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Brand is back!

Brand is back!

The Dutch cyclocross star takes her first road win of the season in Tour de Suisse

The Tour de Suisse kicked off with a short 46-kilometer circuit race that was perfect for cyclocross star Lucinda Brand, with some dirt perhaps the only thing missing. Stage 1 featured 10 laps of a punchy 4.6-kilometer course, so there was little surprise when Lucinda jumped into the breakaway and then out-kicked her two companions to take the win.

In fact, it almost seemed too scripted.

“It looked like not everyone was sure that it was the last lap,” Lucinda explained. “And then I started doubting, to be honest, but luckily I was right,” she smiled.

Although the ending may not have played out dramatically as expected, the race was on from the gun and had plenty of thrills. The attacks came fast and furious, but with a peloton on fresh legs, it was a few laps before a move would stick.

An attack by Clara Koppenburg (Cofidis) and Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon/SRAM) around 16 kilometers in caught the attention of Lucinda Brand, who was quick to react and accelerated out of the bunch. She joined the two out front, creating a strong trio.

It appeared the alarm bells sounded in the bunch. If they didn’t, they should have! There were still 30 kilometers to race, but these three riders should never be given a big lead. The pursuit was on; however, the circuit made it difficult to institute a sustained chase. The trio worked well out front. And the gap steadily grew.

“It was tough [in the breakaway] at first, but then you get into a rhythm. It probably was easier than riding in the bunch where you have to fight constantly for position; there’s a lot of braking and pushing, which makes the lap harder. We found a good pace and worked well together,” explained Brand.

We knew it was a good circuit for a breakaway, and Lucinda was the perfect rider.

On the penultimate lap, when it looked like the breakaway would succeed, a six-rider chase group moved clear from the bunch. The three leaders took the bell for the final lap as the chasers moved within 36 seconds. But the organization in the second group slowly dissolved, and the trio out front never wavered.

In the final two kilometers, the win would come from the breakaway. On paper Lucinda was favored, and on the road, she had no problem outkicking her two companions. The bunch absorbed the chase group, and 50 seconds later, Elisa Balsamo took the sprint for 4th place, adding a little extra sweetness to Trek-Segafredo’s day.

“It was a short but hard and crazy race,” explained Balsamo. “We knew it was a good circuit for a breakaway, and Lucinda was the perfect rider for this. So it was a perfect scenario, and I just tried to stay near the front all race, and then make a good sprint.”

Lucinda Brand will wear the leader’s jersey into the Stage 2 time trial tomorrow as she looks to defend her lead. But with the climbs in the final two days, she knows she will have her work cut out.

“Of course, I will try and defend the jersey, but I am not sure how far I can, especially on the last day when we finish uphill,” she admitted. “The third day will be hard already, and of course, the time trial. Climbing-wise it’s hard, and we will see how it goes. But for sure, I am going to try.”

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