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

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Fem van Empel wins the U23 Worlds in Ostend.

Fem van Empel wins the U23 Worlds in Ostend (Image credit: Getty)
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Fem van Empel wins the 2021 U23 CX Worlds in Ostend.

Celebration at the finish line for new U23 champion is Fem van Empel (Netherlands) (Image credit: Getty)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Arrival Fem Van Empel of The Netherlands Celebration during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Women U23 UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Fem van Empel (Netherlands) win U23 Women's contest in Ostend (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Fem Van Empel of The Netherlands Sand Sea during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Women U23 UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Fem van Empel (Netherlands) setting the pace on the beach along the Black Sea (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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Fem van Empel wins the 2021 U23 CX Worlds in Ostend.

Aniek Van Alphen of The Netherlands rides behind Blanka Kata Vas of Hungary (Image credit: Getty)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Anna Kay of United Kingdom Sand during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Women U23 UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Anna Kay of United Kingdom runs through the sand en route to eighth place finish (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Harriet Harden of United Kingdom Sea Sand during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Women U23 UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Harriet Harnden of United Kingdom runs along the beach and would finish 13th in Ostend (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Josie Nelson of United Kingdom and Madigan Munro of The United States Sea Sand during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Women U23 UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Josie Nelson of United Kingdom and Madigan Munro of The United States ride on the beach - Munro would push to 11th and Nelson would roll in 22nd (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Fem Van Empel of The Netherlands Josie Nelson of United Kingdom Blanka Vas Kata of Hungary Sand Sea Peloton during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Women U23 UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Fem van Empel leads group along beach (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Aniek Van Alphen of The Netherlands and Josie Nelson of United Kingdom Sand during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Women U23 UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Aniek van Alphen of The Netherlands and Josie Nelson of United Kingdom run along the beach (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Blanka Vas Kata of Hungary Sand Sea during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Women U23 UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Blanka Kata Vas of Hungary rides on packed sand of the beach (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Aniek Van Alphen of The Netherlands Sand Sea during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Women U23 UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Aniek van Alphen of The Netherlands would finish second (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Arrival Blanka Vas Kata of Hungary during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Women U23 UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Blanka Kata Vas of Hungary crosses the line for bronze medal (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Podium Aniek Van Alphen of The Netherlands Silver Medal Fem Van Empel of The Netherlands Gold Medal World Champion Jersey Blanka Vas Kata of Hungary Bronze medal Celebration Mask Covid Safety Measures during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Women U23 UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

U23 women podium at 2021 UCI Cyclo-cross Worlds: Aniek van Alphen of the Netherlands with Silver Medal, Fem van Empel of the Netherlands Gold Medal and World Champion Jersey, and Blanka Kata Vas of Hungary with Bronze (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Podium Aniek Van Alphen of The Netherlands Silver Medal Celebration Mask Covid Safety Measures Flowers during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Women U23 UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

The silver medal goes to Aniek van Alphen (Netherlands) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)
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OOSTENDE BELGIUM JANUARY 31 Podium Blanka Vas Kata of Hungary Bronze medal Celebration Mask Covid Safety Measures Flowers during the 72nd UCI CycloCross World Championships Oostende 2021 Women U23 UCICX CXWorldCup Ostend2021 CX on January 31 2021 in Oostende Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images

Taking the bronze is Blanka Kata Vas (Hungary) (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

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.

Results
#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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