NOS Cycling•today, 08:08
Dutch cyclocross cyclists have dominated the World Cup since 2020
Can Fem van Empel also lose? This cross winter it almost seems not. The 21-year-old cyclo-cross rider will therefore be at the start this afternoon as a towering favorite at the Cyclo-Cross World Championships in Tábor, Czech Republic, where she will be hunting for her second world title in a row.
Yet Van Empel did not win everything. Of the nineteen cyclo-cross races she rode this winter, she crossed the line first seventeen times. She was defeated twice by rival Puck Pieterse.
But the question is whether Pieterse will succeed again today, as she says before the race:
Pieterse starts the Cyclo-cross World Championships ‘without expectations’: ‘Give everything you can’
Lucinda Brand, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado and Manon Bakker also won one or more World Cup races this season, but only when Van Empel was not at the start.
Fifth Dutch victory in a row?
Even if Van Empel does not win, there is a good chance that the rainbow jersey in Tábor will go to a Dutch woman for the fifth time in a row.
There has been hardly any serious foreign competition all season: all fourteen World Cup races were won by a Dutch rider. And on Friday, the Hungarian Blanka Vas, perhaps the only one who could have mixed with the Orange women, also called in sick.
Last five winners of the Cyclo-Cross World Championships (f)
|Fem van Empel
|Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado
|Sanne Cant (Bel)
Brand, who has finished on the podium in the last six World Championships, was still full of confidence last weekend. “Everyone is back to zero on Saturday, everything is possible,” said the 2021 world champion after the last World Cup in Hoogerheide.
But Brand also has doubts about her form, she said on Saturday:
Brand doubts whether she can beat Van Empel: ‘Don’t know if I’m at my best’
Pieterse had less preparation. She became ill last week at a training camp in Spain, and had only just recovered last weekend. Alvarado was also not fit in Hoogerheide: the 2020 world champion suffered her back again.
Pieterse jumps over high beams
The Dutch selection explored the course in Tábor on Friday. A few hours later, Pieterse posted a video of her exploration on YouTube, as she has done before every important match since last season.
Occasionally singing along with Taylor Swift, the technically skilled Pieterse, who will also chase Olympic mountain bike gold next summer, was introduced to the World Cup round.
“It is very icy,” Pieterse concluded before she reached the most difficult obstacle. In Tábor the riders and riders have to cross two high beams. Nothing new for cyclo-cross riders, but in the Czech Republic they are still a bit higher than normal and the route leading to them is also upwards.
Those beams are a Pieterse specialty. None of the women jump over it like she does, but Pieterse hit the board on her first attempt. At the end of the video she can be seen hopping over it. Will that make the difference on Saturday afternoon?
After the last World Cup competition, last weekend in Hoogerheide, we spoke with Van Empel’s Dutch competitors. View the report below.
Van Empel’s challengers realize for the Cyclo-Cross World Championships: ‘She is a huge favourite’