Dutch national cyclocross champion Lucinda Brand, 29, recently hit the sports headlines in the Low Countries by winning a silver medal at the UCI Cyclocross World Championships. The headlines weren’t because she won silver, though, but because she didn’t win gold. The Prologue caught up with her during a training camp in Calpe, Spain. During our interview she looked back briefly at the Worlds, but was already looking ahead towards the coming road season.

Unlucky for some

You were wearing number 13 during the world championship race. Did you pin it on upside down, like many riders do?

Like a lot of riders, I’m a little bit sensitive for that number. I was going to pin it upside down, but then I decided to pin it on the right way up, just to show that it didn’t matter. But maybe it did matter after all [Brand laughs].

Lucinda Brand

The look says it all: Brand crosses the finish line at the 2019 World Championships. Photograph: Cor Vos.

We could see you were upset on the podium. The scene reminded us somewhat of Mathieu van der Poel in the past—did you speak to him?

We did have a short chat right after the race. And he just said: “I know how you feel.” He also knows that you can talk as much about it as you want, but that doesn’t change anything. It was really nice that he could sympathise with me, because he really did know how I felt at that moment!

Brand successfully defended her Dutch national cyclocross title in 2019. Photograph: Cor Vos.

Special squad

You’re now on a training camp in Spain preparing for the road racing season. What do you think is special about the Team Sunweb women’s squad?

I think our team is strong because we really focus on the process of riding as a team and working for each other. Each rider has a clear role in every race. Though each race is different, and riders can have different roles in each event, the team managers let us know what roles we have as far in advance as possible. They create a tailor-made process for each rider. I think this develops you not only as a rider, but as a person too. They really force us to think as a group, which creates unity. We are also all clear on what we have to do and what we can expect from each other so we really go for it 100%.

Competitive cycling is strange. For amateurs, it is an individual sport. Then if you are lucky enough to go professional, it becomes a team sport. How have you experienced that?

It is difficult; I can’t deny it. It’s a major switch, which some riders—usually the big winners—can find challenging. But I now see that junior racing at the club level is starting to put a little more emphasis on riding for each other, which is a good thing. But especially with big races, even when you win as a team, only one rider gets to stand on the highest spot in the pictures. That makes team time trials especially nice though: if you win together you also all get medals together!

Lucinda Brand

It’s all about teamwork at Team Sunweb.

How do you find teamwork when you are racing?

It can be a little bit difficult for me. I am not the type of rider who always has clear tactics in her head ahead of the race. I tend to follow my instincts, and I react to the situations in the moment. But when you ride as a team, it’s impossible to get the six riders together when you suddenly feel that the situation is the right moment for an attack, for example. You have to be clear with your team mates and make the moment yourselves.

Form and focus

How is your form at the moment?

It’s nice to ride long hours on this training camp with the riders and make each other suffer a bit. But, to be honest, I’m not riding this camp as hard as some of the others, because my peak focus is a bit later in the season. If I go really deep in the intervals now, I will peak too early and not be able to hold my form. But it’s still fun to trigger each other on the training.

What is your focus this race season?

The Ardennes Classics. We will ride for my chances in Liège–Bastogne–Liège and likely share the leadership role in the final spring races: Amstel Gold Race and La Flèche Wallonne, and maybe the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

The Strade Bianche is your favourite race. Will you be riding it this year?

Yes, I really enjoy that race with its rough roads and steep climbs. But my form will probably not be at its peak for the race this year, as the focus is later in the season. But I would love to win that race one day!

Brand crossing the line at the 2018 edition of the Strade Bianche. Photograph: Cor Vos.