Fem van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) has won the 4th World Cup Cross race of the season in Maasmechelen. The Dutch rider crossed the line solo this time, getting ahead of Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and Shirin van Anrooij (Baloise Trek Lions), who finished second and third shortly behind.
With the World Cup round in Maasmechelen, the riders were given a completely new course. It was the first time that this cross has been held. Almost all of the top riders were present with the exception of the injured Lucinda Brand. World champion Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) also made her 2022/23 World Cup season cyclocross debut. The top favourite was undoubtedly Van Empel, who has won all of the World Cup so far.
At the start, it was the French rider Hélène Clauzel who was in first position. Later on the first lap, Pieterse was the first to get past and make a small gap. Shortly afterwards, Van Empel and Van Anrooij gave chase. At the start of the second lap, Alvarado also joined this pair, who would also catch Pieterse a little later to form the lead group.
The foursome started the third lap with a big lead over the rest. However, Alvarado couldn’t keep up with the pace and had to drop. Denise Betsema had meanwhile worked her way forward and seemed to be on her way to the front of the race, but she also eventually saw her deficit to the leaders increase again.
With Van Empel, Pieterse and Van Anrooij in the lead, the last lap saw the pace increase. Several attempts were made to break free, but the three turned out to be well-matched. In the end, it was Van Empel who managed to create a gap with a well-timed attack and so crossed the line solo in first. Pieterse and Van Anrooij had to settle for second and third place.
“This was the hardest race of the season. It was a really tough fight. I took the lead quickly and had a good opening lap. On the last slope I saw that I had a gap on Puck Pieterse and I went full throttle to the finish. At the barriers I hoped to have a hole on Pieterse.
I succeeded in that. It was a very difficult race, the course didn’t bud=lge at all. Everyone contributed and we made it a great game. Whoever had won, everyone would have given it to each other.”Fem van Empel
“The plan was to stay in first position on the last lap. I knew it was difficult to overtake on this course. In the end, I was passed by Van Empel at an important moment. Then I knew it was going to be very difficult. In the end, I’m happy with second place. The tactic was to go full on the first lap, but after two laps I felt tired. After that I tried to ride a tight pace.
My technique has improved this year. Normally I don’t touch the barriers anymore, but now they were right after a corner and it was very bumpy so I had to take them with less speed. In the end, we worked well together in the leading group and we all gave each other the win.”Puck Pieterse
“I hoped to be stronger than in Tábor. Before the start, I was quite nervous because I was insecure about my form, but fortunately, I quickly felt that I was on that level. I had the legs to compete for the win, but in the end, I let myself be pushed away a bit on the final lap. Van Empel and Pieterse are just a little more cunning about that.
It’s the first time I ride a final like this, I hope to get even better at it. I only did my first cross-training of this season last Wednesday, I feel I am getting even stronger, I hope to be able to continue that line.”Shirin van Anrooij
2022 World Cup Maasmechelen Results
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Main image credit: Cor Vos