Fem van Empel lived up to her role as a favourite at the Exact Cross in Beringen. The rider of Team Jumbo-Visma crossed the line solo after seven laps. Her closest rival, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, was second. Third place went to Shirin van Anroij.
In contrast to previous years, the climbs on the Beringen course were slightly shorter. The race could, therefore, be described as an interval race, which proved ideal conditions for Van Empel’s talents to shine.
“I was a bit nervous before the start, I have to say”, Van Empel admitted. “It is not easy to start as the favourite, but soon, I created a gap without even knowing it. Then I rode as fast as I could.”
Van Empel, who finished second at the European gravel championships last week, has a busy cyclo-cross calendar this year. Next week, the reigning world champion will race the World Cup in Waterloo, and on 22 October, she will race the Superprestige, which starts with the Flemish Grape Cross in Overijse.
“I will be wearing the rainbow jersey this season”, Van Empel beamed. “It motivates me to do well in every race, although my main focus is on the European and World Cyclo-Cross Championships. The main goal is to extend both titles.”
The 21-year-old Dutchwoman expects the competition to be tough again this year. “I expect a strong Ceylin (del Carmen Alvarado) and Puck (Pieterse). Then there are riders like the up-and-coming Zoe (Bäckstedt) and Fleur (Moors) and I take the rest of the field very seriously. You don’t know how they have prepared and what their form is. We will see in the first weeks of the season.”
Van Empel made her road debut this spring. After a difficult start, the Dutchwoman has also shown her talent in this discipline. She finished second in the final stage of the Tour de Romandie Féminin and finished three stages of the Giro d’Italia Donne in the top ten.
“Because I also raced on the road, my preparation for cyclocross differed from last year”, Van Empel continued. “I’ve been racing a lot lately, so I might still feel that in the coming period. Usually, I gain strength during hard interval training, but now I have trained in this aspect during road races. We’ll see what happens. In any case, I look back on the road season with satisfaction. I learned a lot and showed that I can compete at WorldTour level. That gave me confidence. I want to continue developing in this discipline next year.”