Nikki Brammeier made her return to race at DVV Verzekeringen Trofee Essen on Saturday. The British cyclocross champion had been sidelined since the 2016 European Cyclocross Championships where a first lap crashed left her sidelined with a severe concussion and back fracture. Typically a podium contender in nearly every ‘cross race she starts, Brammeier was thrilled to finish in ninth place in Essen.
“I had absolutely no expectations for myself today,” said Brammeier. “I was just happy to be back and able to start racing again. It’s not until you have something taken away that you realise how much it means to you. I wanted to enjoy the race today, and I did. My race went better than I expected. I was pretty surprised to be honest.”
“After my crash, I had a big chunk of time off the bike,” Brammeier added. “I started back slowly and the last couple weeks, I’ve been able to do a few good blocks but without running or actually being on my ‘cross bike. Today was only my second time on the ‘cross bike since the crash. I had fun and once I got the feeling of racing again, I was able to dig deep the last couple last laps. It was a fun race – although I was hoping for some mud!”
The elite women’s race in Essen proved a nail-biter with 10 riders in contention for the podium during the bell lap. The six-lap race proved action-packed with the field staying largely together during the opening lap before a five-rider leading group formed on lap two.
When Sanne Cant (IKO Enertherm-Beobank) forced the initial split, Brammeier found herself in group two where she did the lion’s share of the chase work. At the mid-point of the race, the two groups were separated by nearly 30-seconds. By the penultimate lap, the gap had tumbled under 10-seconds in large part due to Brammeier’s work.
“I tried to keep calm and dig deep when I could see gap the front group closing,” said Brammeier. “The others were slowing down at that point, and I was still in my rhythm.”
Shortly after hearing the bell, signaling one lap left to race, Brammeier bridged the juncture between the two groups to create a 10-rider leading group inside the final seven minutes of racing.
“I was kind of surprised to be back at the front,” said Brammeier. “I’m sure I could have fought a little more the last lap, but I also have to remember what the last few weeks have been like and how far I’ve come to be on the start line.”
Brammeier is back at it on Sunday in Overisje for Druivencross.