Fem van Empel won the cyclocross world title in Hoogerheide in impressive style. The 20-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider started the race in her home country as one of the favourites and more than lived up to her status. With her fourteenth victory of the season, Van Empel takes over the rainbow jersey from teammate Marianne Vos.
Van Empel made her ambitions clear from the start. From the front row, the Dutch rider immediately set a fast pace. On the most challenging parts of the North Brabant course, Van Empel made the difference and left the competition behind.
For a brief moment, compatriot Puck Pieterse returned to Van Empel’s wheel, but after she made a couple of mistakes, Van Empel was gone for good. After seven local laps, a visibly emotional Van Empel crossed the line with her hands in the air. In her debut at the elite world championships, she immediately showed what she is capable of.
“I still can’t believe I’ve just become world champion”, Van Empel stammered just after the finish line. “It’s an emotional moment for me. From the outside, it’s hard to see how much energy I’ve put into this. I’ve been working for this for a long time. It wasn’t an easy race, but I kept working hard, and it worked out. I am incredibly grateful to my family, the fans and the team for their support.
Van Empel was aware of her status as a favourite. “You constantly have to live up to being one of the favourites. It brings extra pressure. A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I had confidence in myself today. I think I stayed calm when I needed to. I tried to be as consistent as possible. In the race’s later stages, it was crucial to maintain the pressure. I think it worked well. I can now call myself a world champion, how cool is that! I don’t realise it yet, but I will enjoy it. They won’t be able to take it away from me”, Van Empel concluded.