Christine Majerus was part of an exciting and hard-fought battle for the final spot of the podium at Koppenbergcross on Tuesday. The Luxembourg champion ultimately finished in fourth place up the Koppenberg cobbled climb in Oudenaarde, 11 seconds behind Sophie de Boer (Kalas-H.Essers-NNOF Cycling Team) and 8 seconds ahead of Belgian cyclocross champion Sanne Cant (Enertherm-Beobank).
“I am really happy to go finally go home with a good ride,” said Majerus, following her best result to date for the 2016/2017 season. “I’m also happy that I was completely in control technically, which wasn’t the case the last races. I felt confident in the downhills, and that was a positive thing.”
Most cyclocross courses include obstacles that require riders to dismount or run, but the Koppenbergcross lap is all about the steep climbs and technical descents. Never further back then fifth place and always in contention for the final spot on the podium, Majerus rode a clean race and made the unique challenges of the Koppenbergcross course look easy.
“I was happy to take a little revenge today after my crash of last week, but the lap was seriously different than any of the others, so it’s hard to compare,” Majerus noted. “On this lap, you need to be patient and handle your potential well. I felt good in the beginning, had a little down in the middle but managed to hang on and wait for better times, which was a good tactic.”
World champion Thalita de Jong (Rabo-Liv) created an early separation, but defending champion Jolien Verschueren (Telenet Fidea) clawed her way back to the world champion by lap two. The leading duo had nearly a minute on a chase group of four that included Majerus, Cant, de Boer and Alicia Franck (Bike7Belgie) by the mid-point of the 48-minute race.
As Majerus heard the bell at the start of the final lap, she was tucked tightly onto de Boer’s wheel. Racing for third, the pair was 90 seconds behind de Jong and Verschueren and seven seconds ahead of Cant and Franck.
De Jong and Verschueren treated the spectators gathered on the Koopenberg to a tactical battle to the top. To the delight of the Belgian crowd, Verschueren attacked De Jong in the final 100 metres to take back-to-back wins atop the Koppenberg.
Mid-way through the final lap, Cant looked to be bridging the distance to De Boer and Majerus, but a dig from Majerus ensured the Cant would not make the catch. De Boer hit the base of the Koppenberg with a small gap Majerus. Holding the gap up the climb, De Boer claimed the final spot on the podium. Majerus held off Cant to take fourth place.
“I lacked a little bit in the end to really fight for the last podium spot as it was a long race,” said Majerus. “I think it was important to grab the chance and attack Sanne Cant in the climb. She’s a fighter, and if you give her the chance, she’ll get back to you. It was important to attack her on her weakest moment.”
Editor’s note: Nikki Brammeier is currently sidelined due to injuries sustained at the European Cyclocross Championships on Sunday. Although she was scheduled to start Koppenbergcross, her injuries – which include severe facial lacerations and bruising and a concussion – forced her withdrawal.