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Cyclocross

Fem van Empel scoops up sixth World Cup win in Dublin

Dutch sweep the podium with Puck Pieterse and Denise Betsema in second and third.

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The ninth round of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup kicked off on a frosty morning outside of Dublin on Sunday, the first time a World Cup has ever been held on Irish soil.

It was not, however, the first time Fem van Empel walked away with a win; the Dutch phenom scooped up her sixth World Cup win this season after another back-and-forth battle with countrywoman Puck Pieterse.

Despite not feeling well prior to and during the race, Van Empel was able to establish an early lead on the muddy course after a fast start. At one point, Betsema had her wheel but fell back.

Meanwhile, Pieterse was clambering for position behind. The 20-year-old had some bad luck early in the race — first, a rider in front of her crashed at the first pit zone, and she dropped her chain.

Pieterse said she wasn’t in an ideal position when she hit the first set of barriers, “but I decided to jump them anyway,” she said. She tangled with Betsema and crashed, again dropping her chain.

After a bike swap, Pieterse began the chase and eventually made her way to Van Empel after being nearly 30 seconds behind the leader. She eventually caught Van Empel and decided to pass.

“I knew that if it came down to the last straight that Fem would be very difficult to beat, so I decided to go early,” Pieterse said. “I just went all out with Fem at the last punch to overtake.”

After a bout of exciting back and forth between the two twenty-year-old Dutchwoman, Van Empel had enough for the final kick, and Pieterse ended “second again.”

Betsema was satisfied with third on the day, “it really was the best of the rest,” she said.

“Fem and Puck are really strong and I tried to follow but then I was in third and I think it was a safe position then. I found my own tempo and that was my race, follow the girls.”

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