In a commanding display, Fem van Empel emerged as the triumphant figure in the elite women’s race at the revered Koppenbergcross, surmounting the gruelling conditions to notch another victory to her name. The cyclocross spectacle, which faced a rescheduled start time due to a clash with a Sporza-broadcasted football match in Belgium, witnessed Van Empel, despite not feeling in peak condition at the outset, swiftly usurp Sanne Cant’s initial lead.
Van Empel’s prowess was on full display as she gracefully extended her lead over first pursuer Denise Betsema and Annemarie Worst, with a 25-second gap post the opening lap. The muddy ascents of the Koppenberg did little to hinder her, with the Jumbo-Visma rider steadily increasing her advantage.
Betsema, the Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal cyclist, managed to retain her second-place position, marking a significant morale boost after a turbulent start to the season, which included a training incident three months prior. She conceded to being almost two minutes adrift of Van Empel but expressed relief and satisfaction with her performance and the resulting podium finish.
Amid the backdrop of this strenuous contest, an intriguing battle for the third spot unfolded, with Kim Van de Steene making a noteworthy impression, harking back to her own triumph on the Koppenberg five years earlier. Anna Kay, the Cyclocross Reds racer, clinched the third position, admitting her surprise at such an accomplishment, given her expectations going into the race.
This Koppenbergcross victory holds significance for Van Empel as a precursor to the forthcoming European cyclocross championships. Acknowledging the difficulty of the course, she emphasised the necessity of a robust recovery ahead of her next competitive outing.
Van Empel, who regards the Koppenbergcross with particular fondness, delineated the event’s challenges, notably the relentless effort required on the heavy, muddy course. Her dominant finish, however, served as a testament to her strength and endurance, even in the face of less-than-ideal physical conditions.
Betsema echoed a sense of resurgence, with her runner-up finish acting as a testament to her returning form. Her comments revealed a blend of joy and emerging confidence, viewing the result as a personal victory and a hopeful indicator of returning to her competitive best.
As the elite women concluded their arduous battle, the leaderboard reflected Van Empel’s supremacy, Betsema’s resilience, and Kay’s unexpected success. With Kay expressing her astonishment at not having brought podium shoes, her performance underscored the unpredictable nature of cyclocross and the potential for underdogs to shine on such demanding courses.
The results of the Koppenbergcross 2023 now set the stage for the European championships at the weekend, with the elite women’s class poised for another showdown on the international stage.
2023 Koppenbergcross result
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