Lucinda Brand is back in Wisconsin for a second time and eager to fight for the top step of the podium. She is part of a women’s field at World Cup Waterloo that includes eight other Dutch riders.
Last year when the Baloise Trek Lions leader launched her World Cup campaign it was also in Waterloo, and she wore the rainbow jersey as the cyclo-cross World Champion. It was her inaugural appearance with cyclo-cross racing in the US, finishing second in Waterloo and then winning a few days later in Fayetteville.
In fact, the two races that began and ended her racing in the US last year saw her finish second behind Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) both times, first at the World Cup in Waterloo and then at the World Championships in Fayetteville four months later.
“I’m really looking forward to the race. It’s a super fast course now. It’s always hard [at Waterloo], but it’s a different kind of tough, being so fast,” Brand told Cyclingnews after taking a few practice laps on the World Cup course.
The two Dutch riders will have to wait a few more weeks to resume head-to-head racing, as Vos is absent from the US ‘cross circuit, taking time off after the recent Road World Championships in Wollongong.
Brand had a full road season with Trek-Segafredo in 2022, with the highlight of her year a podium spot in Paris-Roubaix Femmes followed by two stage victories and the GC title at Tour de Suisse. While the road season stretches long into the all now, she began training for ‘cross in August at a team camp and then had two podiums in early September races in Belgium.
“I’m not really focusing on any of the classifications, I’ll just start with racing them, and we’ll see how the valve things develop, then we make a decision if we keep trying to do the classifications because it’s a super full program. So yeah, now first is just racing,” said Brand, who swept the top three series titles the past two seasons – UCI World Cup, Superprestige and X2O Badkamers Trofee.
“In the end of the season, you run into some difficult situations with the different classifications. I know I won three of them last year and the year before, which is already super, super special. But this year is going to be even harder. And then I’m not even talking about the competitors, but just only about schedules.”
As for a full schedule, Brand may take a break in mid-December so she can keep something in the tank to peak at the World Championships in Hoogerheide in early February.
“I probably will not go to Val di Sole so there I can skip some in December. It’s another break but at least you can get in training and get some hours in to build some fitness again,” she said. “For me to not go to Val di Sole is not because I don’t want to race there, but because it’s two days of travel to get there for my camper, and two days back, and there no other race there as well. So it’s only for that single race.”
And what about Dublin as a new World Cup venue? “I have no clue how it’s there. I think on one hand is good that we try to go more international to other places, but it’s definitely not easy to get there.”
Putting the global challenges of the compact cyclo-cross season aside, Brand was ready to see what happens on the field of play in the first World Cup in Waterloo
“Well, I’m happy to be here. It’s always special to be here at the Trek factory, of course. It’s a bit more tough with the travelling, it’s not an easy trip here. I think we are very, very lucky with the people of Trek helping us out. But it’s really complex to make a good schedule, especially going back. So it’s not easy, but I’m here to take the most out of it. And I’m really looking forward to the race.”
Next generation challenging Brand
As for competitors to start the year, Brand sees the charge of young riders as a challenge for her but also a benefit to the sport.
Leading the charge this week at the opening World Cups is Dutch rider Fem van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal), who beat Brand at a C2 contest in Beringen, Belgium. Other U23 riders in the elite field at Waterloo are US representatives Lizzy Gunsalus, Maddie Munro and Lauren Zoerner plus the Canadian sister act of Ava and Isabella Holmgren.
“We saw already last year’s young riders coming up and putting their faces into the front. And the only thing you could expect was that they were going to make that step, of course. So yeah, Fem [van Empel] already really made that step,” Brand observed.
“So it only makes the competition more fun. I think, of course, it becomes even harder to win a race. But it also will push you to the limits to really challenge yourself and make sure you’re getting better on certain points, and you keep on working on things and focus. So I think it’s only good.”