A swarm of orange-coloured supporters for Sanne van Paassen adorned the sport fields in Sint Michiesgestel on Sunday. They witnessed her gutsy head-to-head battle with two other rivals, and her defeat in the sand pit.
From the very first lap, Van Paassen, Management Economics and Consumer Studies student, has surged ahead of the rest, together with her direct rivals Daphny van den Brand and Marianne Vos. Where the ground is sturdy, the field cyclists push ahead steadily. Two steep bridges, a set of beams and a small set of steps in front of which the cyclists had to dismount, several tens of metres of sand to trudge through, and countless bends make the course challenging for the cyclists.
A steering mistake in the sand pit causes Van Paassen to fall behind her rivals, just two laps before the end. 'After the technical bit back there in the corner, I had to keep doing my best to keep up', says Van Paassen after the event. In her campervan, she has changed out of her cycling outfit into a tight pair of jeans and floral boots. 'And then I also got stuck in the sand pit. I rammed into the wheel of Vos and Van den Brand when they suddenly caught up, and afterwards, had difficulty staying upright. They realized immediately that I had left a gap and I did not have the strength to catch up.'
She is extremely disappointed with finishing third, but adds: 'This is part of any game. I was nearer to them than last year, and that is motivating.' There are still two World Cup competitions and a World Championship coming up this month. When the men's event ends at four o'clock, Van Paassen helps to close the party tents around her campervan.