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Puck Pieterse too fast for her own good at cyclocross worlds

Cyclocross worlds runner-up Pieterse rues overcooking corner in crucial error that opened the door for Van Empel's victory.

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The cyclocross world championships in Hoogerheide felt like a missed opportunity for Puck Pieterse.

The Dutch talent showed throughout the season that she was one of top favorites to win gold on home soil, yet on race day Saturday, the 20-year-old Pieterse only briefly managed to fight her way into a position to disturb eventual winner and seasonlong rival Fem van Empel.

The latter rode solo to the victory while Pieterse easily held off Lucinda Brand for second place. On the “Via Roma of cyclocross” that is the Hoogerheide final, Pieterse rode a wheelie towards the silver medal with characteristic aplomb.

“I didn’t start well,” Pieterse stated the obvious at the post-race press conference in Hoogerheide.

As the start was given, her foot slipped away. She blamed some tape that was laying on the ground. A few moments later, she missed her pedal and faded further into the starting field of 34 riders.

As the top contenders stormed up the asphalt road, Pieterse faded to the back half of the group. She didn’t panic as the course was often wide and allowed for overtaking.

“I got back to the front real quickly. For a few laps, we were together and kept the pace high,” Pieterse added.

Each lap, Pieterse hopped the barriers while Van Empel ran the obstacle that was positioned near the end of the circuit. It showed that at least at this point on the course, Van Empel was vulnerable.

Halfway through the race, during the fourth of seven laps, 33-year-old Lucinda Brand was about to bridge up to the young leading duo. That’s when the race turned around.

Van Empel led Pieterse through a muddy section between the trees and suddenly Pieterse went down.

“It’s about details between the two of us. We distanced the others on the climb towards the second pit and at the barriers. Sometimes I’m too fast in the corners. I made a mistake, sliding away in the corner, and Fem got wings,” Pieterse said.

The golden medal and the rainbow jersey were out of reach, even though Pieterse stated that she kept the pressure high and rode as fast as she could.

When talking to NOS TV she stated that she had a plan to attack, even though she sensed that Van Empel was strong. Her crash marred those plans, and she had to settle for silver. Yet her wheelie showed that she wasn’t too unhappy about that result.

“I would’ve been more disappointed to lose in the sprint. I’m still runner-up in my first world championships race in the elite category. There’s no complaints about that,” she told NOS.

Puck Pieterse has a channel on YouTube where she has more than 10,000 followers.

Her latest video was a recon lap of the world championships course. “When I’m riding with the GoPro camera, I’m riding like I usually do. It’s nice people enjoy it,” Pieterse said before concluding the post-race press conference in Hoogerheide.

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