After dominating the cyclocross field and taking 14 wins from 16 appearances so far this winter, Fem van Empel is set to take a well-earned break from the discipline for the next two weeks until the Benidorm World Cup on January 21.
The World Champion has opted Sunday’s Zonhoven World Cup and next week’s Dutch national championships to attend a training camp in Spain with her Visma-Lease a Bike teammates.
“It has been a busy but wonderful time,” said Van Empel who has raced five times in the past 10 days.
“Now it is time to take some time off to recover and build up for what is to come.”
Van Empel’s latest participation in Koksijde saw her dominate the field again, pressing clear on the opening lap and never being seen again. It was her first win at the long-standing sand dune venue ahead of a strong start list that featured Lucinda Brand (Baloise Trek Lions) and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin-Deceuninck).
“I am thrilled to have won this beautiful race”, said Van Empel on Visma-Lease a Bike’s website.
“The main thing was to be able to ride my own lines on this course. The fact that I was able to do that gave me a bit more confidence. That’s why I started fast. After that, I was able to ride at my own pace.”
The Dutchwoman said post-race that it was a late decision to participate in Koksijde after her win in Baal on New Year’s Day, where she suffered a minor crash and cut open her left knee, adding to her already bandaged right knee from a previous crash.
Van Empel took another small tumble on Thursday’s race after her foot got stuck in the ground just before trying to remote in the pits, causing her to fall to her knees. “I’ll need some new knees at the end of the season I think,” she joked afterwards, and the injuries are perhaps another likely reason for the break.
Benidorm is the only confirmed race on the world champion’s schedule, but it seems likely that an appearance at the Hoogerheide World Cup on January 28 will precede her title defence in Tabor on February 3.
Van Empel will likely arrive in the Czech Republic as the heavy favourite given her dominance throughout the 2023-24 season and she will try to arrive at her absolute peak to again beat the likes of Puck Pieterse (Fenix-Deceuninck), Brand and Alvarado.