Three strong British riders started in Bieles: Nikki Brammeier who took an easy win at the nationals in Peel Park, Bradford; Helen Wyman still recovering from her shoulder injury, so the nine-time British Champion was something of an unknown heading to Bieles; and Hannah Payton for whom this would be her first Elite Women’s World Championships, having finished 12th in the U23 category last year.
After two years off the top spot, Marianne Vos was keen to add an eighth CX World Champion’s jersey to her collection, while Belgian rival Sanne Cant wanted to better last year’s third place finish and 2015’s second.
By the time the Elite Women set off the course was offering a little more grip than in the morning’s exciting races, however there were still some nasty crashes – one rider snapped her bike, another had a nasty looking bloody face. Vos started in the second row of the grid, but was soon up front and it looked like it could be another ‘Vos is boss’ race. Cant and Dutch rider Lucinda Brand chased Vos down and took it in turns snatching the lead with a series of nerve shredding moves on the tricky surfaces.
Brand had a nasty crash which allowed Vos and Cant the lead, then another slide for Cant gave Vos the gap. In a spectacular race for the Canadian, Maghalie Rochette fought through to fifth as American Katie Crompton warmed up and worked her way into fourth.
Despite all the slipping and sliding and huge effort from Cant, Vos had a decent gap going into the final lap. Then disaster for Vos as her chain came off, Cant capitalised and leapt to the front, and from there the two battled in a tooth and nail fight for the win. What a final lap. Only in the final meters did Vos sit up and concede defeat. Sanne Cant takes the World Champion’s jersey – a first for Belgium, something she’s dreamt of since she was six years old.
That left a battle for third between Katerina Nash and Lucinda Brand, with Nash getting it. Nikki Brammeier snuck into the top ten in 9th place – hopefully she’ll see that as a success at the end of a troubled season.
If you’ve not seen the race, watch it here, it’s truly thrilling.