Brand on sand training by Sven Nys ("it used to be terrible"), riding in front with Van Anrooij and baking cookies Cyclo-cross

Brand on sand training by Sven Nys ("it used to be terrible"), riding in front with Van Anrooij and baking cookies

Brand on sand training by Sven Nys ("it used to be terrible"), riding in front with Van Anrooij and baking cookies

Lucinda Brand proved she was the strongest rider in the field on Friday afternoon in the Exact Cross race in Mol. In the vicinity of the well-known Zilvermeer, after about twenty minutes the 34-year-old Baloise Trek Lions rider embarked on a long solo mission, which she ultimately successfully completed. She won with a lead of more than twenty seconds over her compatriot and teammate Shirin van Anrooij, while Laura Verdonschot finished an impressive third.

Brand clenched her fist in victory well before crossing the finish line. The Dutch rider secured her third victory of the season in Mol, having previously won the World Cup races in Dublin and Flamanville. In her other races, she always finished on the podium, which is a clear testament to her top form. Even this season's woman of the hour, Fem van Empel, had a tough opponent in Brand last time. "The cross here in Mol was very demanding, but I had a good feeling right from the start. In the second lap, I felt it was a good moment to go, so I just tried," Brand told and other media outlets after the race.

Brand received sand-specific training from Sven Nys

The Dordrecht native was not a sand specialist at all in the past, although she did become world champion in a sand race in 2021 (Oostende, ed.). This week, she received sand-specific training from cyclo-cross legend and coach Sven Nys to improve her performance in the loose sand. "Sven certainly played a role in it. Sometimes it goes better than other times, but it's definitely improving. My overall technique has improved, and my technique in the sand, for sure. It used to be really terrible. You wouldn't think that of someone who became world champion on that surface," she laughs. "But I don't see it becoming my absolute specialty."

Speaking of sand specialists, Van Anrooij initially rode alongside Brand but ultimately had to acknowledge the experience of the more experienced rider. "Shirin is indeed good in the sand. She put a lot of pressure on me. It took me a lot of effort to keep up with her," Brand, who is in her thirties, praised the youngster. "At one point in the third lap, we both chose different lines, and apparently, mine was a better option. So, I decided to push hard and see what it would yield. I heard that Shirin took the wrong line a few times afterward. That takes a lot to recover from. It's challenging to rectify that."

One-two for Baloise Trek Lions in Mol

It was a beautiful sight in the opening laps of the Flemish cross to see the two ladies of Baloise Trek Lions leading the way together. Brand was clearly the strongest, although Van Anrooij did not give up easily. "Of course, it's nice to ride together," says the winner, who then goes into more detail about the personal tactics when you ride at the front together as teammates (and friends). "Of course, it's nice to ride together. Moreover, if you're not certain about your position, you have to collaborate. It would be very foolish in that case to compete against each other. But when it's one-on-one, you do look for ways to make things difficult for each other. That's part of racing, isn't it?" she asks aloud.

A true turn-taking collaboration didn't quite happen, as it turned out. "The two of us had a gap. Realistically, with that gap, as long as nothing unusual happens, we shouldn't run into any problems. And, of course, we're not going to stop and say, 'I'm not taking the wind.' That's crazy. Here in Mol, we could simply focus on our own strengths and try to make the most of them."

Baking cookies for charity

The upcoming Christmas season is an incredibly busy time for Brand - for which cyclo-cross rider isn't it, really? So what will be key to success during this time? "Resting a lot after the races will be the most important thing, along with recovery rides and eating well," she confides in the media. About a week before the cyclo-cross in Mol, Brand also participated in the World Cup race in Namur, traditionally held on the famous Citadel. There, her team took part in a charity event, specifically for De Warmste Week (the Belgian equivalent of Serious Request, ed.). As part of that initiative, the riders of Baloise Trek Lions baked cookies. "That was a lot of fun!" Brand enthuses.

"We had a connection with De Warmste Week through a few of our team's partners, so we decided to bake cookies," she explains further. "Spectators at the Namur cyclo-cross could then buy those or make donations. It worked out really well. All the riders prepared something. But it was clear that baking wasn't exactly everyone's strong suit," she jokes. "We got some help here and there, but the team members marketed it in a beautiful way, and it resulted in a nice contribution to charity. That's the most important thing."

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