Triple Dutch at women’s world cyclo-cross
Fem van Empel led the Dutch one-two-three to claim the women’s title at the cyclocross world championship on Saturday.
With compatriot and defending champion Marianne Vos injured, van Empel took full advantage to bring home Pak Peters and Lucinda Brand.
On a memorable day for the Dutch, seven riders took the top eight places – only fourth-placed Italian Silvia Persico broke free from the stranglehold.
The turning point of the race came on the fourth of seven laps when Peters crashed, losing control of her front wheel on a fast corner.
Van Empel then sped up to take down fellow 20-year-old Peters.
“I hit the throttle when I realized Puck had slipped,” said European champion Van Empel, whose road power surpassed that of mountain bike specialist Peters.
Jumbo-Visma team leader Van Empel has won 14 out of 22 cyclocross races this winter. Peters has completed all of her 19 races on the podium.
On Sunday, the sport’s biggest stars Mathieu van der Poel and Wout Van Aert will fight for the men’s title.
Van der Poel, a four-time cyclocross world champion and winner of three road classics, is on his home dirt at Hoogerheide in the Netherlands.
Belgian van Aert, who won the green jersey at last year’s Tour de France, has won the world title three times.
Reigning champion Tom Pidcock of Great Britain is skipping the event to attend a training camp in Spain in preparation for the road racing season.
Van Aert and Van der Pool have already met 10 times on the dirt this season. All races were close, but the Belgian came out victorious six times.
“Probably it will be 50/50. Everything will depend on the form on that day. Until then, I’m going to have a good rest so that in a week I will have the best matches of the season, ”said Van der Pool. The Sunday after he won the World Cup race in Besançon, France where Van Aert did not compete.
With the exception of the mechanical problems so common in the sport, it’s hard to see who could have disrupted the fight between van der Poel and van Aert.
Their biggest rivals are the Belgian trio, Lawrence Swiek, Elie Iserbeet and Michael Vanturenhout, who together won the first six races as both big twos missed the start of the World Cup season.