Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Fenix) won a brutal 10th round of the Cyclocross World Cup on the snow of Val di Sole which saw pre-race favourite Fem van Empel stretchered off the course.
Pieterse rode a brilliant race in treacherous conditions, leading for five of the six laps as compatriot Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Team Alpecin–Deceuninck) was unable to chase her down.
Italian champion Silvia Persico (Team Valcar–Travel & Service) rode valiantly but fell four times, dislodging her chain on three occasions, which cost her a spot on the podium as Manon Bakker (Plantur-Pura) took third making it a Dutch 1-2-3.
Fem van Empel fell heavily on the first lap and stayed down, clutching her lower leg in visible pain before being stretchered off.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The 10th round of the Cyclocross World Cup saw the riders swap the freezing mud of Dublin for the slippery snow of Val di Sole, a valley in northern Italy famous for skiing and Giro d'Italia visits.
Fem van Empel (Pauels Sauzen - Bingoal) came into the race as the hot favourite as not only did she take the win in Dublin last week, she also won in Val di Sole last year, when the Cyclocross World Cup visited for the first time.
The Dutchwoman also tends to perform well on flat courses, of which Val di Sole is one, where raw power is king. Staying upright on the snow would be vital.
This was proved on the very first corner as the Italian Cyclocross champion Eva Lechner () slid out causing the whole peloton to slow.
Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Team Alpecin–Deceuninck) responded best to the incident and took an early lead. But as the riders hit the first snowy mound of the day, and promptly slid back down to bottom of it, it became clear traction would prove key to anyone wanting to win today.
Cornering on the snow was nearly impossible thanks to overnight rain which had made the snow icy. Riders needed a leg on the ground just to keep the bike upright as they turned into corners.
Up front, Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Felix) and Silvia Persico (Team Valcar–Travel & Service) joined Alvarado to make a trio of leaders. Meanwhile pre-race favourite Fem van Empel crashed hard on the sketchy snow, and looked to be out of the race clutching her lower left leg in pain.
At the start of lap two (of six), Pieterse had built a 16 second lead over Alvarado, who crossed the line with Persico on her wheel.
While the battle for second played out, Fem van Empel was stretchered off the course, possibly bringing her cross season to a premature end.
In fourth place Manon Bakker (Plantur-Pura) was looking to hold off challenges from Maghalie Rochette (Specialised) and Marie Schreiber (Tormans Cyclo Cross Team), but all the riders were losing time to Puck Pieterse who was getting faster and faster.
Third-placed Silvia Persico found herself 51 seconds down on Pieterse after falling twice and dislodging her chain on both occasions. Riders tumbled all over the course as the snow proved treacherous.
Going into the final lap, it was Pieterse's race to lose- entirely possible as the snow turned to slush in the sun.
But Persico fell on the ice and dislodged her chain for the third time, whereas Alpecin-Fenix teammate Alvarado couldn't close the gap.
Meaning it was Puck Pieterse who raised her arms in celebration as she crossed the line first, winning the second edition of the Val di Sole race.
RESULT: CYCLOCROSS WORLD CUP ROUND TEN, VAL DI SOLE
1. Puck Pieterse (Ned) Alpecin-Felix, in 50.14
2. Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Ned) Team Alpecin–Deceuninck, at 0.44s
3. Manon Bakker (Ned) Plantur-Pura, at 1.26
4. Silvia Persico (Ita) Team Valcar–Travel & Service, at 1.34
5. Maghalie Rochette (Can) Specialised, at 1.34
6. Marie Schreiber (Lux) Tormans Cyclo Cross Team, at 3.33
7. Helene Clauzel (Fra) AS-Bike Racing, at 4.07
8. Sara Casasola (Ita) Born To Win G20 Ambedo, at 4.10
9. Sidney Mcgill (Can) Liv+Pedalhead, at 4.16
10. Kristyna Zemanova (Cze) Force-SportRaces, at 4.17
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