NOS Cycling•today, 2:57 PM
A little wind, a day’s postponement, the competition: nothing could stop Fem van Empel at the European Cyclo-cross Championships. The 21-year-old rider became European champion by force majeure in Pontchâteau, France.
It is the sixth year in a row in which the Netherlands has won the European Championships for women. Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado took silver.
Van Empel is once again crowned European cyclo-cross champion
“The wind is blowing terribly hard,” was Van Empel’s observation when she looked out the window this morning. Due to storm Ciarán, the women’s match was already moved from Saturday to Sunday. That turned out reasonably well weather-wise. The course had turned into a mud puddle, but on Sunday the sun came through nicely in France.
For Van Empel, who won all six races this season, the weather did not matter much. Due to her good results this year, she was at the start with full confidence.
Her competitors Shirin van Anrooij and Puck Pieterse were not at the same start, who are now enjoying a rest period. But that doesn’t mean there was no competition. It actually came from the Netherlands after all. Alvarado and Annemarie Worst should not be underestimated.
European Championship champion Van Empel suffered from negative thoughts during the race
Van Empel saw the Dutch women come along in the first of a total of six rounds. This also applied to Inge van der Heijden, who wanted to compete for the medals.
Get away from competitors quickly
Not for gold, because Van Empel started for the first time after seven minutes. With one increase in pace, the Brabant rider had already pulled away from Alvarado, Van der Heijden and Worst by more than five seconds.
The reigning European champion rode around in her rainbow jersey, but soon little of it was visible anymore. Covered in mud, Van Empel worked his way to a much larger lead.
Halfway through the race the lead was already fifty seconds. The competition only had to blink twice and never saw the 21-year-old again.
The battle for silver and bronze was more exciting. Worst had to put aside thoughts of a medal after falling off her bike before walking across the beams.
Alvarado, who also finished second at the European Championships last year, remained seated. She knew what she had to do: become the best of the rest. That seemed to work, because she managed to keep the Italian Sara Casasola and Van der Heijden behind her. The latter finished in fourth place.
Van Empel did not experience anything from that battle, she rode to victory without any resistance. However symbolic, there was a real rainbow coming through the course.
That undoubtedly appeared for Van Empel, who, after Worst, Kastelijn, Alvarado, Lucinda Brand and herself, gave the Netherlands its sixth European title in a row.