Fem van Empel has won the World Cup Cyclocross in Benidorm for the second year in a row. The reigning world champion beat Puck Pieterse in a thrilling battle to win for an incredible fifteenth time this season.
After a training camp with her team, Van Empel was back to cyclocross for the first time since January 4th. The 21-year-old Visma | Lease a Bike rider needed little time to acclimatise, taking the lead immediately after the start. Only Pieterse and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado could follow and they set the pace together.
After Alvarado had to let her go in the final stages, Van Empel and Pieterse entered the final corner side by side. With a clever manoeuvre, Van Empel passed her rival and won. “It was an exciting battle between me and Puck. I couldn’t get away from her!” she said afterwards.
“I knew it would be difficult if I took her to the barriers. My last chance was to get through the last corner first. It was a risk, but luckily, it worked,” she added. “Races like this push you and the others to a higher level. I think that can only be good for the world championships.”
Van Empel clearly enjoyed the atmosphere in the Spanish coastal town. “It’s bizarre how many people came to see this. The crowd applauded everyone, and I think they saw a great race. I’m grateful to all the people for their encouragement.”
Van Empel was joined in Benidorm by Sophie von Berswordt-Wallrabe. The Visma | Lease a Bike rookie started from the back row, but eventually fought her way up to seventeenth place. “This was only my fourth cross at this level and the last for this winter. It was a completely different course to what I am used to, but I am happy to be in the top twenty.”
Van Berswordt-Wallrabe is also pleased with the improvement she has shown in recent weeks. “When you start with something new, it’s easier to make significant steps and always go faster when you like something. For me, it’s a great training incentive for the road campaign and motivating. I enjoy doing something completely different in the winter.”