Star of the 2023 cross season, Fem van Empel hit her knee during the recon of the X20 Badkamers Trophy race at Koksijde. It’s another knee issue after her crash in the snow at the World Cup race in Val di Sole. It was the same knee as that crash but Van Empel was able to put that behind her to finish 2nd behind a dominant Shirin van Anrooij.
At the start of the Koksijde cross, Van Empel made a few errors and had trouble hanging onto the group containing Lucinda Brand and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado for the first couple of laps. That allowed Van Anrooij to go clear on her own and despite the impressive engine of Van Empel coming through in the second half of the race, there were still 15 seconds between the young Dutch pair at the finish. After the early nerves, Van Empel clearly settled and looked more assured. It’s possible the recon crash played a role in the nervousness and without it, we might’ve seen a bigger battle at the front of the race.
Despite missing the Herentals event, and therefore having 5 minutes added to her overall standings time, Van Empel is 2nd in the standings after Koksijde behind Lucinda Brand. The gap is now just 49 seconds, with 45 bonus seconds available in the remaining 3 races, let alone the actual race times.
“I just hit my knee during the reconnaissance. I just bumped my knee again during the reconnaissance. Hopefully, that won’t bother me. After my fall in Italy, on the same knee, I trained a little less on the cross bike. I’m driving here to get the good feeling again towards Sunday, towards Zonhoven. I don’t really like riding through the sand, although I don’t really care which course we race on. It is treacherous. If you miss a rut, you lose a lot of metres.”