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Fem van Empel (Visma-Lease a Bike) won her 14th race of the season with a dominant solo performance over the sand dunes in Koksijde. The World Champion took the lead with an explosive start and only consolidated it throughout the five laps to extend her overall lead in the X2O Trofee series.
The only rider with Van Empel in sight when she powered away was Lucinda Brand (Baloise Trek Lions), but by the end of the second lap, her compatriot had almost doubled her lead from 21 to 39 seconds which she maintained to take her first win in Koksijde.
“I’m super happy. Yesterday I made the decision to start today so I’m very happy to win,” said Van Empel who said her decision to ride solo was conscious before the race had started.
“If you have the space to ride your own lines, you have more peace of mind,” she said. “I had a gap quite quickly and then I continued at my own pace.”
Brand secured second place despite a charging Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin-Deceuninck) working her way to bridge the gap throughout the race, even catching Brand on the final lap and nearly outsprinting her to the line in a thrilling finale.
Alvarado had a poor start which left her sixth during the first lap and forced her into a 50-minute chase. She came into good form as the laps went on, but said that he body had struggled to recover over such a busy Christmas period of racing.
For Van Empel, it was an afternoon of showing her prowess on the sand and her ability to keep her momentum around a tough course in far-from-ideal conditions due to the very wet winter being endured in Belgium this season.
One small blip as she remounted her bike on the third lap was the only blemish on a near-perfect performance, but that incident did see her come down on both her knees – one of which was bandaged up in the last few races and the other was cut open in Baal on New years day.
“It was on the stitched knee, so well… I’ll need some new knees at the end of the season I think,” joked van Empel who rode with knee warmers today covering her…