Fem van Empel (Visma-Lease a Bike) showed just why she has the World Champion’s jersey on her back at the Hoogerheide World Cup, brushing her shoulder in celebration after outsprinting Blanka Vas (SD Worx) to the line in one of the races of the season.
The Dutch star traded the lead with Lucinda Brand (Baloise Trek Lions), Vas and Marie Schreiber (SD Worx) throughout the six laps of racing in the Netherlands, but came back to the front at the crucial moment, overtaking Brand and Vas running up the stairs to take front position ahead of the sprint.
On her return to the site where she won her rainbow jersey last year, Van Empel followed this up with the power and immediately gapped Van and Brand after the pair gave everything and took big risks to try and dethrone the World Champion ahead of her title defence in Tabor next week.
“I am very happy to win here for the second time,” said Van Empel post-race to WielerFlits.
“These victories are super important. It’s nice to win two more times a week before the World Cup, but I mainly hope to stay healthy. Everything should fall into place on Saturday, then I will be extremely satisfied.
“I’m not going to do too much this week. I will travel to Tábor early and it will be important to explore the course well and keep calm.”
Van Empel said the sprint against Vas was unknown given the Hungarian’s speed on the road and proven ability having taken a Giro d’Italia Donne sprint stage just last season and the U23 road world title.
“It was a big effort,” said Van Empel on retaking the lead up the ‘stairway to heaven’ section. “I had to skip a flight of stairs and actually didn’t think I would get over Vas.
“But Blanka is a World Champion on the road. I’ve never sprinted against her before, so I just gave it a try.”
After wrapping up the competition last week in Benidorm, overall World Cup winner Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin-Deceuninck) rolled over the line in 15th.
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