British champion Helen Wyman (Kona) grabbed the biggest win of her career in the Koppenbergcross on Monday afternoon. The 29-year-old dealt best with the mud on the famous helling and held off the young Belgian champion Sanne Cant (BKCP-Powerplus) in an exciting mudfight. The battle for third place was won by Sanne van Paassen (Brainwash) ahead of her Dutch compatriot Daphny van den Brand (ZZPR.nl). Van Paassen remains in the lead in the general classification of the Gazet van Antwerpen Trophy.
“It’s unreal,” a delighted Wyman said after the race. “It took me six years but I finally won a race in Belgium and what a race it is. All the history of this climb makes it so special to win here. I’m standing here with a cobble and I think I’ll charge people if they want to touch it,” Wyman joked. “Today was really gevaarlijk,” Wyman mixed in a Dutch word to describe how dangerous it was to plough a way through the mud.
The conditions up and around the Koppenberg made it a very hard course. Even though the rain showers stayed away, the fields were packed with extremely slippery mud. Wyman, Cant, Sophie de Boer, Pavla Havlikova and Van Paassen had the best start but the latter crashed several times and quickly disappeared from the front.
While still climbing the meadow on top of the Koppenberg, Wyman pushed through and only Cant was able to follow. On the descent, the small Belgian woman slid better through the mud but after one lap the duo passed the line together half a minute before Dutch women Van den Brand and De Boer.
The decisive moment came halfway the race when Cant ran into a mechanical problem. “A rock got stuck between my rear wheel and my frame just before riding on the road. I had to work very hard to keep moving forward but just before hitting the Koppenberg climb I had to stop and remove it. Of course Helen attacked and she was gone; she was lucky,” Cant told Cyclingnews.
Wyman quickly gathered twenty seconds with only one and a half laps remaining. On the downhill section, Cant took many risks and the Belgian champion crashed once. With one lap to go the gap was up to half a minute, while Van den Brand followed at no less than one minute and twenty seconds; Van Paassen was fourth at almost two minutes.
During the last lap Wyman avoided all risks and on the downhill Cant got back to fifteen seconds. “I know but I thought: she’s not going to catch me if I stay upright,” Wyman said, explaining her tactics. It proved to be the correct course of action because even though Cant came close, it wasn’t enough to keep Wyman from her most beautiful win ever. “I had to try because if she crashed I still had a chance,” Cant said.
1 Helen Wyman (GBr) Kona 0:45:14
2 Sanne Cant (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus 0:00:33
3 Sanne van Paassen (Ned) BrainWash 0:01:55
4 Daphny van den Brand (Ned) ZZPR.nl-Destil 0:02:37
5 Sophie De Boer (Ned) ZZPR.nl-Destil 0:03:25
6 Joyce Vanderbeken (Bel) 0:04:48
7 Reza Hormes-Ravenstijn (Ned) 0:05:24
8 Nikki Harris (GBr) 0:06:01
9 Nancy Bober (Bel) 0:06:18
10 Arenda Grimberg (Ned)