The 2016 Hoogerheide World Cup marked both the end of the 2015/2016 World Cup series and the final tune-up ahead of the all-important 2016 UCI Cylcocross World Championships in Zolder next weekend.
Christine Majerus rode to her best World Cup finish yet, crossing the finish line following four muddy laps, in ninth place. Nikki Harris earned herself another World Cup podium – her third World Cup podium appearance this season – and closed out the series overall in third.
For both Boels-Dolmans riders, there are plenty of reasons to feel optimistic heading into the most important race on the cyclocross calendar.
Majerus posts career best World Cup result
Chrstine Majerus parlayed her typical fast start into a top ten result in Hoogerheide. The Luxembourgish cyclocross champion made minor technical errors in the first two laps, which she chalked up to her unfamiliarity with the course.
“I have to admit that I just had a look at the lap once,” said Majerus. “This cost me a little, but all in all, I’m pretty satisfied.”
A ninth place finish in Hoogerheide – I did tenth in Koksijde, so I think that counts also as a top ten – so this wasn’t my first, but it was very nice. Last week I was riding the whole race in top ten, and I lost it just in the end. This time I was happy I could keep it and do better than tenth.
Strategy for Sunday’s race – It was the same as it’s been for the last few races. My start is good at the moment, so I try to use that whenever I can. The start of the race is really important for me. If I have a bad start, it’s not possible for me to race my race the way I want to race it. It’s also good for the mind to know that you’re in front and racing with the best as long as you can. When that happens, the mood is positive, and it’s better for your race.
My strengths and challenges on the course – The technical parts before the stairs and after the stairs were new parts to the course. Because I looked at the lap only once I was a little bit surprised from time-to-time, and that cost me a little on the second lap. In the end of the race, when I knew these parts, I did better. The muddy and heavy laps suit me pretty well. That was how it was today, and I took full profit of it.
Looking ahead to Zolder – I want to do a top ten. With this result in Hoogerheide, it shows me that it’s possible although the lap in Zolder is really, really different. It won’t be as heavy as it was today. There’s much more sand, so even if it’s going to rain, the course won’t be heavy. It will be faster, which doesn’t necessarily suit me, but I’ll try to be positive and think: ‘I did it today, so I can also do it on a fast lap.’ I’m a roadie. I’m suppose to be able to do it!
A confidence-boosting ride for Harris in Hoogerheide
Harris backed up her second place in Ruchpen with third place in Hoogerheide. Sophie de Boer rode away with the win on lap two as Harris did duel with newly crowned Dutch cyclocross champion Thalita de Jong over the hard and heavy laps.
“I wanted to a good result on Saturday, so with second on Saturday and third today, I can feel good about the weekend – especially because a lot of the girls in the top ten today didn’t race on Saturday, so they weren’t carrying that tiredness,” said Harris. “I also had quite heavy training in Girona, and I’ll freshen up this week.”
The course in Hoogerheide – I really liked the hardest parts of the course, especially the stairs. In Girona this last week, I practised on the stairs, so it was good for me. All the hard sections, like the real technical and muddy bits, I enjoy. I have more confidence on those parts.
The lap two blunder – Thalita made a bit of a mess in one of the corners, and I was completely stopped behind her. When we got going again, we were clashing bars for awhile. That’s when Sophie got her gap, I think. We were together, and Sophie was gone. It was a bit annoying.
The final lap battle – I wanted to get into the technical sections first as I could see that was where Thalita was struggling. I know she’s good on the road sections, and I wanted to have an advantage before we got to that part. I messed up the last section a bit. I should have gotten in the front. By the time we came to the road, Thalita had a bike length on me, and I really struggled to close it.
Rate the day – I’m pretty happy. Going into the race, I wasn’t expecting to get third. I think my condition is good, but my confidence has been somewhat of a struggle – even with the nationals win two weeks back.
Looking ahead to Zolder – I want to podium. I finished fourth in Tabor last year, so it would be crazy to say I wanted anything else. I wouldn’t be happy with a top ten. I would be happy with the podium or fighting for the podium at least. I think that’s what I’m capable of given my season. Hopefully I can have a strong race and give it everything I’ve got on the day.