Dutch cyclo-cross star Fem Van Empel feels that she will have to fend off the challenge of more compatriots than just Puck Pieterse in the elite women’s world championships on Saturday.
Rising talents Van Empel and Pieterse have dominated the women’s World Cup competition this season with Shirin Van Anrooij the only rider to beat the Dutch women.
Van Anrooij has chosen to remain as an under-23 rider for this weekend’s UCI Cyclocross World Championships seemingly narrowing the women’s race to a two-way battle for gold.
Former world champion Lucinda Brand (Baloise-Trek) has only won one cyclo-cross race this season which came before she fractured her hand in October.
Meanwhile, defending cyclo-cross world champion Marianne Vos is not in Hoogerheide to defend her title due to ‘physical problems’, a result of a pelvic artery constriction.
This season nine of the top 10 riders overall in the women’s World Cup are Dutch nationals and will be looking for success in their home world championships.
“There are a lot of other competitors tomorrow not only Puck (Pieterse),” said a cagey Van Empel after helping the Netherlands to team relay gold. “Maybe it’s a duel or two but we will see.”
Van Empel finished fourth in last season’s World Cup in Hoogerheide behind both Brand and Pieterse but is confident that the Dutch course plays to her strengths.
“Yes, it is very fast but some points are a bit heavy,” Van Empel added.
The technically gifted Pieterse has used her bunny-hopping skills as a launchpad for attacks on her rivals this season and another set of difficult barriers await in Hoogerheide tomorrow.
The man-made barriers are at the maximum height allowed by the UCI at 40 centimetres (16 inches). Van Empel said that she would be running the barriers, which could hand the advantage to her rival.
Van Empel, who signed this year for Jumbo-Visma, is set to turn her hand to the road this spring and already has a medal from this year’s cyclo-cross world championships.
She helped the Netherlands to the first team relay world cyclo-cross championship gold in the opening race of the weekend today – the first title edition after last year’s test event.
Most of her rivals for tomorrow’s world title race sat out the relay but Van Empel posted a blistering lap to secure gold.
The event saw 10 countries pick a mixture of male and female junior, under-23 and elite riders with each of the six team members completing one lap each.
The Netherlands led throughout the…
Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at CyclingNews RSS Feed…