The 2022 women’s world cyclocross championship in Fayetteville was an incredible watch. The Dutch pair of Lucinda Brand and Marianne Vos duked it out in a fierce head to head battle. It was the race we’d hoped to see with the pair cementing their pre-race favourite status by going clear of the field. On a fast course, with little to no mud, the average speed crept up to around the 25kph mark and gave us an idea of what an off-road criterium race might look like.
It could’ve all gone very differently though. Coming into the first corner after the opening sprint at the start, Marianne Vos semi-crashed. Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, in front of Vos, changed the line slightly to open up the angle for the approaching corner. In doing so, her rear wheel hit Vos’ front wheel, nearly causing Vos to wash out. Despite going sideways, Vos managed to stay upright and not lose too many positions with the pack still tightly formed. Initially, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado was able to stay at the front of the race with Brand and Vos. However, even the 2020 World Champion couldn’t keep up with the infernal pace Brand was setting.
Brand kept up the pace until the start of Lap 4 before looking for assistance from Vos. Vos was nonchalantly sipping from her water bottle, which in itself was an odd sight to see in a cyclocross race. Eventually Brand managed to get Vos on the front by deliberately sending a wide line around the outside of a hairpin bend. With the gap to Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado and a charging Silvia Persico secure, Brand and Vos began to play some serious cat and mouse.
Sudden accelerations out of corners, cheeky digs and slowing just half a second on technical elements were all in play as they tried to disrupt each others rhythm. Vos knew she could just bank on her sprint at the end to win, so largely just had to keep on Brand’s wheel. The small climb was attacked repeatedly, running up the steps saw the balance swing both ways but neither could gap the other. Approaching the very end, we even saw the rare beast of the cyclocross track stand as Brand sought to find any kind of advantage.
And so it came down to a sprint. Lucinda Brand led it out and despite her best efforts, Marianne Vos was able to sprint past. That made it 8 world championships for Marianne Vos, with her last victory coming in 2014. Her first victory came way back in 2006, at a time when 2022 Junior World Champion Zoe Backstedt hadn’t celebrated her 2nd birthday.
“It’s unbelievable. I really can’t believe it. You don’t look back much prior to the race. You try to focus on the race itself. It was a tough cross. I know it’s always tough to beat Brand. We tried to put pressure on each other, but it was hard to ride away. I knew I had to stay calm, do the right things on the last lap and focus on the sprint.”
“There were a lot of years between the last world title and this one, I haven’t changed much since then and continued to do what I was already doing. I get great support from my family and the team. I always try to do my best. It’s incredible that I get to stand on the highest step of the podium here. I am extremely grateful to everyone.”Marianne Vos
Photo: Cor Vos