on cyclocross’s Grand Slam as the new world champion secured the Superprestige series in Saturday’s final round on a muddy course in Middelkerke, Belgium. Brand came third and is now poised to win the World Cup, World Championship, Superprestige and X20 Trofee. Denise Betsema prevailed on the day, taking her fifth win of the season.
Although Brand had claimed the last five rounds, last season’s Superprestige champ Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado, winner of the first two races, was only three points back, but that meant that Alvarado had to finish four places ahead of Brand to take the title. Since 15 points would be awarded to the winner, 14 to the runner-up and so forth, Alvarado’s only chance was to finish ahead of Brand and for her rainbow jersey-clad compatriot to have a lousy day. But Brand had only finished off the podium once in her 24 races of the 2020-2021 season.
Brand, wearing her world champion’s jersey, fell early on Lap 1. Manon Bakker and Betsema emerged from the chaos to lead. Alvarado, in the European champion’s jersey, tried to push to the front. Bakker led over the line of the first 2.8-km circuit.
Betsema, who always goes out fast in the early part of races, went clear of Bakker on Lap 2 of 5. An error from Bakker saw Alvarado pass her. Betsema was 11 seconds clear of the European champ at the line.
With Brand having made her way into fourth place on Lap 3, Alvarado had to catch and dispatch Betsema is she had any chance of winning the series, but Betsema padded her lead.
Even with Betsema making errors on Lap 4, Alvarado wasn’t shrinking the gap. Meanwhile, Brand was up to third, having passed Bakker.
By the bell lap, it was clear that the positions between Betsema, Alvarado and Brand, barring disaster, would hold. Even though Betsema crashed, she still won by 33 seconds. Brand celebrated her third major achievement of the season as she crossed the line.
Brand is 38 seconds ahead of Betsema and 4:35 ahead of third place Alvarado in the X2O Trofee series, which continues with the penultimate round on Sunday.
2020-2021 Superprestige Series, Round 8, Middelkerke, Belgium
1) Denise Betsema (The Netherlands/Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal)
2) Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado (The Netherlands/Alpecin-Fenix) +0:33
3) Lucinda Brand (The Netherlands/Baloise-Trek Lions) +1:08