Luxembourgish champion Christine Majerus parlayed a fast start into eighth place in Heusden-Zolder on Monday while British champion Nikki Brammeier overcame a slow start to battle back to ninth place. The Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team duo declared it a worthy Boxing Day outing for round seven of the Telenet UCI Cyclocross World Cup.
A last lap attack by the formidable Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv) earned the seven-time former cyclocross world champion her first World Cup win of her comeback season ahead of Sanne Cant (IKO Enertherm-Beobank) and Katerina Nash (Clif Pro Team). The top three emerged from an eight-strong leading group that began the bell lap with the podium still in play.
“I came back to the leaders just at the beginning of the last lap,” said Majerus. “Unfortunately, I made it to the last position of the group just when Marianne attacked in front. I hoped to catch back [Ellen] Van Loy (Telenet Fidea Lions) because I think I was stronger, but my ‘100 times chasing back’ meant that I just didn’t have anymore at the tank in the end.”
Majerus elected to use a good amount of gas in her proverbial tank on the start. She’s consistently worked on her speed off the line, and the strategy has proven a successful one for her this season.
“The start was good,” said Majerus. “I was in the second row on the line, but I saw the right holes, and I managed to get through them. I like to be in the front as it allows me to see things coming and relax a bit more then when I have to fight from the start for every spot.”
Majerus’ start was in stark contrast to her teammate. Brammeier struggled off the line and paid for it dearly.
“It was a pity I had such a shit start,” Brammeier noted. “I had to fight my way through a lot of people. I felt really strong today, and it was shame I wasn’t in the group just ahead. It’s always so much easier to be with the leaders than racing on your own.”
Majerus lost a bit of ground on the second lap, which she called “average”. With two laps done, Majerus was the final rider in a seven-strong chase group riding 15-seconds behind Van Loy, who led by five-seconds over Eva Lechner (Clif Pro Team).
“I made no big mistakes but several small ones,” said Majerus. “On a fast lap like Zolder, you pay in cash for your mistakes.”
A fierce pace set by Cant on lap three saw Lechner and Van Loy reabsorbed. The leading group split into two distinct groups with Van Loy, Cant, Vos, Lechner, Sophie de Boer (Kalas-NNOF) and Lucinda Brand (Rabo-Liv) making the front split, leaving Majerus, Nash and Amanda Miller (Boulder Cycle Sport/YogaGlo) chasing. As Brand attacked from the group one, Majerus and Nash latched back onto the front group.
“I’m happy with how I kept fighting and how I managed to get back to the lead pack by the last lap,” said Majerus. “I didn’t feel particularly strong today and technically I was far from perfect, but I think it was mostly because of my fighting spirit that I still managed a great race.”
Majerus started the bell lap in eighth place and finished the race in eighth place. Brammeier set off for her final lap in tenth place and overtook Miller for ninth place before reaching the finish line.
“It’s not the best result but I have lots to take away from the race,” said Brammeier. “I can see some good strengths and also areas to keep working on during the next few weeks.”
Meanwhile Majerus leaves happy: “Zolder is a fast lap, and I normally don’t like that so finishing in the top ten here is really satisfying for me. It shows that I’ve made some nice progression if I can be in contention on a lap that doesn’t suit me as much as a lap that does, like Namur.”
Brammeier is back in action in Louenhout on Thursday. Majerus next lines up in Pentange on the first of the new year.