Puck Pieterse reflected on the finer details which contributed towards her being beaten by rival Fem van Empel for gold in Sunday’s elite women’s race at the 2023 UCI Cyclocross World Championships.
The 21-year-olds have been locked in battle all season sharing 11 World Cup victories between them following some intense races on the bike which have excited cyclocross fans.
Known for her technical ability, Pieterse was the only one of the elite women’s leaders able to bunny hop the planks at Hoogerheide. When she came back to her rival after a slow start, Pieterse was again locked in a battle with her fellow Dutch rider Van Empel and was using her bunny-hopping ability to put her rival under pressure.
However, coming into a slippery tight corner at high-speed, Pieterse slipped out and gave her rival the margin she needed to power on to victory. Pieterse fell back to Lucinda Brand chasing in third, and despite pulling back clear for silver, Van Empel closed the winning margin to 39 seconds.
“I didn’t start that well but I came to the front really quickly so I knew I was strong today otherwise I wouldn’t have been at the front of course,” said Pieterse. “There were a few laps that we were looking at each other and seeing where the rest was riding but Fem and I kept the pace high.
“I made a small mistake which made me lose some time and Fem got her wings and just went for it. It was a little bit of a slide out on a corner.”
Pieterse’s technical ability helped her to victories in four rounds of the elite World Cup this season and the Dutch national title. However, pushing the course limits on Saturday resulted in the end of her chance of victory in front of a home crowd in Hoogerheide.
“It comes down to the details and the form on the day,” added Pieterse. “We had some great battles this season, every race is different of course. Fem usually has the better sprint where normally I don’t really think about riding into the corners, I just go all out.
“Sometimes it works out like in Overijse [UCI World Cup] and sometimes you go a bit too fast into the corners.”
Former footballer Fem van Empel has also targeted working on her skills to match her rival in the coming years. She agreed with Pieterse that finer details were all that separated the pair this year.
“Puck jumped the barriers and made a show at the finish line with a wheelie so maybe I need to improve my skills a little bit more,” Van Empel added.
“Our level is a bit the same at the moment so it comes to the…
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