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Holmgren sisters climb the Koppenberg into the top 10 of the X2O Trofee Round 1

Fem van Empel wins fifth consecutive race

The Holmgren twins had a fantastic race on a windy Tuesday in Oudenaarde, Belgium, climbing the Koppenberg six times in the first round of the X2O Badkamers Trofee to place in the top 10. The iconic Koppenberg is the centrepiece of the Tour of Flanders. Fem van Empel took her fifth consecutive victory and earned the early series lead.

Another win for van Empel.

In 2021-2022 Lucinda Brand dominated the X2O Trofee, claiming six win in a row. American Clara Honsinger and Denise Betsema, who finished the series +2:22 of Brand, both earned rounds. Maghalie Rochette was 12th overall.

Brand was still out recovering from surgery after a break in her hand. Pauline Ferrand-Prévot made her long-awaited return to cyclocross on Tuesday, her last race in 2020 when the X2O Trofee was called the DVV Trofee.

The Canadian contingent was Ava and Isabella Holmgren and Christiane Bilodeau.

The riders started straight up the Koppenberg after the gun on Lap 1. Luxembourger Marie Schreiber led up the famous cobbled ascent. Fem van Empel, on a four race winning streak, had a mechanical once the race leveled out. Betsema, van Empel, Schreiber and Shirin van Anrooij formed the leading group, but Schreiber fell back a bit. At the top of the second climb of the Koppenberg, Ava was ninth.

Ava Holmgren with Ferrand-Prévot just ahead of her in chase group on Lap 1.

Van Anrooij had to catch up to the Pauwels Sauzen duo of Betsema and van Empel on Lap 2. When she made the junction, van Empel bounced away. Ferrand-Prévot dropping a chain allowed the Holmgrens and others to pass her. A carefree cow cavorted in a nearby field. Behind Betsema and van Anrooij, Honsinger and Schreiber chased. Isabella found Ava and they tipped over the Koppenberg together.

The Holmgren sisters crest the Koppenberg together on Lap 2.

Van Empel continued her solo excursion on Lap 3 of 5, 20 seconds clear of Betsema and Schreiber. By the top of the Koppenberg, the gap was 40 seconds. Honsinger was edging closer to the chasing duo.

On the penultimate lap, Betsema made a bid to have a Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal one-two. Honsinger wanted to nick the final podium spot from van Anrooij. The Holmgren sisters were eighth and ninth.

With a 48-second lead going into the bell lap, only disaster could prevent van Empel’s victory. Betsema nailed down her runner-up spot.

The next round is the Urban Cross November 26 in Kortrijk.

2022-2023 X2O Badkamers Trofee, Round 1 Oudenaarde

1) Fam van Empel (The Netherlands/Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) 45:19
2) Denis Betsema (The Netherlands/Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) +0:52
3) Shirin van Anrooij (The Netherlands/Baloise Trek Lions) +1:14
7) Isabella Holmgren (Canada) +4:36
9) Ava Holmgren (Canada) +4:41