The recent cyclo-cross races for women were anything but exciting due to the supremacy of Fem van Empel and things did not look good for the team for the Koppenbergcross either. The field of participants looked thin, because in addition to Puck Pieterse and Shirin van Anrooij (who took a longer rest), Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado also failed to attend.
Due to the heavy rainfall of the past few days, the course was extremely difficult and it took exactly two minutes before Van Empel had already driven away from Denise Betsema and Annemarie Worst. After one lap, Betsema followed at 24 seconds, the third in the race, Kim Van de Steene, had to give in to Van Empel by 51 seconds. The 37-year-old Van de Steene managed to win the Koppenbergcross in 2018 and also felt happy today.
Lap time of 13’55”
Van Empel continued to impress in the muddy meadows. The fact that the course was extremely difficult was evident from the number of laps that the riders had to complete. That was barely three, as even Van Empel took almost fourteen minutes to complete a lap. After two laps her lead was more than reassuring: 1’15” over Betsema, 1’28” over Anna Kay and 1’42” over Van de Steene.
In the third and final round, Van Empel – who was reportedly not feeling great – no longer ran into problems. With her bike in the air she crossed the line and took her sixth consecutive victory of the cyclo-cross season. Betsema slogged her way to second place almost two minutes behind Van Empel, while Kay took the podium in third place. Van de Steene took fourth place well, with Kiona Crabbé another Belgian finished in the top five.
Van Empel: “You deliver so much power but you don’t make any progress”
Van Empel explained in the flash interview how difficult the course was. “It was really tough. You can’t imagine delivering so much power but not making any progress. Your rear wheel spins all the time. Then it is important to look for as many grass edges as possible, but that is treacherous. I was glad it was only three laps because it was tough.”
Even though Van Empel was much stronger than the rest, it was no Sunday walk for her either. “You just can’t cycle quietly, because then you fall over. So I drove quite a bit. To what extent will this continue towards the European Championships next Saturday? It is now important that I recover well. A championship is always a different day, but I’m really looking forward to it.”
1. Fem van Empel 43’23”
2. Denise Betsema + 1’58”
3. Anna Kay + 2’08”
4. Kim Van de Steene + 2’55”
5. Kiona Crabbé + 3’17”
6. Aniek van Alphen + 3’24”
7. Annemarie Worst + 3’32”
8. Sanne Cant + 5’40”
9. Jana Dobbelaere + 6’20”
10. Joyce Vanderbeken +7’11”