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