Image 1 of 1
Puck Pieterse (Fenix-Deceuninck) closed out 2023 and took her third win in a row with a thrilling home victory in the 11th round of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup in Hulst.
After attacking away on the opening lap it seemed as if the Dutch Champion would simply disappear into the distance for a dominant victory, but a concerted chase from Lucinda Brand (Baloise Trek Lions) and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin-Deceuninck) made it a full gas race to the line.
Alvarado made contact on the fifth lap of six, but never overtook Pieterse. The 21-year-old held her nerve and made no mistakes in the final few minutes of racing, making enough of an advantage by bunnyhopping the planks to be able to celebrate at the finish.
Pieterse took the early lead after Marie Schreiber’s (SD Worx) trademark blast off the start line, pulling away from Brand and World Champion Fem van Empel behind. Alvarado didn’t make as strong a start so had to make up the difference during the opener.
“The whole race I had a bit of a lead between 10-20 seconds and then in the last lap I knew Ceylin and Lucinda would be battling really hard and that 15 seconds isn’t much to catch on one lap,” said Pieterse immediately after the race.
“On an off-cambered section, I made a tiny mistake and came to a standstill and I saw all my seconds that I had in front disappear unfortunately. But I knew the part after the big steep climb was my part, a bit of turning, a bit of sprinting so I had big self-confidence that I could finish it off.”
Pieterse made small errors in the penultimate lap, allowing Brand to lead the chase and close the former 25-second gap, but it was Alvarado – the World Cup overall leader – who made the junction aside the water.
Van Empel, who has been dominant all season with 11 straight victories, crashed on the third lap at the bottom of the descent. She lost contact with Brand and Alvarado and was forced to chase on her own until the end of the race where she did come close to getting on the podium but could only manage fourth behind her Dutch compatriots.
Pieterse’s eventual winning margin was only six seconds, with Brand 12 back and Van Empel fighting back to finish within 16 seconds. Sara Casasola was the first non-Dutch rider to finish and rounded out the top five.
Results powered by FirstCycling