Fem van Empel has marked her return to the field in perfect style with a victory. The 21-year-old rider of Team Jumbo-Visma was the best in the second race of the X20 Trofee cyclocross race in Belgium. This triumphant returns marks Van Empel’s eighth win of the season.
Van Empel returned to competition three weeks after winning the European title. In the Kortrijk event, she was up against such talented riders as Lucinda Brand and Puck Pieterse. The reigning world champion got off to a good start, but on the second lap, she found herself in a deep patch of mud and came unstuck.
The crash did not cause Van Empel any additional anxiety and she quickly rejoined the leaders Brand and Pieterse. Brand tried to pull away from her compatriots midway through the race, but Van Empel proved too strong. The youngster closed the gap and then increased the pace. Her lead was never threatened again.
“It was a nice battle between us”, Van Empel said afterwards. “It was a difficult track to get away from the others and the wind was a significant factor. I crashed on the second lap, but I tried not to worry too much and refocus as quickly as possible. I felt good, and luckily, I got the win!”
Van Empel took a short break after the European Championships in Pontchateau, which she used to train in Spain. She had a good time there, partly, she said, because of the good weather. “When you can train in the sun, it helps you mentally. I was mainly doing endurance training for the spring,” Van Empel concluded.