America's Katie Compton (Spike) held off World Champion Hanka Kupfernagel and Daphny van den Brand in the sprint to win the 'dune-cross' in Koksijde. The German Kupfernagel dominated most of the race while Compton overcame a poor start and joined the leaders later.
"This was a very hard course and it was such a long sprint, but I'm so happy I got this win," Compton said. "Maybe I wasn't the strongest today, but I definitely was the smartest."
The victory from Compton means no threat for Kupfernagel's lead in the UCI World Cup in which the German woman extended her lead over Daphny van den Brand. However, Compton moved up to seventh position in the World Cup standings.
Partly due to a second row start position, Compton failed to hook her wagon on the Kupfernagel train as it left the station in the first corners of the first lap.
"I had a terrible start," Compton said, and Kupfernagel clearly wasn't waiting for her. While Compton was moving up, Kupfernagel created a leaders' group of five riders – including Helen Wyman, Pavla Havlikova, Daphny van den Brand and her compatriot Saskia Elemans. Thus, the American had to close the gap to the leaders on her own.
Havlikova, Elemans and Wyman got dropped and by the end of the second lap, and Compton managed to bridge up to the two leaders.
"Once I got there I took a breather and decided not to attack Van den Brand and Kupfernagel because I was convinced that I wouldn't have been able to drop them," Compton said.
Meanwhile Kupfernagel kept powering hard at the front, but without much success. "The others were really strong," Kupfernagel said to Cyclingnews.
In the last lap Van den Brand lost contact with the leaders on one of the dunes where she had always opted to ride the climb up the dune a little more than the others. After the race, the Dutch blonde explained why she choose to do that. "I'm small and I'm disadvantaged when we have to run. By climbing up a little further I could develop more speed when going downhill through the sand on the bike where the others were running. Anyway, my uphill running wasn't good either; my system got jammed during those sections," Van den Brand said.
The duo of Kupfernagel and Compton entered the finishing straight in that order. "I was first in that last bend and shouldn't have been in that position; that was a mistake that I shouldn't have made," Kupfernagel said.
Compton exploited the ideal position and jumped away to the second World Cup victory in her career. "I didn't want to wait too long and focused on creating that first gap in the sprint," Compton said about the sprint she won rather easily. Nevertheless the American clearly dug deep as she had trouble breathing after crossing the line.
"I'm asthmatic, especially if I abruptly have to stop right after a big effort. I've got prescriptions to use medication for the problem, but since the paperwork wasn't 100% official, I opted not to use it just yet in order to avoid troubles at the doping control," Compton said.
Runner-up Kupfernagel wasn't too dissapointed about losing out in the sprint. "I had troubles with my tyres and with getting in and out of the pedals. All in all I'm happy, and I enjoyed the atmosphere out here," Kupfernagel said.
Further back Helen Wyman rode a strong race in which she proved to be lacking just a little bit of the strength required to follow the top three women; Wyman finished almost a minute down on winner Compton but secured fourth place without trouble. The Czech Republic's Pavla Havlikova, ranked third in the World Cup, had trouble getting through the dunes in Koksijde, and she finished a poor seventh place.
For complete results and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.