Fem van Empel continues winning run with Koppenbergcross victory

Clara Honsinger takes fourth, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot's racing return is hampered by a mechanical problem on second lap.

Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

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Fem van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) stormed to her eighth victory of the cyclocross season with a convincing win at the Koppenbergcross.

Van Empel has been the dominant rider this year and has only missed the top step of the podium just once. Her Koppenbergcross win sends a major warning shot to her rivals ahead of the European championships this weekend, where the 20-year-old is rumored to be competing in the elites for the first time.

Denise Betsema made it a one-two for the Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal team with Shirin van Anrooij (Baloise-Trek) rounding out the podium in third place. American champion Clara Honsinger (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) battled hard to take fourth place, chasing hard throughout the whole race.

Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Ineos Grenadiers) had her return to cyclocross hampered by a mechanical problem after she dropped her chain on the second lap. Having fought through into the top-10 already, Ferrand-Prévot had to do it again.

She looked to be on course to take a top-10 still, however, another mechanical on the final lap meant she had to run up the Koppenberg to the finish.

How it happened

The race started at the foot of the Koppenberg with riders getting no more than a few meters to get underway before the climb began. Marie Schreiber (Tormans-Circus) got off to a strong start, storming into an early lead, though she was reeled in by a trio of riders before she crested the Koppenberg.

Van Empel, Betsema, and Van Anrooij (Baloise-Trek) joined Schreiber up front, while Honsinger led the early chasing group behind. Following her blistering start, the Tormans-Circus rider lost touch with the leaders midway around the lap and could do nothing but watch them go up ahead.

By virtue of her lengthy break from cyclocross, Ferrand-Prévot started well back in the pack. However, she made quick work of those in front of her and by the time she completed the first lap she was already inside the top 10 and had Honsinger in her sights.

A dropped chain during the second lap saw her drop back through the field. She tried in vain to get the chain back on but was ultimately forced to run back to the pits to collect a new bike.

As the second lap unfurled, the hierarchy in the leading group began to take shape with Van Anrooij getting distanced first, followed by Betsema. Van Empel has been the dominant rider this season and she pushed on alone and had 17-second lead on the chasers at the end of the second lap.

Behind, Honsinger had caught and was dropping Schreiber as she came in to start the third lap. Ferrand-Prévot was over 2:30 behind the leaders after her mechanical problems.

Van Empel looked faultless as she continued to build her lead over the third lap and added an extra 20 seconds to her lead over Betsema and Van Anrooij. With the finish edging nearer, Betsema attacked Van Anrooij at the start of the fourth of five laps and pulled out a small advantage.

Honsinger was stuck in no-man’s land in fourth place after putting more time into Schreiber, but she was not gaining on the two up front.

Van Empel continued to drive the pace up front and she raised her bike aloft as she crossed the line to take the win. Betsema took second with Van Anrooij completing the podium.

Having being forced to chase back through the pack following her first mechanical, Ferrand-Prévot looked like she would come through to take a top 10 but she suffered another dropped chain just shy of the final ascent of the Koppenberg. She couldn’t get it back on and she was forced to run up the entire climb to the finish line.

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