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Cyclocross star Fem van Empel: How far can she go in the Classics?

Cyclocross star Fem van Empel: How far can she go in the Classics?

Are we about to see another road racing star that excels at cyclocross? World CX champion Fem van Empel (Visma – Lease a Bike) is about to dip her cleats in the Classics, making her debut at Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem.

Some of the best pro road male racers are also cyclocross riders. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin–Deceuninck) is the world champion on the road and in CX. His rival on the road Wout van Aert (Visma – Lease a Bike) is also a rival on the dirt. Ineos – Grenadiers rider Tom Pidcock is a former world ‘cross champion and the current world MTB champion. Being great at ‘cross means you have exceptional bike handling skills and big-time watts. The fast, punchy courses favor those who can push the pedals hard on the short climbs. Which translates well to the tough ascents seen in many of the Classics.

Gent-Wevelgem certainly doesn’t have some of the notable climbs seen in the Flandrian races and will often result in a sprint. But it does have cobbles. Which Van Empel is very excited about.

“My preparation has been perfect. I had a good training block, and I am excited to see where I am now. It will be my first time at Gent-Wevelgem, so I am a bit nervous, but most of all, I am looking forward to it,” she said.

Cobbles are much like ‘cross–being in the right spot, at the right time, is crucial. If you’re too far back you may be held up by crashes or punctures. Losing time on the pavé can be very difficult to move up. For Van Empel, she knows how critical being at the front is when the going gets cobbled.

“I’m hoping I’ll be in the right position at the right time,” Van Empel added. “There are a lot of top riders at the start. I am curious to see where I am in my first race of the year, and I hope to be in the front until deep into the final.”

This season, the double cyclocross world champion has been collaborating with directeur sportif Jan Boven.  “Jan and I have an excellent relationship. The cooperation in cyclocross is going really well. I look forward to working with Jan on the road and learning even more from his expertise.”

Boven sees good things ahead for Van Empel. With her exceptional bike handling and raw power, he can see that the 21-year-old can do well in the tough Spring Classics.

The past few years Van Empel has done a road program, including races like the Tour de l’Avenir Femmes, where she took the points jersey and a stage win. She finished 11th overall at the Giro d’Italia Donne,…

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