Van Aert and Van Empel ready for world championships cyclo-cross in Hoogerheide

Van Aert and Van Empel ready for world championships cyclo-cross in Hoogerheide

Next weekend the cyclo-cross world championships will be held in the Dutch town of Hoogerheide. Fem van Empel and Wout van Aert will compete for the Netherlands and Belgium, respectively, to win the coveted rainbow jersey. The two Jumbo-Visma riders hope to end an excellent cyclo-cross season in style.

Hoogerheide has been a fixture on the cyclo-cross calendar for years. The organisers have made a few changes to the course for this edition of the world championships. The riders are expected to reach a high average speed on the more than three kilometres long course.

Immediately after the start, there is a bicycle bridge, then a left turn into the woods. During the upcoming edition, there will be three loops around the forest. Previously there were two. Once in the woods, there will likely be an alternation between cycling and running lanes. Just before the end of the loop, there is another bicycle bridge and the traditional sloping edge. This is followed by slightly sloping asphalt.

Van Aert is happy that the World Championships are taking place in the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant. "It's always nice to return to a place where you have achieved great results", said the Belgian, referring in part to his 2014 U23 world title.

"In Hoogerheide, everything is always perfectly organised, so riding a world championship there is cool. The weather will determine what the course will look like next weekend. Usually, it is pretty straightforward. But I have seen Hoogerheide in many different guises. For me, it can be advantageous if it is muddy with some running lanes. I especially hope that a lot of people will come to watch next weekend.

"In any case, I will do everything I can to take home the beautiful rainbow jersey."

Fem van Empel

The 28-year-old Belgian is motivated to add a fourth world title to his list of honours, having won the rainbow jersey in the elite category in 2016, 2017 and 2018. "I am ambitious and would love to wear the rainbow jersey again. It has been a long time coming. I had a good last test in Hamme. I had some hard training sessions before that, which made me a bit tired at the start. My training has been adjusted for the world championship, so I will be as fresh as possible in Hoogerheide. I hope to get that extra percent by resting well and preparing for Sunday. It's positive that I've been in good shape for a few weeks. I think I have a good chance and am ready to compete."

For the 20-year-old Van Empel, it will be her first world championship in the elites category. However, winning a cyclo-cross world championship is nothing new for the young talent. In 2021 she won the title in the U23 category. With 13 season wins and the overall World Cup title to her name, Van Empel is confident heading into the championships on home soil.

"I have achieved all my goals this season, so I am relaxed about the world championship. Nevertheless, next Saturday will be a special day. I want to cross the finish line without regrets. I will see which result is linked to it. If someone is better than me on Saturday, I will have to deal with that. In any case, I will do everything I can to take home the beautiful rainbow jersey. I am not preparing for this race any differently than usual. I will have a normal training week and hope to be ready for the title race."

Van Empel's world championship weekend begins on Friday at 12:30 with the team relay. On Saturday, the elite women's race will start at 15:00. Van Aert will take to the start a day later at the same time.

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