Van Empel wins Flamanville World Cup as absent Brand seals overall title

Dutch Fem Van Empel celebrates as she crosses the finish line to win the womens elite race at the Cyclocross World Cup cyclocross event in Flamanville France Sunday 16 January 2022 the 14th stage out of 15 in the World Cup of the 20212022 seasonBELGA PHOTO DAVID STOCKMAN Photo by DAVID STOCKMANBELGA MAGAFP via Getty Images
Dutch Fem Van Empel celebrates as she crosses the finish line to win the womens elite race (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Fem van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) took her second World Cup victory of the season on Sunday, sprinting past Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Fenix) on the final lap in Flamanville. 

Van Empel, who won her first elite World Cup at Val di Sole in December, matched attacks by Pieterse throughout the race and then came around her Dutch under-23 rival on the line to take victory. 

Looking for her first elite World Cup win, Pieterse led into the final corner and launched her sprint but Van Empel timed her effort perfectly, passing her to take the win. 

Hungarian national champion Blanka Kata Vas (Team SD Worx) was a lone chaser in third throughout the race, finishing 23 seconds behind. 

With both World Cup overall leader Lucinda Brand (Baloise Trek Lions) and nearest contender Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) absent in France, it meant that Brand sealed the overall series with a round remaining. 

"It’s really important and I’m very happy to take my second victory," said Van Empel. 

"I never expected this before the season, and it was great that I could win today. In the beginning Puck was stronger jumping the barriers. I pushed really hard to come back but you can celebrate only after the finish line and I gave everything, which was enough."

Meanwhile, Pieterse escured her fifth elite World Cup podium of the season but was again denied the victory she desires. 

"It was really tough in the last 100 metres," she said. "The finish had to be a few hundred metres earlier if I wanted to win. Fem came over strong and she deserved it."

How it unfolded

The 14th World Cup round took place In Normandy in the grounds of the Chateau de Flamanville and an easing of coronavirus restrictions meant that crowds returned to the event. 

Overnight rain led to slippery conditions in sections, but most sections remained firm on the course previously used for Coupe de France races and the country’s national championships. The flowing circuit included a couple of short banks and switchbacks where competitors could see the gaps to their rivals. 

Two riders on the start line who had tasted World Cup victory this season were Van Empel and Hungarian national champion Vas. A reduced field of 31 riders took to the start which also included under-23 World Cup leader Pieterse.

The paved start saw Italian Eva Lechner (FAS Airport Services) and Inge Van der Heijden (777) get the quickest start into the first patch of slow mud. Van Empel, who had won the World Cup round at Val di Sole, pushed the pace on the opening lap but was quickly closed by Pieterse. 

After missing four weeks of racing to rest during November, a rejuvenated Vas pulled back the Dutch leaders along Italian national champion Silvia Persico and Van der Heijden after the opening lap. Despite the leading group expanding, Pieterse pushed the pace and was the only rider able to jump the hurdles to force a small gap. Van Empel was forced onto the defensive and the pace split the leading group with Vas in third but 16 seconds behind after the second lap. 

Pieterse, aged 19, was denied victory in the previous World Cup round at Hulst by just five seconds and continued pressurising Van Empel with just five seconds separating the Dutch team-mates. Withstanding a lengthy attack, Van Empel kept calm and pulled her way back up to Pieterse by the midway point. 

Vas was a lone chaser in third sitting 20 seconds behind the leading duo while Persico and Van der Heijden were a further 30 seconds behind. The two leaders went head-to-head, exchanging the lead as they went side-by-side coming into different sections. Coming into the penultimate lap, the tactical exchanges allowed Vas to remain 13 seconds behind. 

Climbing a staircase feature together, a slip for Pieterse allowed a small gap to open which she quickly closed, while Vas remained chasing, cutting her gap to 10 seconds. 

With just over a lap remaining, an under-pressure Pieterse looked to attack her Van Empel, who quickly responded. The pair took the bell together but with Vas continuing her chase 15 seconds behind. 

Van Empel kept the lead, not allowing her technically gifted compatriot the front during the tighter sections of the course, while their pace distanced Vas once again. Coming into a small climb, Pieterse made her bid for glory but was quickly closed by Van Empel, who then regained the lead. 

Pieterse had one last push for victory, passing her rival into the final corner and then launching her sprint up the final paved slope to the finish. However, Van Empel had enough left to pass her and take her second World Cup win of the season. 

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Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Fem Van Empel (Ned) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal 0:53:39
2Puck Pieterse (Ned) Alpecin - Fenix
3Kata Blanka Vas (Hun) SD Worx 0:00:23
4Inge van der Heijden (Ned) 777 0:01:29
5Silvia Persico (Ita) Valcar-Travel & Service 0:01:33
6Hélène Clauzel (Fra) A.S Bike Crossteam 0:01:50
7Manon Bakker (Ned) Iko - Crelan 0:01:53
8Eva Lechner (Ita) 0:02:00
9Marion Norbert Riberolle (Bel) Starcasino CX Team 0:02:05
10Alicia Franck (Bel) Proximus - Alphamotorhomes - Doltcini CT 0:02:35
11Amandine Fouquenet (Fra) 0:02:57
12Anaïs Morichon (Fra) Team Royalbikeshop.Com 0:03:31
13Aniek van Alphen (Ned) 777 0:03:40
14Laura Verdonschot (Bel) 0:03:59
15Perrine Clauzel (Fra) A.S Bike Crossteam 0:04:20
16Lucia Gonzalez Blanco (Spa) Nesta - MMR CX Team 0:04:39
17Ellen Van Loy (Bel) 0:04:45
18Kristýna Zemanová (Cze) 0:04:58
19Suzanne Verhoeven (Bel) 0:05:10
20Marthe Truyen (Bel) Iko - Crelan 0:05:31
21Viviane Rognant (Fra) OCF Team Cross 0:05:34
22Sidney Mcgill (Can) 0:06:00
23Aida Nuño Palacio (Spa) Rio Miera-Cantabria Deporte 0:06:28
24Lucia Bramati (Ita) 0:06:42
25Olivia Onesti (Fra) Starcasino CX Team 0:06:57
26Amandine Vidon (Fra) 0:07:05
27Julie Brouwers (Bel) 0:07:08
28Loes Sels (Bel) Proximus - Alphamotorhomes - Doltcini CT 0:07:16
29Tereza Kurnická (Svk) 0:07:35
30Laura Porhel (Fra) Team Fima - Cyrpeo Alian 0:07:41
31Taylor Kuyk-White (USA) 0:07:59
32Gwennig Le Dantec (Fra) Team Fima - Cyrpeo Alian
33Cyriane Muller (Fra)
34Jennifer Malik (USA)
35Lydia Pinto Larenjo (Spa) Nesta - MMR CX Team
36Corey Coogan Cisek (USA) Velorevolution WPcycles

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