1/2 Fem van Empel takes the European title (photo: ANP).
Fem van Empel from Den Dungen impressively became European cyclo-cross champion on Sunday in the mud of the French Pontchâteau. The reigning world champion started the race as a towering favorite and she fully lived up to that role. The 21-year-old super talent took the lead in the first round and never relinquished it. Van Empel also won the European cyclo-cross title last year.
Just like in all races in which Van Empel started this season, she was also supreme on Sunday in Pontchâteau. After six victories in a row in the field, the seventh victory followed and with it the European title.
The women’s race was originally scheduled for Saturday, but forecasts showing stormy weather threw a spanner in the works. This postponement did not upset the top favorite. At two o’clock on Sunday afternoon, Van Empel took control almost immediately after the starting shot, together with compatriot Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado. Followed by, among others, Aniek van Alphen from Hapert and Inge van der Heijden from Schaijk.
When crossing the first lap, Van Empel had a lead of a few seconds over Alvarado. A difference that she only expanded further in the remainder of the race. Alvarado eventually took the silver in just over a minute and a half and the Italian Sara Casasola surprisingly took the bronze in almost two minutes.
“It’s quite mentally tough to be at the start as top favorite every time.”
Before Sunday’s match, Van Empel already announced that she would take a short break after the European Championship. “I need that,” she explained after the cross. “It is mentally quite difficult to be at the start as a top favorite every time. Physically I am very good, but it is quite difficult to motivate me again and again. I need some rest.”
Her next big goal is the cyclocross world championships in Tabor in the Czech Republic. There she will try to win the rainbow jersey again in the first weekend of February.
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