Eli Iserbyt and Fem Van Empel take World Cup wins in Fayetteville

American Eric Brunner hits fourth in the men's race.

Photo: SnowyMountain Photography

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Eli Iserbyt and Fem Van Empel timed their sprints to perfection to score the men’s and women’s victories in the second round of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup at Fayetteville.

Both Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal riders allowed their rivals to open the sprint into a headwind before coming around at the last moment to secure their respective victories.

Last season’s overall World Cup winner Iserbyt was locked in a battle throughout the men’s race with former teammate Laurens Sweeck (Crelan-Fristads).

The pair came into the finish together, but as Sweeck went for a long leadout Iserbyt timed his effort perfectly to take victory.

Iserbyt’s teammate Michael Vanthourenhout did all he could to help before being gapped on the final lap for third, while U.S. national champion Eric Brunner (Blue-Stages Racing) finished fourth.

In the women’s race Van Empel dealt with all that was thrown at her before sprinting past former world champion Lucinda Brand to take the victory. Annemarie Worst (777) finished third.

Elite women

When the World Cup visited Fayetteville last season the power of Lucinda Brand (Baloise Trek Lions) was too much for her rivals.

However Brand didn’t have everything her own way at this year’s opening World Cup round at Waterloo, finishing third after a close race decided only in the last few corners.

Under-23 rider Fem Van Empel took the elite victory in Waterloo and her third senior win of the season.

Fellow Dutch rider Inge Van der Heijden (777) was another rider to watch after winning the C1 race OZ Cross Fayetteville on Friday night. After her second placed finish at Waterloo, Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin-Deceuninck) was amongst the pre-race favorites, but a poor start resulted in her having to pull back a 16-second gap to the leading group.

As soon as Alvarado bridged to the leaders a mechanical problem resulted in her changing bikes and having to waste more energy.

As the leading six Dutch riders were locked in a tactical battle French woman Hélene Clauzel (AS Bike Racing) looked to upset their dominance midway through the race.

However, the strength of Brand was clear as she pulled away along with Van Empel on the hardest section of the course.

After missing the initial split and paying for her early effort, Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) was initially gapped and then forced to chase across to her teammate Van Empel, and pace-setter Brand.

However, when coming into a downhill section Betsema’s chain dropped off, leaving the two leaders clear again. Taking the bell a slowing in pace allowed the five Dutch riders to regroup at the front. Brand led on the final time up the climb but was matched by Van Empel while Worst also bridged back across as they approached the finish.

Coming into the finish a daring move saw Brand take the front. However, Van Empel had enough speed to come around Brand, while Worst settled for third.

“It’s great to come to the U.S. and take two victories,” said Van Empel.

“My legs weren’t very great so I tried on the barriers and then a recovery on the descent. I expected the attack from Brand so the only thing I could do was follow and the plan was perfect today.”

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Elite men

Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) outsprints Laurens Sweeck (Crelan-Fristads) to win 2022 World Cup Fayetteville
Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) beats Laurens Sweeck (Crelan-Fristads) to win 2022 World Cup Fayetteville (Photo: SnowyMountain Photography)

The men’s event in Fayetteville was over almost immediately for the former under-23 world champion Pim Ronhaar (Baloise Trek Lions), who snapped his chain shortly after the start.

The fast conditions resulted in a large leading group contesting the opening laps with only Toon Vandebosch (Alpecin-Deceuninck) attempting to go clear on several occasions before being chased down.

After having a good start Sweeck was also prominent in trying to force a move, while the Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal duo of Iserbyt and Michael Vanthourenhout worked together to try and create a gap against their rivals.

By the midway point the fast nature of the course resulted in a large leading group of around 10 riders still in contention at the front.

Vanthourenhout, Iserbyt and Sweeck kicked clear with Brunner forced to chase behind in fourth.

Up ahead, Iserbyt gave it everything on the final lap climb in a bid to get rid of Sweeck but he was unable to force a gap, and only managing to drop teammate Vanthourenhout.

Despite Sweeck leading out down the final slope Iserbyt dug into his reserves to take victory with Vanthourenhout third 19 seconds back, and Brunner fourth a further seven seconds behind.

“In the sprint I thought it was maybe 80/20 towards Laurens because I know he’s a good sprinter,” said Iserbyt.

“I knew it was a headwind and that I had to be in second position. We talked through it before the women’s race with Fem and I think we both did the best sprint we could do and it was my only chance to win as well.

“I had to dig really deep in the second part of the race so in the end I was a bit in reserve of my power but in the sprint I thought it would be all or nothing. I’m happy I can win the sprint.”

The World Cup heads back to Europe for the third-round next weekend in Tabor in the Czech Republic.

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