She came, she saw and she conquered. After becoming world champion, the Dutch Fem van Empel is now also European cyclo-cross champion again. In the French Pontchâteau, where the course was very muddy, she rode away from everything and everyone in the first lap. Her compatriot Ceylin del Carmen Alvardo won silver, Sara Casasola surprised with bronze. Marion Norbert Riberolle finished sixth and first Belgian.
Before the women’s European Championship, only one question was asked. Not who would win, but when world champion Fem van Empel would ride away. The Dutch is lord and master this season and in the absence of Vos, Pieterse, Brand and Betsema, a European title should not be a problem.
A small group of just 21 riders started in Pontchâteau and it was former world champion Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado who made the best start. Van Empel got into her wheel and the other Dutch riders were not far either. The Belgian women all camped in each other’s company, just outside the top 10.
A first shot
Orange and even more orange. But the young Casasola and Anna Kay also hitched their wagon to the five-person Dutch train. But the tension was taken away in one go by Van Empel. A small acceleration on an uphill stretch, and the rest was already in a hole. Alvarado and Van der Heijden made a frantic attempt to close the gap at the end of the first lap.
Barely getting out of the saddle, she controlled with ease. Alvarado refused to fold, but was unable to reduce her five-second deficit. On the contrary, Van Empel quietly drove a little further away.
Halfway through the match, Alvarado, who is also a former European champion, completely broke his nerve. After three rounds, the world champion already had a one-minute bonus. Gold had already been secured, but we still saw a great battle for silver and bronze. Van der Heijden crept closer to Alvarado and the young Casasolo was also only six seconds further.
Fight for places of honor
There was also still fighting in the Belgian camp. Laura Verdonschot and Sanne Cant had been wheel in wheel for laps and were looking for a nice place of honor in the top ten.
The 23-year-old Casasola was without a doubt the surprise of the day. In the fourth round she went up and over Van der Heijden. She had no weak moment and was the last to go on stage. A great achievement, but all far in the shadow of the unapproachable Fem van Empel. After the rainbow jersey, she can also hang the beautiful European star jersey back in her closet after a true one-woman show in Pontchâteau.
Alvarado was like so many times this season the best of the rest and took silver, but one and a half minutes behind winner Van Empel.
Quite surprising in the Belgian corner: not Verdonschot or Cant, but Marion Norbert Riberolle passed her compatriots in the final round and finished as the first Belgian in sixth place. A very good recovery, because in the opening round there were barely four riders behind her. Cant (8th) and Verdonschot (9th) also finished in the top ten.