Van Empel grabs overall World Cup victory thanks to win in Benidorm
Fem van Empel has won the CX World Cup in Benidorm in an outstanding performance. The 20-year-old Dutch rider finished first overall after a blistering last lap and grabbed the day's victory with some clever steering. In the men's race, Mathieu van der Poel narrowly defeated Wout van Aert.
Van Empel jumped immediately and showed her intentions by taking the lead. However, the rider of Team Jumbo-Visma, Shirin van Anrooij, Silvia Persico, and Puck Pieterse alternated positions for six laps. In the end, Van Empel and Pieterse severely screwed up the pace on the final lap, after which a nice duel ensued. The two swapped the lead throughout the lap, but Van Empel closed the distance in the last corners and won the race. It is Van Empel's twelfth victory of this cross-country season. Marianne Vos finished 13th.
"I never anticipated that I would win the World Cup until this year."
"I accomplished my goal today", the winner said. "It was a nice battle between the four of us. Staying upright was difficult. A few times, it only went just right. Pieterse kept it exciting until the last corners, and we played hardball. The crowd was very active today. We provided a fantastic race for everyone. I never anticipated that I would win the World Cup until this year. I set out to win one or two races, but every week I surprised myself. I'm overjoyed to be able to add this ranking to my list of honours at the age of 20 already."
Last week, Van Empel attended a training camp with the women's team of Team Jumbo-Visma. The European champion then focused on the cyclo-cross competition in Benidorm. "I tried to prepare well. Last week I was able to train well and get to know my new teammates better. That ensured that I was highly motivated at the start. I feel good with this team and definitely owe this victory to them."
Under the Spanish sun, a thrilling struggle also took place in the men's race. The race erupted in full force after a quiet opening phase in which Van Aert had to make up some positions because of hold-ups. The Team Jumbo-Visma rider and Van der Poel attacked each other, but neither rider could open up a clear gap. Eventually, the rush to the finish had to bring a decision. Van Aert initially assumed the lead but lost it in the second part of the lap. In the final corners, frantic attempts to put his bike past Van der Poel were to no avail. Van Aert narrowly avoided colliding with the crash barriers, after which he crossed the finished line in second.
"It was a spectacular cross", Van Aert said. "It wasn't the first time it was so close, but I feel I didn't get everything out of it. In retrospect, I regret my strategy. I should have accelerated my pace after the climb. At the finish, there is a slight turn to the left, which you must pass through first. I was caught off guard when Mathieu passed me in the park, and I could not overtake him after that. Before the last turn, he actually had already won the race. Before that, I was too busy trying to stay in front when I should have been riding faster. That's a shame."