Van Empel wins thriller in Benidorm
Sunday 21 January 2024
Under the winter sun in Benidorm, the thirteenth round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup unfolded, promising an exhilarating race with cycling titans like Van Empel, Pieterse, and Backstedt at the starting line.
The race began with Van Empel (Team Visma | Lease a Bike) taking the lead, closely followed by Pieterse (Fenix-Deceuninck) and Backstedt (Canyon//SRAM Racing). Unfortunately, Betsema's (Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal) race was cut short due to mechanical issues. Pieterse wasted no time in asserting dominance, joined by Van Empel and Alvarado (Alpecin-Deceuninck) in a swift breakaway.
As they entered the second lap, Pieterse and Van Empel had a 5-second lead over Alvarado and a 20-second advantage over the chasing pack. The dynamic shifted with Fem Van Empel at the forefront, forming a formidable trio. Pieterse refused to relent, intensifying the pressure. Pieterse unleashed full throttle in the third lap, putting Alvarado under immense pressure, and the field narrowed down to two leaders: Puck Pieterse and Fem van Empel.
Staying vigilant in the fourth lap, Pieterse and Van Empel held a 13-second advantage over Alvarado, who persisted in applying pressure. Unfortunately, Van Alphen abandoned the race, and Alvarado closed the gap once more. In the final lap, Alvarado surged ahead, entering as the front-runner. However, in a nail-biting finish, Fem Van Empel clinched victory with a decisive move in the closing moments of the race. Pieterse and Alvarado, who secured her World Cup 2023-2024 win, joined her on the podium.