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Holmgren sisters in top-17 of Zonhoven World Cup, Pieterse triumphs

Holmgren sisters in top-17 of Zonhoven World Cup, Pieterse triumphs

Lucinda Brand was having a fine race on a chilly Sunday in sandy Zonhoven, the last 2023-2024 World Cup round in Belgium, but she crashed out, injuring her nose in the process. Puck Pieterse took her third World Cup race of the season and fourth consecutive win; she is now second place in the overall standings with two rounds remaining. The top Canadian was Ava Holmgren in 14th and sister Isabella was 17th. Maghalie Rochette came in 23rd in her return to the World Cup.

The Situation Before Sunday

After 11 rounds, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado led Lucinda Brand at the top of the table by 75 points. Alvarado and Fem van Empel both missed this round.

The Canadian contingent was large again. Maghalie Rochette, 10th in Saturday’s Hexia Cyclocross in Gullegem, was back at the Cup, joined Isabella and Ava Holmgren, Aislin Hallahan, Rafaelle Carrier, Siobhan Kelly, Nico Knoll, Christiane Bilodeau, and Katelyn Walcroft.

Rochette leads her section of the string up the sand climb on Lap 1.

Marie Schreiber, a fast starter, seized the hole shot on Lap 1, but Puck moved around her into the first mud section. Everyone made it down the big sand descent. Puck flatted and lost ground; Brand now led the string. Zoe Backstedt was behind Brand with Schreiber. Brand finished the first circuit 12 seconds ahead of Inge van der Heijden and Backstedt. Ava Holmgren was 13th and Rochette 17th.

Brand leads Backstedt on Lap 1.

Pieterse toiled to join van der Heijden and Backstedt on Lap 2 of 6, finally making the junction. Brand continued to lead through the grit. Van der Heijden lost contact with the Dutch-British duo. Brand’s gap was 19 seconds after two circuits. Ava was still 13th, Isabella held 19th and Rochette was 23rd.

Pieterse chased alone on Lap 3. Sadly, Brand crashed, got up holding her nose and then walked her bike off the course. Ava Holmgren lost a couple of places, while sister Isabella was still 19th.

Brand went down hard on the middle lap.

On Lap 4 van der Heijden was now the closest chaser to new leader Pieterse. Backstedt had a large enough gap over a chasing quartet to not have to panic about protecting the final podium position.

Sixteen seconds separated van der Heijden from Pieterse going into the penultimate lap. The Dutch rider didn’t want to make any mistakes in the latter part of the race. Ava Holmgren was in 14th place, Isabella 18th and Rochette 24th.

On the last lap, van der Heijden held her first World Cup podium of the season and the…

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