Some riders might struggle to cope with pre-race pressure head to the 2024 UCI Cyclocross World Championships, but after dominating the season with a whopping 17 victories, Fem van Empel can afford to feel a little more relaxed than most ahead of her title defence in the elite women’s race on Saturday in Tábor.
“I’m quite relaxed and hope to get through the coming days that way. I’m feeling good,” Van Empel told Wielerflits. “It is now important to stay healthy and then have a blast in Tábor.”
Van Empel lines up as the out-right favourite to win a second consecutive elite rainbow jersey after a stellar season that included five World Cup wins.
She will lead a Dutch selection that also includes former world champions Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, who won three World Cups and the series title, and Lucinda Brand, who won two World Cup rounds.
Puck Pieterse, who won three World Cups this season, will also be one of the favourites, joined by Annemarie Worst, Inge van der Heijden, Manon Baker, Denise Betsema and Aniek van Alphen.
Van Empel earned 11 straight victories during the first half of the season up until Pieterse ended that streak by winning World Cups in Gavere and Hulst.
The 21-year-old went on to win six more races including back-to-back wins last weekend at Flandriencross in Hamme and the final World Cup in Hoogerheide.
In an interview with NOS, Van Empel said she wouldn’t do anything different to her training and preparations ahead of the World Championships.
“I just prepare myself like for all other competitions. I wouldn’t know what I would suddenly have to do differently,” Van Empel said.
“There is a jersey attached to it, but I have full confidence in it. I just have to bring my good legs and then try to finish.”