Manon Bakker claimed her first major victory in cyclocross, outduelling Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado in the snowy setting of Val di Sole. Puck Pieterse, a pre-race favourite, finished third.
The race at the Italian ski resort of Val di Sole presented a true snow cyclocross challenge. Top contenders like Fem van Empel, Shirin van Anrooij, Lucinda Brand, Denise Betsema, Annemarie Worst, and Inge van der Heijden were notably absent, opting for training camps in warmer locations.
The race started cautiously, with Puck Pieterse, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, Manon Bakker, Maghalie Rochette, and local favourite Sara Casasola among the leading names. Alvarado initially led but soon slipped, allowing Casasola to take the lead temporarily.
Kristyna Zemanová of Czechia boldly took the lead, creating a gap with the chasers. Alvarado quickly bridged this gap, while Pieterse struggled to find her rhythm, gradually losing ground. The race was then led by three women: Alvarado, Zemanová, and Bakker.
Alvarado appeared stronger than her companions and broke away solo, building a significant lead. However, Bakker maintained the pressure and closed the gap in the penultimate lap, setting the stage for an exciting final lap duel.
Pieterse, in third, began a minor comeback but was too far behind to challenge for the win. All attention turned to Bakker and Alvarado, who were now locked in an intense battle. Bakker took charge in the final lap, forcing Alvarado into errors, ultimately breaking away to secure the biggest win of her career. Alvarado finished second, strengthening her position in the World Cup standings, while Pieterse completed the podium.
Post-race, a delighted Bakker commented on her unexpected victory, citing the course as her favourite and emphasising the importance of remaining calm and focused throughout the race. Alvarado reflected on her performance, acknowledging mistakes that cost her the win, while Pieterse discussed the challenging conditions and her satisfaction with securing a podium finish.
2023 Val di Sole Women result
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Main photo credit: Cor Vos