In a dominant performance at the World Cup in Maasmechelen, World Champion Fem van Empel secured her fifth cyclocross win of the season. Taking the lead from the outset, Van Empel reportedly said she didn’t feel her best during the first lap, but found her rhythm in the second lap. From that point, she focused on maintaining a high pace to keep her competition at bay, relying on spectators for time-difference updates.
The race saw Van Empel skip the Superprestige Ruddervoorde, only to return to the field in Maasmechelen. She had a strong start, entering the course just ahead of Marie Schreiber. Shortly thereafter, a crash affected several racers including Annemarie Worst and Manon Bakker. Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, the winner of the Superprestige Ruddervoorde and a formidable competitor on paper, quickly positioned herself behind Van Empel.
Initially, a duel appeared to be shaping up between Alvarado and Van Empel. However, Alvarado suffered a fall early in the second lap, allowing Van Empel to create a significant gap. Van Empel then executed a flawless long solo run, eventually extending her lead to over half a minute over the second-placed rider. By the time she crossed the finish line after six laps, her victory was unquestionable.
The contest for the second place was less straightforward. Alvarado ran into issues with her footwear and had to visit the pit, allowing Aniek van Alphen to overtake her temporarily. But Alvarado quickly recovered, overtaking Van Alphen in the fourth lap and eventually securing second place. Van Alphen, who settled for third, expressed her contentment in a post-race flash interview, acknowledging the tough competition and celebrating her podium finish.
Despite their battle, the gap between Van Empel and her closest challengers, Alvarado and Van Alphen, was sizable. The latter two, however, had a comfortable lead over those vying for fourth place.
As for the final race results, Van Empel completed the course in 51m46s, with Alvarado trailing by 1m28s and Van Alphen by 1m42s. They were followed by Inge van der Heijden and Marie Schreiber, who completed the top five. The day clearly belonged to Van Empel, whose commanding performance cemented her status as the leading female cyclocross racer of the moment.
2023 Maasmechelen Women result
Results powered by FirstCycling.com
Main photo credit: Cor Vos