Fem van Empel wins Koppenbergcross with a big solo move

The most dominant women’s rider of the cyclocross season so far keeps on winning. Fem van Empel of Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal took another victory on the infamous Koppenberg today. The first race of the X20 Badkamers series, Van Empel’s victory here makes her the series leader and with a healthy margin too.

The Koppenberg is one of the major climbs from the Tour of Flanders, famous for its steepness and brutal cobbles. The climb was so hard and in such bad repair that it was taken out of Flanders for many years. The Koppenbergcross sees riders crest the climb 5 times, before descending with twists and turns in the field next to the road before looping back around. With previous winners Denise Betsema and Clara Honsinger on the start list, there was hope that Van Empel would be challenged. The return to cyclocross of Pauline Ferrand-Prévot was also of note. The 2015 World Champion is gearing up for the European Championships at the weekend. Hopes of victory were slim though, due to a grid position on the last row.

The start saw Luxembourger Marie Schreiber make the fastest start and she almost held off all of her rivals by the summit of the Koppenberg, only Betsema overtook her. Betsema upped the pace and only Shirin van Anrooij and Fem van Empel were able to keep up with the move. Schreiber let some distance go but tried to keep the gap manageable. Just behind her were Honsinger and Ferrand-Prévot. The French rider’s race was blown up however when her chain jammed. She couldn’t get it back on and had to scoot and run back to the pits for a slow bike change.

The 2nd lap saw Van Empel take charge. She took the bonus seconds on the finish line and also gapped her Dutch rivals. They had no answer as Van Empel pushed the gap out and looked completely in control. By the 3rd lap, the gap was already 40 seconds and the race was over as a contest. The final ascent of the Koppenberg saw Van Empel let out a smile at the top, with no one else in sight, she was able to cross the line and lift her bike in the air in celebration. Behind her, Betsema finished 2nd at 50 seconds and Shirin van Anrooij around 90 seconds back. Honsinger and Schreiber made up the top 5. Ferrand-Prévot would eventually finish 12th, having had to run up the Koppenberg when her bike had another serious mechanical.

Fem van Empel Koppenbergcross X20 Duck 2022

“This cobblestone will have a special place. It’s the third time I’ve come here and so it might be three times as lucky. That was not actually the intention. It was still a very long time to drive alone in the lead. However, I did notice that the legs were good. I tried to drive away and I succeeded. Then you just have to keep it up…

However, I didn’t drive around to get as many seconds as possible. I saw this match mainly as a good training for next Saturday. Normally I always train in Alphen on Wednesday, but I wanted to complete an intensive training on Tuesday and I think it worked out nicely.

“[The media attention] is difficult to deal with, maybe that’s a shame at a young age. A lot has happened to me in the past few weeks. It is also difficult to deal with, but I just try to remain myself. I have to deal with it, but it is difficult.”

Fem van Empel

“Of course you start to win, but Fem was just too strong. I like the climbs here, but I did notice that Fem was really stronger in the descents. There I hung on the elastic and the gap fell. However, I was able to make up for some time uphill and that gives morale for the European Championship. I then rode with Shirin and then decided to save some energy and wait.

Fortunately, I was still able to make a difference after that. I’m glad I was able to get some more time on Shirin. After all, it is a classification done on time, all options are still open.

I hope to take the [European Championship] jersey home, but Fem is the woman to beat. She is really super strong, but I also expect something from Lucinda Brand. He has already won several times in Namur.”

Denise Betsema

“I am very satisfied with that. I was hoping to finish on the podium here. It is one of the most beautiful crosses on the calendar. It was also the highest achievable with the legs I had. Normally this course suits me. I like climbing and cobblestones, but you really need a really good day to compete against Fem here.

In Maasmechelen, I had that, today the legs were a little less. That’s why I’m perhaps even happier with this third place. I immediately chose to ride at my own pace. I knew Denise would attack again, but I just decided to keep my own pace. I wanted to keep the gap enough

Shirin van Anrooij

“It was my first cyclocross race, so I didn’t really know how it would go. I didn’t have much rest after the mountain bike season, but I felt good right away. Unfortunately, I had some mechanical problems. I even thought for a moment that I wouldn’t make it to the finish, because my racing shoes slipped on the Koppenberg.

My chain kept blocking. The last time the derailleur was jammed and my gears stopped working. So I took my bike on my shoulder and walked. It was good to pick up the rhythm again and test the material. Today it didn’t work, so we have some things to sort out. I also only had my cycloross bike for four days, so it couldn’t be perfect yet. It’s good to make progress with a view to the World Cup.”

Pauline Ferrand-Prévot

Koppenbergcross 2022 Results

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