This Sunday, cyclo-cross World Champion Fem van Empel will once again compete in the discipline that brought her to international acclaim. She’s set to ride in the Exact Cross in Beringen, Belgium – a race she clinched last year in a hard-fought battle against Lucinda Brand. The course, notorious for its challenging terrain around a mine slag heap, was the stage for a dramatic sprint finish between van Empel and Brand, with the former emerging victorious. That win would be the precursor to a season that ended with an impressive tally of 16 victories, including European and World titles.
Following the cyclo-cross season, van Empel turned her talents to road racing. She made a strong serious debut in the discipline, capturing a stage win in the Tour de l’Avenir Femmes and finishing eleventh in the Giro Donne, her first appearance in a major tour. Not to be pigeonholed, she further flexed her versatility by becoming the Dutch gravel champion. Just last Sunday, she secured second place in the European gravel championship too.
The Dutch Jumbo-Visma rider shows no signs of slowing down. Despite a demanding few months, van Empel has opted against taking a breather. The Cyclocross World Cup event in Waterloo is ostensibly next on her calendar, following her participation in Beringen.
The upcoming Belgian race offers van Empel another chance to solidify her already stellar reputation. A second victory on the challenging Beringen course would not only reaffirm her standing in cyclo-cross but also cap off an extraordinary year across multiple disciplines. Given her recent successes, all eyes will be on the Dutch phenom as she attempts to replicate last year’s triumph.
For van Empel, this isn’t merely about adding another win to her resume. The Exact Cross in Beringen serves as a marker for her cyclo-cross season ambitions and a litmus test for her form. Furthermore, a win here could send a strong message to her rivals as she prepares to defend her World title in the months to come.