Lucinda Brand completes bizarre story with National Championship title: "Sounds a bit like I'm making all this up" Cyclo-cross

Lucinda Brand completes bizarre story with National Championship title: "Sounds a bit like I'm making all this up"

Lucinda Brand completes bizarre story with National Championship title: "Sounds a bit like I'm making all this up"

A week ago in Zonhoven, anyone who saw her heading to the bus could not have imagined that Lucinda Brand would be celebrated in the red-white-and-blue at the National Championship in Hoogeveen just seven days later. The 34-year-old Baloise Trek Lions rider broke her nose, but with a healthy dose of perseverance and some luck, she was able to compete for the title. Her strong legs, unimpeded after Zonhoven, were evident in an impressive solo performance.

"A national title always feels very good. It's a great reward, especially after the scare last week," Brand said in the mixed zone after her win, speaking to and the gathered press. Naturally, the conversation focused on her nose. "Aside from a swollen nose, I fortunately didn't wake up with much pain on Monday, so I was able to go through my week as planned. Except for Monday, when I went from one doctor to another to get everything checked out. We got off with a scare, which allowed me to prepare well for this National Championship," she explained.

The fact that someone with a broken nose can win a National Championship may sound strange. Brand elaborates: "Fortunately, I didn't have any problems breathing; it was just as it was before. I might not look better, but I felt good during training on Tuesday, and I've been riding well in recent weeks, so I had no doubts about my form. They're not going to fix it; it's not necessary as long as I can breathe normally. We did take a picture, because if surgery is needed, you want it done within the first ten days. Otherwise, there's a risk that it heals incorrectly and surgery becomes inevitable. The surgery isn't too daunting, but it means you can't cycle for three weeks."

Brand, therefore, continues her life with what she calls 'a twist' in her nose. Strangely enough, she mostly had a lot of luck in the whole situation. "Everyone has bumped into something when it's very cold. That's a very unpleasant feeling, and apparently my nose was very cold, so it hurt a lot immediately. I also felt it crack, which, with my nose surgery in the summer, made it extra vulnerable and bloody. It's very strange, but I didn't have any headaches. The first day, I had to avoid bending down due to the swelling, and soon after, I got two 'war stripes' under my eyes. An unhealthy look, but those are just bruises settling down. I can also blow my nose just fine, weird, right? It sounds a bit like I'm making all this up, I'm surprised myself. The photos clearly showed it was broken, and I can feel the twist in it. But I was lucky with where it broke, I think."

The aftereffects are still visible on her nose and under her eyes, but the most important precaution Brand had to take was to race without glasses. Not ideal, in a muddy cyclo-cross in Hoogeveen. "I was worried about mud in my eyes at the start, with all the mud on the asphalt. But I had such a bad start, that it wasn't necessary, haha! I was not advised against racing, although the doctor said to race without glasses for a while. They rest on your nose, so it's not so smart... I think I wouldn't have been bothered by it, but I listened anyway. Recovery takes six weeks, then everything is healed again. But I can still race."

Read more below the photo.

Lucinda Brand completes bizarre story with National Championship title: "Sounds a bit like I'm making all this up"
Brand leaves Pieterse behind

Pieterse saw Brand riding with more power

Discussing the National Championship, it's notable that despite her broken nose, Brand displayed remarkable strength in her legs. Puck Pieterse started off well but was quickly outpaced. "This wasn't my best race," Pieterse shared with us. "I kicked off strongly and was in a good position, but Lucinda proved to be the stronger competitor. We were neck and neck for a while, but she pulled ahead on the straights with her impressive power. It's important to stay confident, yet I struggled to find my rhythm in the race," she explained. Pieterse also commented on the course conditions, "The muddy terrain didn't bother me. I usually thrive on technical courses with segments demanding sheer power. However, Lucinda was simply the better racer this time. I'm staying optimistic about my performance and not feeling down about it. Now, I'm heading to a training camp in Spain to gear up for the World Championship in Tabor, Czech Republic, coming this February."

Brand managed to handle the tough conditions better, although she admits that it didn't seem that way on Saturday. "The conditions were really tough. I was here on Saturday too, and I wasn't very excited then. I couldn't really find my way and had doubts about where I could use my strength. But in the end, you have to work with what you've got. The course had changed again today, so you have to let go of the fact that some things don't work out. The uphill running sections were very tough, including those heavy stretches along the pit lane. Those sections made the difference today, as I was able to ride just a gear higher between the corners. It was a treacherous race, very muddy, but with frost still in the ground."

"Of course, it's impressive, with such an injury. To be able to cycle that hard is very commendable," laughs Pieterse, when asked about Brand's nose. "Lucinda is a rider who never gives up, she always goes to the limit. On Saturday during the recon, I did ask her how she was doing, because you prefer everyone to be fresh at the start. And I wouldn't want to break my nose either." They all say it shivering, eager for the Spanish sun. Like Brand, Pieterse is also heading to Spain to train. "How will I celebrate this? Nothing special, haha. I still have to pack my things for the training camp, so now it's back to Belgium, pack the suitcase, and then to the airport tomorrow," says Brand.

After all those training hours, the women will return and the World Championships suddenly seem very close. Brand can now work towards it with a lot of confidence. "I've been riding well and consistently for a while, but sometimes you encounter something, or someone else is just better. But I notice that I'm riding well technically, so I had to be patient, until it turned my way. I was frustrated by that crash in Zonhoven because it had already been proven that Puck and Fem (van Empel, ed.) are beatable. We're four or five riders who are evenly matched, and that makes it very interesting. Last year I was mainly fighting against myself, and those young girls were coming up strong. So it was a victory over myself to show that I could reach their level again, which is actually my level too. That's why this National Championship title is even more beautiful than the other two."

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