British cyclocross champion Nikki Brammeier rode a smart, clean race to sixth place in Antwerp on Saturday. Brammeier’s result is one better than what she managed at Scheldecross last season and comes out of one of the strongest elite women’s field assembled during the 2016/2017 cyclocross season.
“It was a good class of riders today,” noted Brammeier. “The race is always super fast with a lot of running. It’s what I needed. I haven’t run with the bike in several weeks, so it was a good reentry into that. No better way to freshen up a skill again than in a race.”
Having returning to racing last weekend following a six-week hiatus due to a crash suffered at the European Championships in October, Brammeier lined up on Saturday without expectations.
“I’m starting most races at this point without ambitions,” said Brammeier. “I want to focus on a bigger picture than one race, take each race as it comes, work hard and see about setting specific goals in January.”
Brammeier fared well in the fast start but found herself in the second chase group by the start of the second lap of the six-lap race.
“I get held up a little over the banks, and that’s where group one and two split,” explained Brammeier.
With two laps done, Sophie de Boer (Kalas-NNOF) had a defined advantage over a chase group of three that included Sanne Cant (IKO Enertherm-Beobank), Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) and Katerina Nash (Clif Pro Team). Cyclocross world champion Thalita de Jong (Rabo-Liv) had lost contact with chase one, and Brammeier was leading the second chase group’s pursuit.
“I was technically good through the sand, and I wanted a clear run, so it was better for me to go ahead of the group,” said Brammeier. “I knew Thalita was coming back towards me mid-race, but then the gap held steady, lingering at several seconds. We were going similar speeds.”
Solidly in sixth place with three laps completed and three laps still to race, Brammeier made no gains and saw no losses during the race’s exciting second half, which saw Cant bridge across to De Boer on the bell lap. Cant won the two-up sprint from De Boer, who had led the entire race, while Brammeier crossed the line 1:24 down on the leading duo.
“I rode a clean race, and it was one place better than last year, so again, I’m going to take away the positives,” said Brammeier. “This last week was a full week for me, with a lot of travel and pretty busy off the bike, not ideal but at the same time I’ve managed to do a pretty big week of training, so it’s not all bad.
Brammeier is back in action for the World Cup in Namur on Sunday. Luxembourgish champion Christine Majerus will also race round six of the premiere cyclocross race series.