Cyclo-cross World Championships: Van Empel wins U23 women's title

Fem van Empel continued the Dutch domination at the Cyclo-cross World Championships by powering clear to win the under-23 women’s event in Ostend.

The 18-year-old former professional footballer ran away from her rivals on the last lap in the sand to beat Dutch teammate Aniek van Alphen into second, while Blanka Kata Vas (Hungary) took bronze.

Inge van der Heijden (Netherlands) led from the start and was caught by a chasing trio with just over a lap remaining and had to settle for fourth.

It was the third rainbow jersey for the Netherlands in as many races at the Worlds on the North Sea coast.

“I can’t believe it I have no words,” said Van Empel. “I think and dream about this. Before the race, mentally I was very good. I believed in myself the whole race and the last lap I could make it happen. It’s fantastic.”

Van Empel had a battle with Vas to enter the sand first on the last lap and she explained that the beach section played an important role in her victory.

“In the sand, I made the difference,” Van Empel said. “My coach said I must be first into the sand after the bridge. I pushed on the bridge, but Blanka Kata Vas went all out.”

How it unfolded

The 2019 under-23 world champion Inge van der Heijden (Netherlands) got the quickest start, while a slip on the narrow bridge saw defending champion Marion Norbert Riberolle (France) delayed and she would never re-join the leaders.

The opening lap through the Ostend sand led to a host of problems for riders throughout the field and Fem van Empel fell off while lying in second place.

Van der Heijden, meanwhile, was having few problems out in front, and she climbed the bridge back into the Hippodrome alone with a lead of 10 seconds over the chasers.

Blanka Kata Vas was forced to chase behind, followed by the Dutch duo of Aniek van Alphen and Fem Van Empel.

Vas was on the charge over the grass sections of the Hippodrome and was able to hold her speed dropping onto the sand as she pulled back ground on the lone leader.

The two Dutch riders in the chasing group were eventually able to control the pace and they sat with Vas 16 seconds behind Van der Heijden at the halfway point.

Van der Heijden was starting to fade, however, and on the third time through the sand, the power of her teammate Van Empel reduced the gap to a handful of seconds before the junction was made with just over a lap remaining.

Vas was strong on the sweeping grass turns and slippery surfaces, where she was able to put her Dutch rivals under pressure, but the leading quartet remained together at the bell.

Van Alphen was the first rider to attack for glory as they approached the sand section for the final time, while Van der Heijden dropped back after paying for her earlier effort off the front.

As the sand got deeper, the former footballer Van Empel used her running speed to get a gap on her rivals and she was joined by Van Alphen.

Vas suffered in the sand and was 15 seconds behind the leader with the hippodrome section of the race to come, and she was now in a battle with Van Der Heijden for bronze.

Following her effort in the sand, Van Empel again forced the pace on the sweeping grass section, gaining a handful of seconds on Van Alphen, which proved enough to claim victory.

Van Alphen had to settle for second three seconds back while Vas finished strongly to take bronze just nine seconds behind the winner.

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Fem van Empel (Netherlands) 0:36:59
2Aniek van Alphen (Netherlands) 0:00:03
3Kata Blanka Vas (Hungary) 0:00:09
4Inge van der Heijden (Netherlands) 0:00:27
5Francesca Baroni (Italy) 0:00:54
6Puck Pieterse (Netherlands) 0:00:56
7Manon Bakker (Netherlands) 0:01:04
8Anna Kay (Great Britain) 0:01:10
9Marthe Truyen (Belgium) 0:01:53
10Marion Norbert Riberolle (France) 0:02:11
11Madigan Munro (United States of America) 0:02:23
12Caroline Bohe (Denmark) 0:02:25
13Harriet Harnden (Great Britain) 0:02:34
14Anaïs Morichon (France) 0:02:39
15Gaia Realini (Italy) 0:02:55
16Kiona Crabbe (Belgium) 0:03:13
17Lauriane Duraffourg (France) 0:03:16
18Julie De Wilde (Belgium) 0:03:33
19Amandine Fouquenet (France) 0:03:37
20Jinse Peeters (Belgium) 0:03:44
21Ruby West (Canada) 0:03:47
22Josie Nelson (Great Britain) 0:04:28
23Lara Krahemann (Switzerland) 0:04:42
24Tereza Vanickova (Czech Republic) 0:05:03
25Susanne Meistrok (Netherlands) 0:05:42
26Julie Brouwers (Belgium) 0:05:56
27Sidney McGill (Canada) 0:05:59
28Sara Casasola (Italy) 0:06:11
29Tessa Zwaenepoel (Belgium) 0:06:25
30Sofia Rodriguez Revert (Spain) 0:06:30
31Sofie Pedersen (Denmark) 0:06:46
32Dominika Wlodarczyk (Poland) 0:07:29
33Maite Barthels (Luxembourg)
34Patrycja Zawierta (Poland) 0:09:02
35Magdalena Zawierta (Poland)
36Julia Zieba (Poland)
DNFShirin van Anrooij (Netherlands)

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