Fem van Empel

Fem van Empel World Champion!

You can’t call Fem van Empel’s cyclo-cross world title a big surprise. Nevertheless, the 20-year-old Brabant Saturday in Hoogerheide was overcome by emotions. “Coming back from that fall in Val di Sole was tough.” As three pleasantly chatting girls, Van Empel, Puck Pieterse and Lucinda Brand sat behind a white table an hour after the finish of the World Cup for women, ready for the usual press conference. Finally time to look back together on the race, which, as expected, had resulted in a completely orange podium. ,,It felt like last year’s U21 World Cup”, said number two Pieterse. “With you Lucinda in the role of Shirin (van Anrooij. ed.).”

Difference with youth World Cup

The ‘big’ difference with that youth World Cup in America was radiant between the two. Because not Pieterse but her 20-year-old peer Van Empel had come out as the big winner this time. “The difference between the two of us is in the details and the shape of the day”, says Pieterse. One such detail, a slip by the Amersfoort halfway through the cross, decided in Hoogerheide on gold and silver. “It was the time to go full gas”, said Van Empel. ,,It was only a small mistake, but then Fem got wings”, Pieterse saw and felt it.

Young power

An Italian journalist asked 33-year-old Lucinda Brand if she didn’t feel hopeless with all that young power ahead of her. Laughing, the 2021 world champion assured not. “The difference between my generation and theirs is that they were on the bike much younger than me. They are especially technically better because of this. It’s something I need to work on even more, because I still get on the bike with the intention of winning.” The youth versus the pre-Covid generation. It was also the theme that most intrigued at the World Cup. Because Pieterse was right. A year ago she, Van Empel and Van Anrooij were still fighting for the title with the promises (Under 23). This winter, the three dominate cyclocross at the highest level. Together they shared all World Cup victories. Brand is a model for the generation that has meanwhile passed them by.

Fem van Empel in true Wout van Aert style

Even though Van Empel and Pieterse see themselves as equals, the World Cup clearly showed which of the two impresses the connoisseurs the most. “Fem is of the Wout van Aert-like type,” says team boss Richard Plugge of Jumbo-Visma about the talent who has been defending the colors of his team since the beginning of this year. If it is up to the big boss, she can continue with crosses for a while. Even though, according to him, she can also win the Walloon Arrow this spring. “Because you have to let riders like Wout and Fem do the things they like.”

The same Fem crossed the finish line in Hoogerheide, overwhelmed by emotions. For a twenty-year-old girl from Den Dungen, winning is apparently not as obvious as you might think. “This feels crazy and unreal”, was her first reaction to the television camera after mother Heidy had closed her arms after the finish with the words “worked really well.”

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