By no means from the rostrum: Lucinda Model dominates CX and eyes Roubaix
Lucinda Brand failed to finish third in a cyclocross race this year and has won the last three races she has started. And all in eight days. It's time to meet the former Dutch road racing champion who is now focused on cyclocross all day. Or does she do that?
"That's a bit of a misunderstanding," she says from her home in Rotterdam. “I'm not going to stop racing at all. That got a bit lost in the translation. One reason for more cyclocross races this season was because the scoreboard has changed and UCI World Championships have become even more important to get a good starting position for the World Championship.
“I also struggled to find goals to train for earlier this year as there were no races on the (road) calendar. I then made a calculated decision that the chance that cyclocross would take place in these corona times was greater than in road races. But I definitely want to get back on the road too!
“Cyclocross also motivates me for the road season. It works both ways! And I still have the dream of going to the Olympics. "
Lucinda Brand is now 31 years old and has been riding a racing bike for as long as she can remember. Growing up in cycling with father and brother, she quickly felt drawn to the sport.
"My brother Giancarlo wanted to race because our father was a competitive cyclist before we were born," says Brand. “I had to come with you. I just wanted to do what my brother and father did and I immediately loved it. Whenever I drove with them, I had to keep up because they definitely weren't waiting for me at every turn. That's how I learned to drive around corners, ”she adds with a smile.
"I didn't like the training part that much, though. My father said I had to train because otherwise he wouldn't let me run. To keep me busy, he bought me a small cross bike for the winter months."
In cyclocross, Brand quickly developed into one of the best riders in the world. After her victory in Tabór in the Czech Republic last weekend, the first UCI World Cup of the season, Brand naturally leads this ranking. Brand is now second in the other main cyclocross rankings: Superprestige and the X2O Badkamers Trofee.
It was a good weekend for the Telenet Baloise Lions driver. In addition to her victory in Tabór, she also drove to victory in Kortrijk, Belgium on Saturday.
"This weekend was our first double race weekend," she says. “My friend Lieven and I drove from Belgium to the Czech Republic overnight. I didn't sleep in the car because I want to keep him company. He makes my weekend as relaxed as possible and I'm grateful for his company.
“Fortunately, some of the team's U23 drivers had already driven ahead because they didn't do double. We were able to share the RVs which was a big bonus. "
It's a transfer that a lot of drivers had to make. The best Belgian male drivers and Belgian champion Sanne Cant have chartered a private plane that took them to Prague in under two hours, but the majority of drivers did not have that luxury. Although Brand believes that more internationalization is important for the development of the sport, she was not thrilled with last weekend when she drove 3,000 kilometers from her home in Rotterdam to Kortrijk near the Franco-Belgian border in the Czech Republic and back Rotterdam.
"My idea is to reduce the UCI World Championship to, for example, six races in six countries," she says. “Plan a weekend around the world championship with a C1 race (second tier). Make this C1 a super prestige race so that we get these points too. That way, we don't have to travel to Spain or France just for a 40-minute race. The Basque Country, for example, has some really great races that we can never do. "
Brand has many years of experience in road racing. In 2009 she signed her first pro contract with Leontien van Moorsel's team Leontien.nl. She was part of the Rabobank team for four seasons and captained the Sunweb team for three seasons before joining Trek-Segafredo in January.
With their Trek Bikes sponsored road and cyclocross teams, this is the perfect place for Brand to combine both disciplines. While the cyclocross season is in full swing, she is already thinking of next year's road season and has a date firmly on her mind: April 11, 2021. The date of the first Paris-Roubaix for women.
"The team has already sent me a draft schedule for next year's Spring Classics campaign," explains Brand. “It depends on whether I'm aiming for overall victory in the Superprestige and X2O Badkamers Trofee rankings. If I still do well in this ranking, I'll be cross-country for a longer period of time until February, when there will be a lot of races.
"I'll probably do some of the Spring Classics like Strade Bianche before the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, but I need to discuss more about that with the Trek-Segafredo team management."
Paris-Roubaix has been on everyone's lips since ASO announced that there would be a women's race for the first time. The COVID-19 schedule initially contained a “Roubaix” in October this year, but this was finally canceled by the French authorities. Brand, her teammate Ellen van Dijk and the sports directors Steven de Jongh and Ina Teutenberg had already traveled to northern France for an early reconnaissance and decided to keep the final reconnaissance on the agenda before the race in October. Brand vividly remembers her first acquaintance with the infamous cobblestones of Foret d & # 39; Arenberg.
"They told us we should only test bikes and tires there," she recalls. "I remember thinking," Yeah sure, we'll see. "I didn't even realize we were in this world-famous place at first. My first thought about those cobblestones was, How don't these bikes break? What you don't see on TV is Arenberg going downhill. The speed is insane high and on the first few meters there were already some deep holes.
"It's a magical mud and slide race. You need luck, but if you are good you create your own luck. You need so many skills, and you need so much more than just being strong.
“People will no doubt look at me that day. I hope that I can transfer my cyclocross skills to this race: being in control of the bike, balancing your body weight, don't worry, because this will put you on the brakes too early and position yourself well. You need to have all of these skills in order to conserve as much energy as possible in a race like Roubaix. "
Brand improves many of these skills in the mud, grass and sand of the mainly Belgian and Dutch cyclocross tracks. As part of the Telenet-Baloise Lions, multiple world champion Sven Nys is one of their trainers.
"We train together with the whole team and if you just look at it you can learn a lot," she says. “I also look back at all of my races and those of the men. Take a corner, for example. When you're alone you feel like something is wrong with how to take a curve and how to balance your body weight, but when someone like Sven is watching and keeps making you turn the corner, you'll learn quickly.
“We also train automatic reactions, so to speak, reflexes. As a road rider, I've done things so many times that they go without thinking, but when it comes to cyclocross it's a question of doing it over and over to get those reflexes about when to get off, how far to go in a sand pit running or approaching like stairs.
“You learn how to make the right decisions by doing it very often. For example, I had to change my style in the sand pit. I usually ride a high cadence, but I have to get it into the sand and let the bike do the work.
“I lack the explosiveness that you need for a start, especially since our starts are becoming more and more aggressive. You just can't get into a race like you would on the road because the cyclocross race is over at that point. Not having fast muscle fibers is part of genetics. I'll never develop them now, but you can train that. Getting older doesn't help either, but again, training helps delay the process. "
The World Championships are the biggest goal of Brand's cyclocross season. In 2017, at her first World Cup, she finished fourth. A year later in Valkenburg she took home a bronze medal. In Bogense, Denmark, she started as the top favorite in 2019, but made too many mistakes and had to be satisfied with silver. At the beginning of this year, Brand won another bronze medal in Dübendorf.
When the cyclocross worlds start in Oostende, Belgium at the end of January 2021, Brand should start as one of the favorites. That has its own pressures.
"I never thought it would play such an important role, but it does," says Brand. “I also lacked some experience in Denmark. Last season in Dübendorf there were other problems like a broken bike. The world championships in Ostend are my biggest goal this year.
"I have to keep this form that I have now for two more months," she says. "It's not an easy task, but our season doesn't have many double weekends anymore. That means less time to relax and more time to practice. That can be the perk of this fun year to deal with."