The Dutch rider Fem van Empel is closing in on mathematically securing the World Cup competition after finishing 3rd at Zonhoven today. She suffered two crashes at speed on the sand sections but was able to push on and get near to the front of the race again. The sand caught several riders out, with Puck PIeterse also claimed and Mathieu van der Poel another notable one in the men’s race.
3rd place gave Van Empel 25 points which ensures she keeps the lead in the World Cup. Her lead has dropped from 40 points to 35 points however as chaser Puck Pieterse finished 2nd for 30 points in today’s race. With a win giving a rider 40 points and just 2 races to go, it’s possible for the competition to be sewn up at the next round in Benidorm.
The year started with 4 straight World Cup victories as cyclocross fans noted that Van Empel had moved up a level this season. She took 2 more victories at Antwerp and Dublin around the start of December but her crash during the recon at Vale di Sole breathed new life into the chase by Pieterse. Pieterse missed the first 2 rounds in America but has been at every race since, winning 3 of them in Overijse, Hulst and Val di Sole. It’s now been a month since Van Empel’s last World Cup victory.
The crash and injury at Val di Sole had an impact on Van Empel but recently it’s a cold that has seen the Dutch rider not quite at her best. She simply needs to manage her efforts in Benidorm and Besancon in the last week of January in order to secure her first overall World Cup standings win. If she finishes both races, it’s tough to see how Puck Pieterse can outscore her by enough points. Zonhoven was the first race of the year that Van Empel hadn’t finished in the top 2 places.
“I have a bit of a cold and therefore not 100% fit. However, I will participate to defend my leader’s jersey.”Fem van Empel