OSTEND, Belgium—On Day Two of the 2021 Cyclocross World Championships, Saturday’s rain turned into drier, cold conditions for the first race of the day.
Thankfully the wide-open U23 women’s event, led by the Dutch team, thawed the frozen conditions with a hot, exciting start of racing action for the day.
Inge van der Heijden (NED) rocketed off the front on the first lap, leaving Hungarian Kata Blanka Vas to lead the chase.
Dutch contenders Fem Van Empel and Aniek Van Alphen were content to have Vas pull them back to their teammate.
With a lap and a half to go, the four connected, and Van Empel seized her chance for rainbow stripes while Van der Heijden faded.
Van Empel had a flawless final lap to win the U23 Women’s title and cement another U23 Dutch 1-2. Vas finished third.
“Of course in the sand, I could make the difference,” Van Empel said after the finish. “My coach said that the first sand after the bridge, you must be first. I pushed on the bridge, but Kata Blanka went all out.”
Van Empel eventually got to the front for the ride along the water, and accelerated. Vas went long and wide on the beach, and never regained contact, while Van Alphen struggled to keep her compatriot within reach.
The final half-lap was a drag race to the finish, but Van Alphen ran out of real estate.
“Yeah, I dreamt about this, but before the race, mentally I was very good,” Van Empel said. “I believed in myself the whole race, and in the last round, I could make it happen. It’s fantastic.”
American Maddie Munro, last year’s bronze medalist in the 2020 Worlds Junior Women’s race, finished 11th as a first-year U23, with Canadians Ruby West in 21st and Sidney McGill in 27th.
While Van der Heijden had the fastest lap of the race, a blistering 8:52 first lap, Van Empel closed the race with the fastest final lap at 9:12.
Check back soon for more photos and coverage from Ostend.
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Age||Result|
|4||6||VAN DER HEIJDEN||Inge||NED||22||0:37:26|