World Cup for the first time in Dublin
Dublin hosted the very first ever UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup round on Irish soil on Sunday 11 December. In an Irish landscape at the Sport Ireland Campus in Blanchardstown, Fem van Empel and Wout van Aert were allowed to take victory. Van Empel was able to beat her compatriot Puck Pieterse after a blistering final lap. Wout van Aert went on the attack in the penultimate lap and soloed to victory.
Fem van Empel's dominance continues. With a sixth victory in the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup this season, she is more firmly in the lead in the standings. Van Empel was able to hold off Pieterse after an ultimate acceleration in the final metres in the field. Betsema finished in third place.
In the last few rounds we saw the Van Empel - Pieterse duo battle head-to-head so we were looking forward to another duel in Dublin.Bad luck struck already in the first lap: Pieterse (Alpecin-Deceuninck) tripped up on the barriers, faced a minor technical problem and had to change bikes. Trailing by 20 seconds, she left the pit midway through the first lap. The Dutch rider was left to chase.
For Van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal), that was the moment to keep up the pressure. With teammate Betsema on her wheel, she sped to the end of the first lap. Pieterse was 12 seconds behind. But Betsema couldn’t keep up with Van Empel. She fell back and was soon joined by Pieterse, who in turn went after Van Empel.
By the end of the second lap, she had caught up with her. At Van Empel’s first bike change, Pieterse saw her chance, accelerating and upping the pressure. Nobody succeeded in breaking away for now.
The two were clearly evenly matched today. There was no competition from behind. The two of them launched into the final lap. After the first passage in the pit, Pieterse, who did switch bikes, had to close a small gap on Van Empel. At the barriers, Pieterse planned her acceleration, she jumped; Van Empel did not. But the hurdle did not benefit Pieterse that much. There was no difference in the sandpit either, the two rode faultlessly to the final passage on the short climbs at the end of the circuit.
Van Empel sped past Pieterse into the lead and put pressure on her rival, but could not break away. It was then Pieterse who tried her luck. She switched gear while running uphill. But, in turn, Van Empel was able to close the gap. She immediately caught and overtook Pieterse, accelerating away. She dived into the final straight first, several metres ahead. Sprinting wasn’t necessary as Pieterse had nothing left in the tank.
It meant Van Empel became the first to put her name on the list of honour in Dublin. Her teammate Betsema finished at 1’37” in third place. For Van Empel, it was already the sixth win in the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup, affirming her lead in the standings.
Wout van Aert has secured his first win of the season. The Belgian champion had to chase twice after bad luck, but decided the race with one acceleration on the penultimate lap. He makes it ahead of Sweeck and Pidcock.
It was Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) who set the pace at the start of the race. After a slightly disappointing period, the Belgian seemed to have found his good form from the beginning of the season again. His fast pace thinned out the big leading group. The only riders hot on Iserbyt’s heels were reigning champions: Belgian champion Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), world champion Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers) and European champion Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal).
No gaps opened up in the first two laps. A large group started the third of a total of seven laps in Dublin, in which Van Aert had to dismount after a skid. The Belgian champion was able to quickly get back on track at the rear of the leading group, almost without any problems.
In the third lap, Sweeck (Crelan-Fristads) took the lead. Pidcock and Vanthourenhout joined him, while Van Aert in turn tried to close the gap with an acceleration during another passage at the finish line. Pidcock
saw his change and put pressure on the rest. It was Belgian champion Van Aert who refused to let him get away. Not far behind, Iserbyt and European champion Vanthourenhout also tried to close the gap.
At the end of the fourth lap, a leading group of six formed again at the front, after Sweeck and Adams were also able to join them. Suddenly, there was a commotion in the pit. A towel had gotten caught in Van Aert’s wheel. The Belgian champion had to go back and dived into the pit with his bike in hand.
The Belgian champion was left to chase, but the gap of more than 10 seconds vanished into thin air. Van Aert was able to rejoin the front even before the fifth lap was well and truly over. For the leading group of seven it was all to fight for. Just before the sandpit, Van Aert switched up a gear. With a solid passage through the sand, the Belgian champion sprinted away. In the chase, it was Sweeck who went alone in search of the leader.
With a ten-second lead, Van Aert started the final lap. He did not relinquish his victory and took his first win of the season in Dublin. Sweeck strengthened his lead in the standings with his second place, at 14 seconds. In the battle for third place, it was eventually world champion Pidcock who prevailed after an exciting final lap.