In a dominant display, Fem van Empel clinched the Druivencross in Overijse, Belgium, part of the Superprestige series, leaving six of her fellow Dutch riders in her wake. Van Empel broke away from the peloton early in the race and established a 15-second lead in just the first of five laps, a margin she continued to extend throughout the contest.
The reigning world champion ultimately crossed the finish line a staggering 54 seconds ahead of second-placed Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, making it an all-Dutch podium with Inge van der Heijden securing the third spot. Notably, the top seven spots featured Dutch riders, with France’s Hélène Clauzel being the first non-Dutch rider to finish, taking eighth place.
In a post-race interview, Van Empel suggested that her substantial lead was beyond what she’d even dared to hope for. She also noted that taking it easier during the week leading up to the race may have been beneficial, considering she’d just returned from the World Cup race in Waterloo in the USA, and felt the effects of jet lag.
This win follows Van Empel’s victory in the season-opening World Cup cross in Waterloo, where she notably beat Puck Pieterse, who was absent from the Overijse race. Last season, Van Empel also made her mark on the road, participating in the Giro Donne and securing second place in the youth classification.
The second-place battle was also a sight to behold, as Alvarado initially went solo in her chase but was briefly caught by Van der Heijden. Alvarado, however, managed to break free again, securing her position behind Van Empel. Meanwhile, Van der Heijden succeeded in distancing herself from Annemarie Worst to claim the third podium spot.
It’s clear that Van Empel is setting a high standard early in the season. Her team emphasised the importance of listening to her body, particularly given her young age, to avoid burnout. According to Van Empel, she managed her effort wisely throughout the race, easing off in certain sections while accelerating in others, finding a balance that clearly paid dividends.
2023 Overijse Druivencross Women result
Results powered by FirstCycling.com
Main photo credit: TPhoto