A three-way battle of champions. World Champion Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit) took her first cross win of the season at the GVA Azencross in Loenhout on Wednesday. Though she looked to be struggling during the race to stay in the lead group, she hung on and then used her powerful kick, no doubt helped by her track work, to outsprint German Champion Hanka Kupfernagel (Itera-Stevens) and Dutch Champion Daphny van den Brand (ZZPR.nl).
“In the end, the speed in my sprint was good and decisive for the win but I struggled a lot in the first few laps to stay in the wheels of Hanka, Sanne, Daphny and the other Sanne.” said a shivering Vos after the podium ceremony.
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Even though a few big names were missing from the start such as Katie Compton, it bodes well for the upcoming World Championships to have such a tight battle between the top women as many are coming back into form after illnesses.
“Women’s cycling gets more and more interesting because the top ten get closer together. I think that we’ll have a very exciting World Championship in St Wendel.” Kupfernagel commented.
With the temperature finally a few degrees above freezing, the snow had started to melt giving some tractor-pull mud sections on the course in Loenhout. And then of course the famous green whoops at the end of the lap before a short straightaway and a left turn to the pavement.
A selection was made by the end of the first lap with Sanne van Paassen (BrainWash), Belgian Champion Sanne Cant (BKCP-Powerplus), Kuprfernagel, Van den Brand, Gabby Day (The ChainStay-RENNER) and Vos getting a gap. By the final lap, the group was down to three on a final drag race to the line. Kupfernagel led out the sprint, taking it before the final turn but Vos stuck to her wheel and then came around with 200 meters to go and gave a final look behind her before raising her arms in victory.
Sue Butler (Hudz-Subaru) was the top American finishing in 11th with Maureen Bruno-Roy (Bob’s Red Mill) in 13th.
Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit). “In the end, the speed in my sprint was good and decisive for the win but I struggled a lot in the first few laps to stay in the wheels of Hanka, Sanne, Daphny and the other Sanne. But in the end it went better and better and I was more confident on my bike. I had some changes. I changed three times I think my bike, so in the end on the last lap it was good just in time. ”
Was it the mud that made her uncomfortable? “Yeah it was kind of different than in the laps in preparation so I had to change a little bit. In the last lap it felt good.”
About her start. “I had a pretty good start, I started in the second row but then I had a little crash with Helen Wyman so I had to start again. And then you’re not that comfortable because of the crash so I had to get a rhythm again, I needed some laps but then it went well.”
About the final sprint. “Hanka Kupfernagel led the sprint in just before the last corner, I think she wanted to make a long sprint and tried to take a gap before the last corner but I could hold her wheel, it was just the last 200 meters that I sprinted.”
Hanka Kupfernagel (Itera-Stevens). “It was always difficult to find the right line through the deep mud and snow. In the last lap I was able to find the good line but then you made a little mistake a little bit so it’s always like a yo-yo. I felt good, it’s a nice feeling to have good legs again. I still have problems with the shoulder especially in the technical, especially in the deep mud but during the race you have enough adrenaline. I think I did good that I didn’t start in Zolder and I got treatments in the last two days from the physio, it helps a lot.”
About her crash in Zolder. “On Saturday during the training, I crashed like everybody five times but the last time, it looked a little bit like Simunek crashed in the race, when I saw the men’s race and I saw his crash, it was similar. Lost the front wheel and crashed into a barrier, normally you stand up and go on but this I felt a little bit dizzy and over the night I had a lot of pain in my neck. ”
Daphny van den Brand (ZZPR.nl). “One week I was ill, I was so sick one week. Last week was the first week I could train, it was good but I missed something. Today it was good but I see that my body is not good enough to win with the top here so I’m satisfied that I’m riding with the top girls but the last two laps I had cold legs and I didn’t feel my legs anymore so I can’t sprint, I don’t know what I’m doing in the sprint. But when I’m better and better these weeks, I’ll be in good form for St Wendel.”
About her form. “Normally I’m very good in Loenhout, Kalmthout and Zolder but I’m a little bit not so good, maybe at the end of the season I’m better. My condition is getting better and better and that’s my luck now.”
Top 10 Women GVA Azencross
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit 0:41:36
2. Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger) Itera-Stevens st
3. Daphny van den Brand (Ned) ZZPR.nl st
4. Sanne Cant (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus +00:30
5. Sanne van Paassen (Ned) BrainWash +00:55
6. Pavla Havlikova (Cze) APB Cycling Team +01:42
7. Helen Wyman (GBr) Kona st
8. Nikki Harris (GBr) APB Cycling Team +02:14
9. Gabriella Day (GBr) The ChainStay-RENNER +02:20
10. Sophie de Boer (Ned) ZZPR.nl +02:40
11.Susan Butler (USA) Hudz-Subaru +03:25
13. Maureen Bruno Roy (USA) Bob’s Red Mill p/b Seven Cycles +04:20