Meet the 18-year-old cyclocross sensation who’s taking it to the world’s best

Since swapping football for cyclocross, Fem van Empel has been on an impressive trajectory.

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2020年12月27日举行的UCI越野赛世界杯泥泞,潮湿,大风且非常寒冷。在围绕Dendermonde球场的最后一圈中,整个领域最年轻的骑手Fem Van Empel与前U23世界冠军Annemarie Worst和多次比利时比利时冠军Sanne Cant相比。

Van Empel gave a little fist pump as she crossed the finish line. Her name was fourth on the scoreboard – a career-best result. It was a breakthough performance for a remarkable young rider. A fourth place in one of the toughest races of the European cyclocross season, aged just 18 years, three months, and 25 days.

Put simply, Fem van Empel is the newest sensation in the Netherlands’ golden generation of female cyclocross stars. The trio of Van Empel, Puck Pieterse, and Shirin van Anrooij represents an exciting future for Dutch CX racing.

“I liked the circumstances in Dendermonde and had looked forward to it,” Van Empel tells me, speaking over the phone from her home town of Sint Michielsgestel, a small village in the province of Noord Brabant, not far from the Belgian border. The town has a rich heritage in cyclocross and was the site of a Superprestige race for many years. “Because I don’t have a lot of UCI points yet I usually start between the fourth and sixth start row and that is a handicap for me. At the World Cup in Namur [a week before Dendermonde] for example I knew that I could never recover and get a good result but Dendermonde was such a hard course and I could make up a lot running.”

The fourth place in the Dendermonde World Cup was Van Empel’s best result so far in her first year with the elite women. There are hardly any races for U23 women except for national, European and World Championships. Like in women’s road racing, promising junior riders are thrown into the deep end when they are 18 and immediately ride alongside the best of the best. In cyclocross that’s the likes of Lucinda Brand, Ceylin Alvarado, Denise Betsema, Annemarie Worst, and Clara Honsinger, who are all a few years older than Van Empel is.

And imagine this: one year ago, Fem van Empel wasn’t even a serious cyclocross rider. She was primarily a footballer.


When Van Empel was 15, she made her debut in the elite women’s football team. She was scouted by the national federation and her team was promoted to a higher division.

范·埃佩尔(Van Empel)可能还很年轻,但她以自己的交谈方式和确定自己为自己设定的目标而决心。当她觉得足球队中的每个人都想给它100%的人时,她决定全职潜水。这一举动的灵感来自她的父亲保罗(Paul),后者小时候骑了CX。

范·埃佩尔(Van Empel)(左)也在元旦在GP Sven Nys对抗Sanne Cant。范·埃佩尔(Van Empel)再次以第五冠军排名第四。

一旦她致力于CX,范·埃佩尔(Van Empel)就不会浪费时间留下深刻印象。

在2019 - 2020年之前,她在Helen100 Trophy中取得了一系列的成绩,Helen100奖杯是由前英国越野冠军Helen Wyman建立的CX系列赛。直到那时一直与U23和Elite妇女一起比赛的女性。在布鲁塞尔的最后一场比赛中,范·埃佩尔(Van Empel)缩小了比赛的时间差距,并赢得了整个系列赛。

尽管她根本不是越野摩托车的新手,但这从来都不是她的主要重点。改变的那一刻,她的发展进入了超速模式。Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal签下了她,本赛季的出色表现在她的出色表现为她提供了一份职业合同。

“我一直喜欢看cyclocross和做了一些racing in the winter time,” Van Empel says. “Last year I started working with a trainer. I had never worked with a trainer or a training program before so that was all new. When COVID-19 came we started doing more and more endurance rides. That is the basis of this season.”


“When I started working with a trainer though I quickly realized talent is not enough. Training is just as important,” she says confidently and wisely. Her maturity is remarkable for her age. She expresses herself with natural ease.


范·埃佩尔(Van Empel)(中右翼)与玛丽安·沃斯(Marianne Vos)的车轮。



Van Empel is ambitious in everything she does. The fact that the Dutch nationals were cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak was hard for her.

她解释说:“我现在的骑行方式意味着我有一个很好的机会赢得球衣 - 我真的很想赢得球衣。”


Van Empel likes races to be hard which contradicts the philosophy that hard courses are for more experienced and stronger (and therefore older) riders. The length of the women’s races is a lively discussion in cyclocross at the moment where some races don’t even last the minimum of 40 minutes.

“The tougher the better,” she says with joy. “I like these courses where you can’t get into a rhythm at all, where you need to run a lot. Also, I like races to be longer. The fact we get the same prize money as the men do should mean we do the same time too! Why can’t we be racing an hour like the men do? It means I have more time to make up for my bad starting position, for example.”

在Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal,她是丹妮丝·贝塞玛(Denise Betsema)的队友,丹妮丝·贝塞玛(Denise Betsema)是1月初赫尔斯特(Hulst)世界杯比赛的冠军,也是即将举行的精英世界锦标赛的最爱之一。

“Denise and I always do our warm-up together,” she says. “She follows my wheel to see how I choose my lines. I give her tips from my MTB experience and she shares her knowledge on how to balance a race in terms on when to power and when not.”

Van Empel和Betsema一起热身。

Next up for Van Empel are the World Championships in Oostende, Belgium at the end of January. There she will race against other U23 riders like 2020 world champion Marion Norbert Riberolle, Anna Kay, Blanka Vas and her compatriots like Inge van der Heijden, Puck Pieterse, Manon Bakker and Aniek van Alphen.

她解释说:“我还没有检查过该课程,但已经在YouTube上看到了图像。”“我梦见球衣,也许这可能是Oostende的美好一天。我的竞争对手是荷兰人,也是安娜·凯(Anna Kay)和布兰卡·VA(Blanka Vas),但老实说,我并不害怕我的任何竞争对手。

Fem van Empel is a rider to watch for now and in the future, both in cyclocross and mountain bike. She’s chock-full of ambition and ready to follow her own path in the sport.


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