Van Empel’s commanding performance and Dutch dominance on the podium
Fem Van Empel retained her title at the 2024 UCI Cyclocross World Championships, dominating the field with a powerful performance. The Dutch rider showcased her strength and exceptional bike skills, riding away from her rivals in the opening laps and gradually extending her winning margin to over a minute.
As expected, Dutch riders asserted their dominance on the podium, with former world cyclo-cross champion Lucinda Brand securing a strong second place at 1:20. Puck Pieterse, initially a contender for the top spot, finished third at 1:54. Van Empel’s victory marked her 18th win out of 20 cyclo-cross races this season, solidifying her position as a formidable force in the sport.
After the race, Van Empel expressed her joy, describing the victory as the “cherry on the cake” of her impressive season. Acknowledging the collective effort of “Team Fem” and the support around her, she emphasized the special significance of the win. The 21-year-old rider asserted her control throughout the race, lapping the quickest each time and claiming a second elite world cyclocross crown.
Strategic moves and podium battles: A race day overview
Defending champion Van Empel entered the race as the clear favorite, having also secured the European title and numerous victories throughout the winter. The front row featured seven Dutch riders, setting the stage for a Dutch-dominated podium. Despite the absence of Hungarian rider Blanka Kata Vas, the race unfolded with a fierce battle among the Dutch competitors.
Van Empel strategically used her running speed on the long climb to create a significant gap, applying pressure on Lucinda Brand and Puck Pieterse. Alvarado, a former world champion, initially led but slipped to fourth place on the opening lap. Van Empel’s impressive pace and strength proved vital, extending her margin to over 30 seconds on the second lap.
In the battle for silver, former world champion Brand showcased her experience, overtaking Pieterse on the penultimate lap and securing a second-place finish. Pieterse, who finished runner-up in the previous year’s cyclocross world championship, ultimately settled for third place, lacking the strength to challenge the leading duo.
As the bell rang for the last lap, Van Empel remained in firm control, finishing 1:20 ahead of Brand, while Pieterse finished a further 34 seconds back. Van Empel’s delighted celebration, including high-fives to the crowd and punching the air, marked the conclusion of a remarkable race.
Under-23 success: Zoe Backstedt’s impressive victory
In the under-23 category, Great Britain’s Zoe Backstedt added another world title to her impressive palmares. The 19-year-old, previously a junior road and cyclo-cross champion, continued her success by winning the 2024 UCI Cyclocross World Championships under-23 women’s race. Backstedt followed the fast early pace set by Marie Schreiber, taking charge during the opening lap and pulling away from her rivals.
Cheered on by a home crowd, Czech Republic national champion Kristyna Zemanová won a race-long battle for silver with Dutch woman Leonie Bentveld.
Junior women’s showdown: Gery vs. Ferguson
In the junior women’s race, Célia Gery of France emerged victorious, distancing Cat Ferguson of Great Britain on the final lap after a race-long battle. The 17-year-old Viktória Chladonová from Slovakia completed the podium after trying to challenge the two favorites. Gery’s strategic move on the technical section of the last lap secured her victory by five seconds, making it the first world title for France in the Junior Women’s category.
Gery’s win in the junior women’s category followed her success in the Mixed Relay World title the day before, adding to the French team’s achievements. Ferguson, finishing second, continued her consistent performance, having secured podium positions at the 2023 Road World Championships and the European Cyclocross Championships.
The 2024 UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Tabor showcased the prowess of established champions like Fem Van Empel and highlighted the emergence of rising talents in the under-23 and junior categories. These performances set the stage for an exciting and competitive future in women’s cyclocross.