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Netherlands take home victory in team relay at 2023 Cyclo-cross World Championships

By Stephen Farrand,


The Netherlands won the Team Relay world title on the opening day of the UCI cyclocross world championships in Hoogerheide, with Fem van Empel producing a powerful penultimate lap to secure their lead and so ensure a home nation win.

Mathieu van der Poel was absent from the six-rider team but they started fast thanks to under-23 rider Tibor Del Grosso, and proceeded to lead the six-lap race. Elite rider Ryan Kamp rode the last lap and was able to celebrate the Netherlands’ victory.

Great Britain’s strength across the age categories proved to be decisive with Thomas Mein holding off a late charge from Belgium’s Laurens Sweeck to take the silver medal, 31 seconds down on Kamp.

Sweeck’s fast final lap guaranteed bronze for Belgium, at 33 seconds, with France fourth at 37 seconds. After a fast start, the USA finished sixth at 1:19.

The Team Relay event is contested by six riders: one elite male, one elite female, and two male and two female riders from the under 23 or junior ranks. Each nation can determine their own starting order.

The Team Relay was raced for the first time in Fayetteville last year but as a test event rather than a World Championships. Italy beat the USA and Belgium. This year medals and rainbow jerseys were up for grabs.

Tibor Del Grosso was the first rider off for the Netherlands and the under-23 rider soon opened a gap, with Italy, the USA, France and Belgium chasing him. Zoe Backstedt lead off the Great Britain team and kept their deficit to 30 seconds after the first lap.

The USA team moved up to second on lap 2, with junior rider Daniel English completing his lap just ten seconds down on the Netherlands. Italy were close behind, as the different abilities of the riders changed the race out on the fast course.

Leonie Bentveld took over for the Netherlands on lap 4 but Sweden were suddenly only five seconds behind, as men’s junior Alfie Amey helped Great Britain back into contention for a medal. Belgium were also closer, at just 20 seconds.

Fem van Empel rode the fifth lap for the Netherlands but Great Britain were timed just a few seconds behind at that point, followed by Belgium and Italy. Anna Kay and Xaydee Van Sinaey lead the chase of Van Empel before elite men rode the final lap.

Kemp started the sixth and final lap for the Netherlands with a lead of almost 30 seconds on Great Britain's Thomas Mein and Sweeck after van Empel’s flying lap and that allowed him to manage his ride.

Sweeck gradually closed the gap on Mein but could not catch him before the line, giving Great Britain the silver medal behind the Netherlands. Belgium had to be content with a bronze medal.

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