Van Empel dots the ‘i’s and crosses the ‘t’s in Hoogerheide

Van Empel dots the ‘i’s and crosses the ‘t’s in Hoogerheide

Cyclo-cross  28/01/2024

World champion Van Empel showed that she was ready for the World Championships in the final round of this season’s World Cup. The Dutch rider made the decisive move on the steps and then sprinted convincingly from the top to secure victory. 

At the start of the race, Van Empel (Team Visma - Lease a Bike) wasted no time in applying pressure to the rest of the field. The world champion set the pace and only Brand (Baloise Trek Lions) and finally Pieterse (Fenix – Deceuninck) were still hanging onto her wheel at the end of the opening lap. Going flat out, that was not yet Van Empel’s game. Vas (Team SD Worx) and Alvarado (Alpecin - Deceuninck) were able to join the leaders on lap two, but then once again Van Empel carefully began to apply more pressure.

At the end of lap two, Van Empel took a moment to assess the situation. It was time for Luxembourger Schreiber (Team SD Worx) to make a move. Brand was the first to make the crossing, but Van Empel also swiftly closed the gap. Brand and Van Empel were again at the head of the race, while World Cup winner Alvarado had to put her feet on the ground with chain problems.

On the third lap, Van Empel tested her legs once more. She accelerated on the asphalt strip leading to the finishing line and very easily opened up a 4-second gap. Brand was the only one who could eventually rejoin the world champion. Their lead over Vas and Schreiber amounted to 13 seconds.

Of the SD Worx duo, it was Vas that would gain the upper hand. The Hungarian rode away from her teammate Schreiber in search of the head of the race. Shortly after Brand made a slider on the penultimate lap, Vas was able to join up with the two in front. We entered the final lap with three leaders: Van Empel, Brand and Vas.

On this final lap, it was Brand who set the pace, until Van Empel decided to open the throttle on the Brabantse Wal. Brand gritted her teeth and refused to let the world champion go. Vas, in the meantime, remained in third position, while Brand and Van Empel exchanged short jabs with each other. Vas rushed into the lead toward the very end on the lap and wanted to be the first to start the sprint. That was not what Van Empel wanted and the world champion sprinted past Brand and Vas on the steps.

Van Empel was the first to enter the final straight and did not hesitate for a second. She accelerated immediately and convincingly sprinted Vas out of her wheel. Brand eventually finished third, 10 seconds behind.

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