Puck Pieterse took her 2nd World Cup victory in a row, doubling up her win at Overijse with a win in Hulst. The muddy course with steep banks on the former fortress in Hulst suited the mountain biker although Fem van Empel pushed her close until a crash and a mechanical left her with too much to do. Behind the lead pair, Shirin van Anrooij took the final spot on the podium.
The early running saw Pieterse, Van Empel and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado gap the rest of the field. Sanne Cant also got off to a good start in the Belgian national champion jersey. The tough course saw plenty of slipping and sliding, with a particularly sketchy descent causing problems. Yara Kastelijn took a heavy fall The gaps increased, with Alvarado looking a little bit leggy after her 2nd place in Kortrijk the day before. Van Anrooij was just behind her at this point.
At the halfway point, Pieterse held a lead of just 5 seconds over Van Empel with a potential battle to the line in the offing. However, a slip on the off-camber descent threw Van Empel off her bike. She had to straighten her bars, before having further issues with her chain and derailleur. With the electronic derailleur seemingly stuck in crash mode, Van Empel only had 2 of her hardest gears available and was forced to run some otherwise rideable sections before she was able to get to the pits and change the bike. In the meantime, Pieterse’s lead stretched out to 50 seconds.
Because the front pair had developed such a big lead, despite the issues Van Empel still was around a minute ahead of Alvarado and Van Anrooij. Pieterse suffered her own crash on the penultimate lap in the same spot that Van Empel crashed. However, she had luck on her side and was able to get going again almost immediately. Her lead was still around 40 seconds or so.
She managed the gap to the finish, with Van Empel keeping the pressure on but too far back to really threaten for the lead. By the finish, the gap was 42 seconds. A minute back Shirin van Anrooij was 4th ahead of Alvarado who just managed to hold off the fast-approaching Lucinda Brand. Marion Norbert Riberolle was 6th and Hélène Clauzel was 7th.
“It was so tough with all the climbs and I felt that Fem was stronger on that part. I started very fast and immediately had a gap. Fem closed it afterwards. She took over and fell. I think her derailleur went into crash mode and her bike was broken. I got a free lead that way, from there I had to keep putting a lot of pressure on. So I’ve been a little bit happy. Otherwise it would have been a big fight for the win. But I am certainly very happy with this.Puck Pieterse
“I fell into a corner. My handlebars were writing and my bike went into crash mode. I then had to walk a long way to the material zone. I fought for my second place, which was the highest possible after my crash. It was all over for the win, but I’m happy with my second place. I also did a good job with these points in the World Cup.”Fem van Empel
“I fell hard on my arm on Saturday. I like this track, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to start. I couldn’t hold my handlebars well during the cross either, but I’m happy anyway. I like riding here. It was very, very tough. It went better than expected. Before the start, I was hoping to finish in the top 10. So I didn’t expect this. I had expected big differences, but not that big. The mud made it a tough and technical course. Today was another real Puck show. She flew over this course.”Shirin van Anrooij
Hulst World Cup 2022 Results
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