Cyclo-cross World Cup Hoogerheide: Fem van Empel wins ahead of World Championships

The World Champion was attacked throughout Sunday's race but held on to beat Blanka Vas and Lucinda Brand

Clock13:33, Sunday 28th January 2024
Fem van Empel (Visma-Lease a Bike) and her podium companions in Hoogerheide

© Sprint Cycling Agency

Fem van Empel (Visma-Lease a Bike) and her podium companions in Hoogerheide

Fem van Empel (Visma-Lease a Bike) came out on top in a tight battle to win the final round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Hoogerheide on Sunday.

The current world champion was pushed all the way by Blanka Vas (SD Worx-Protime) and Lucinda Brand (Baloise Trek Lions) but was able to kick clear of her closest rivals on the sharp rise to the finish. Vas finished second, with Brand completing the podium.

Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin-Deceuninck) finished off the pace and outside of the top-ten but sealed the overall win in the UCI World Cup.

The battle for the win in Sunday's race came down to the final lap with van Empel and Brand well-matched for most of the race.

Vas rejoined the front of the race with just over one lap remaining and was well-placed coming into the final set of stairs but it was van Empel who was the freshest and attacked as soon as the leading trio hit the final uphill road section before the finish.

Brand was immediately distanced and was forced to settle for third as Vas hung on for as long as possible but eventually had no answer for van Empel's raw power.

The win marked van Empel's 17th victory of what has been an incredible season.

"Blank and Lucinda were quite strong and I knew that I needed to be first on the asphalt. The only thing I could do was run fast on the stairs, and I managed to get first place," the winner said.

"Winning is a good feeling and it's been an incredible season so far. Hopefully next Saturday at Worlds it will be the cherry on the cake."

Van Empel began the race with a relative calm start as Marie Schreiber setting the pace through the first set of corners. Brand slotted neatly into second place almost immediately as Puck Pieterse and Alvarado struggled to keep pace.

By the end of the first lap Alvarado, van Empel and Brand were clear of the pack but it wasn't long before three became with five with Vas and Pieterse joining the elite selection.

Brand and van Empel used the main climb to test their rivals on every lap but the headwind over the top of the road section that came just before the finishline constantly brought the race back together.

Schreiber attacked at the start of lap three with Alvardo dropped and then held up by a mechanical that virtually ended her race.

By the fourth lap the race was down to just a handful of riders with Pieterse out of the frame and only van Empel, Brand, Vas, Zoe Backstedt and Schreiber in contention.

Van Empel and Brand powered clear soon after but Vas dragged herself back into the top three. Brand and the world champion took turns attacking but the race came down to the final set of stairs and key positioning before van Empel turned on the afterburners and sprinted clear on the final drag to the line.

Race Results

1

nl flag

VAN EMPEL Fem

46' 48"

2

hu flag

VAS Blanka

+ 1"

3

nl flag

BRAND Lucinda

+ 10"

4

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BACKSTEDT Zoe

+ 24"

5

lu flag

SCHREIBER Marie

+ 37"

6

be flag

VERDONSCHOT Laura

+ 1' 02"

7

be flag

CANT Sanne

+ 1' 12"

8

nl flag

PIETERSE Puck

+ 1' 14"

9

cz flag

ZEMANOVA Kristyna

+ 1' 18"

10

ca flag

HOLMGREN Isabella

+ 1' 22"

Provided by FirstCycling

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