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Cyclocross

World Cup cyclocross: Fem van Empel back on top in Antwerp

The 20-year-old Dutch rider wins her fifth World Cup victory of the season.

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Fem van Empel fended off sand and rivals to return to the winner’s circle in the UCI World Cup cyclocross race Sunday in Antwerp.

After a string of second places, the 20-year-old Dutch rider surged back to the top in another thrilling battle with Puck Pieterse.

Antwerp’s famous sand pits were once again in the spotlight, and the sandy course saw Pieterse and Van Empel power clear early.

“The first part didn’t go well. I had very cold hands and so shifting and braking was a bit difficult. The focus was not there,” Van Empel said. “In the second part I felt good again and I was able to ride my own cross. That was enough for the win. I am very happy with that.”

Shirin van Anrooij, another one of the “Twenty-somethings” making a big splash in 2022-23, struggled early to find her rhythm, and was forced onto the back foot.

Van Empel was smooth through the sand, and wedged her advantage as the race unfolded. She carved out a promising gap going into the final lap, and rode it into the finish 34 seconds clear for her fifth World Cup win of the season.

“In the month of November, the focus was on training,” Van Empel said. “We are now in December and I am very happy to be back in the race for the win, although the past races were not bad either.”

Pieterse had to settle for second, with Van Anrooij round out the podium at 1:12 back. Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, who opened up a busy month of cyclocross racing, did not finish.

Dutch dominance in cyclocross this season continued, with seven of the top-10 coming from riders from the Netherlands.

Results powered by FirstCycling.com

Familiar faces on the final podium Sunday in Antwerp. (Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images)