Cyclocross world champion Fem van Empel of Jumbo-Visma claimed a decisive victory in the second round of the Exact Cross in Beringen. The Dutch cyclist outpaced her competitors, including Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado and Shirin van Anrooij, who secured the second and third podium spots respectively.
The race started with Crelan-Corendon’s Inge van der Heijden in the lead, but she fell behind a lead group consisting of van Empel, Alvarado, van Anrooij, and Annemarie Worst. This quartet managed to establish a 15-second gap on the initial chasing group on the altered course around Beringen’s mining terril.
Van Empel unleashed her power in the second lap, distancing herself from Alvarado, who struggled to keep up, and van Anrooij, who trailed by 15 seconds. Worst dropped out due to mechanical issues, effectively setting the stage for van Empel’s victory lap. By the start of the fourth lap out of seven, van Empel had expanded her lead over Alvarado to 14 seconds.
Van der Heijden was also forced to withdraw early due to a wrist injury sustained during training earlier in the week. This allowed her to watch as van Empel continued to dominate, finishing more than a minute ahead of second-place Alvarado and nearly two minutes ahead of third-place van Anrooij.
Van Empel acknowledged the pressure of entering the season as a favourite. “It’s not easy starting as the top favourite; it brought some doubts,” she admitted. Despite initial nerves, van Empel took the initiative early on, even though she hadn’t planned to lead so soon. “Round by round, I started believing more in the victory, especially because Ceylin was also doing very well,” she said.
Looking ahead, van Empel is focused on the European and World Cyclo-Cross Championships. “I will be wearing the rainbow jersey this season. It motivates me to do well in every race,” the 21-year-old beamed. She expects stiff competition from riders such as Alvarado and Puck Pieterse, as well as emerging talents like Zoe Bäckstedt and Fleur Moors.
Van Empel, who also made her road cycling debut this spring, noted that her preparation for the cyclocross season differed from last year due to her participation in road races. She finished second in the final stage of the Tour de Romandie Féminin and clinched three top-ten stages in the Giro Donne. “That gave me confidence. I want to continue developing in this discipline next year,” she concluded.
2023 Exact Cross Beringen result
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Main photo credit: Belga