UCI Cyclocross World Cup: Van Empel in charge in Waterloo

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Fem Van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) clinched the first win of the 2022 UCI Cyclocross World Cup course in Waterloo, Wisconsin on Sunday after holding off a late attack on the line by Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin-Deceuninck). Lucinda Brand (Baloise Trek Lions) was third, nine seconds back after running out of breath in the final moments of the final lap.

“In a word ‘wow’,” said Van Empel. “I achieved my goal and that’s great. I did everything according to plan, but the last lap was a big sprint. I think this is the longest sprint I’ve ever done. The plan was to do the last half lap but it was also Lucinda’s (Brand) plan so it was a bit of a struggle through the corner but I’m very happy with the win.”

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With temperatures hovering around 60 degrees (16 degrees Celsius) and partly sunny skies, the Waterloo track was extremely fast and dry, which kept the margin for error minimal as speeds stayed high throughout the 47 minutes of the race.

A group of four broke up early on, including Van Empel, Alverado, Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal), Inge Van Der Heijden and Annemarie Worst (Team 777). It was only a matter of time before World Champion Brand advanced into the group of five.

The group stayed together until Denise Betsema moved to the lead halfway through the race and Van Empel, who took the front position, dropped to third.

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Sensing the group was too big, Alvarado made an all-in move early in the penultimate round while Honsinger knocked on the door to close the gap. The attack completely shredded the group and Van Empel and Brand were the only two riders who could keep up with Alvarado, but they had to work together to get to the Dutch 2020 World Champion. The duo caught Alvarado’s wheel with 20 minutes remaining and Brand pulled on before Betsema and Worst joined.

Betsema made an attack on the final lap to which Alvarado was the first to respond, but the move didn’t have enough power to separate the five riders who swapped positions at the front for most of the race.

On the final lap, Alvarado moved to the front of the group, but Brand attacked through the same corner Alvarado had done earlier, causing panic as the tension mounted. Van Empel caught her bike but Alvarado was struggling and couldn’t quite close the gap to the leaders until the final moments when Van Empel and Brand started the battle for the lead.

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Brand collapsed in the final but Van Empel kept up the pace while Alvarado found enough in the tank to move into second place and even challenge Van Empel for the win.

“Of course I’m happy,” said Alvarado. “This is my first podium of the season. It was a tough race from start to finish. I didn’t win the sprint so a bit sad but I lost to Fem (Van Empel) and that’s no shame.”

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