Kevin Pauwels is the new king of the Koppenbergcross
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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Kevin Pauwels is the new king of the Koppenbergcross

by Ben Atkins at 11:13 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross, Race Reports and Results
Puncture costs Sven Nys the chance for ninth victory on the cobbles; Sanne van Paassen continues winning form in women’s race

kevin pauwelsKevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) is the new king of the Koppenbergcross, denying Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) and incredible ninth victory in the race. The 27-year-old escaped Nys and World champion Zdenek Stybar (Quick Step) on the eighth of ten laps, as both had less than perfect bike changes, and never looked back to take a solo victory in the first – and most prestigious – round of the Gazet van Antwerpen (GvA) Trofee competition.

Sometimes known as the ‘Ronde van Vlaanderen’ of cyclocross since it centres around one of the Tour of Flanders’ most sacred cobbled climbs, the Koppenbergcross has long been the property of “Mr Koppenberg” Nys. Riders were spared the usual mud bath though, which often plays into Nys’ hands, and the mild autumn temperatures saw most taking the start in short sleeves.

After the initial first lap flurries, where a number of riders tried and failed to break away, Nys took control towards the end of lap two and pulled a group of riders clear.

With Nys were Pauwels, Stybar, Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) and Pauwels’ Sunweb-Revor teammate Klaas Vantornout. A few seconds back Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) was leading the chase; with Nys’ Landbouwkrediet teammate Vincent Baestaens firmly clamped to his wheel though, the winner of Sunday’s Zonhoven Superprestige race was feeling the pace.

At the end of lap three, with seven to go, the five leaders were 12 seconds clear of the Albert group. Stybar led up the cobbled slopes, but Albert was putting the pressure on behind and beginning to close the gap. Even further behind was a group of chasers led by Bart Wellens but, even with so little of the race covered, the former two-time World champion was already out of the running.

Meeusen made his break, chased by the two Sunweb-Revor riders with Nys on their tails; Stybar also made it back on, making five up front once more. At the end of the lap though, Bart Aernouts (Rabobank-Giant) and Albert had cut the deficit to just five seconds and made contact just before the foot of the Koppenberg as the five leaders looked at one another.

Nys hit the front on the cobbles once more, stringing out the seven-man group, and, on the more technical grass section in the middle of the lap, managed to drop all by Pauwels and Stybar. Of the rest, only Meeusen was making a concerted chase, dangling just a few seconds behind.

Meeusen was 6 seconds back as the leaders crossed the line with five to go, with Albert leading the rest at 15 seconds. Nys was not sitting up this time though, and hit the berg in front once more; trying in vain to shake his two companions on the grass section that followed. The eight-time winner allowed Pauwels to come through on the mid-part of the lap though, and the Sunweb-Revor rider kept the pressure on as the three leaders began to lap the back markers.

Meeusen was now drifting back, 12 seconds behind over the line with four to go; Nys now seemed concerned by the presence of Stybar though, who had contributed little to the pacemaking so far. Was the World champion sandbagging, or was he really just hanging on..?

The next lap was much like the last, with Nys trying vainly to shed his two companions; both he and Stybar changed their bikes at the pits though, allowing Pauwels a brief spell on his own. Neither rider seemed initially happy with their replacement bikes, and both struggled to recover their previous positions at the head of the race.

Nys’ problem transpired to be a rear wheel puncture, which he managed to change on the next time past the pits. All the delays though, meant that Pauwels was ten seconds ahead of Stybar as he crossed the line, and fifteen ahead of Nys.

Nys soon joined Stybar and the two of them set about trying to catch the lone leader; Nys was the stronger of the two, on his favourite course, once more, and began to gap the World champion in the middle section of the lap.

With two to go Pauwels was seventeen seconds ahead of Nys though, with Stybar a few seconds behind. Meeusen was still in fourth place, but was a long way behind by now with the race podium all but out of reach.

A slightly botched bike change from Stybar, where he made a mess of swinging his leg over his new bike, put the World champion even further behind; the result was now between Pauwels, who was beginning to look a little tired, and “Mr Koppenberg” himself, who was still in hot pursuit.

Taking the bell for the final lap Pauwels was now 23 seconds clear though, meaning that, barring disaster, he was about to dethrone Nys. He climbed the cobbled berg, with a little light rain making the surface greasy, without problems and steadily set about the technical grassy sections of the course.

Nys was on a mission now, but would have to hope for a problem befalling his younger rival for him to take the victory.

Pauwels calmly traversed the final grassy hairpins and made his way onto the surfaced road on the way to the finish to become the first non-Nys rider to take the Koppenbergcross since Bart Wellens in 2003.

Nys waved to the crowds as he crossed the line some 28 seconds back, while Stybar had to hold off a late charge from Aernouts to take third place, just ahead of the Rabobank-Giant rider.

Having crashed into one another on a bend just a few minutes beforehand, Meeusen outsprinted Vantornout to take fifth place, with Albert drifting over the line behind them to take seventh.

Sanne van Paassen is the new Queen

Continuing her near-perfect start to the season, Sanne van Paassen (Brainwash) won the women’s race, ahead of last year’s winner British champion Helen Wyman (Kona) and her compatriot Nikki Harris (Telenet-Fidea).

“This feels like a classic win. Is that right?” said van Paassen to “What a fantastic cross it is here; a win makes it even more beautiful. The crowd really lifts you, it’s a wonderful feeling.”

The 2010/11 World Cup winner took a commanding lead in the race and never looked like giving it up. Only when Wyman began to accelerate and close the gap did van Paassen look under any pressure, but the Dutch rider simply upped her pace and saw off the threat from the British champion, who then concerned herself with holding off Harris in the battle for second place.

Two-time winner Daphny van den Brand (AA crossed the line in fourth place, just ahead of Belgian champion Sanne Cant (Boxx).

Result elite men
1. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor
2. Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
3. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick Step
4. Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank-Giant
5. Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea
6. Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor
7. Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
8. Radomir Simunek (Cze) BKCP-Powerplus
9. Vincent Baestaens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
10. Joeri Adams (Bel) Telenet-Fidea

Result elite women
1. Sanne Van Paassen (Ned) Brainwash Wielerploeg
2. Helen Wyman (GBr) Kona Factory Racing
3. Nikki Harris (GBr) Telenet-Fidea
4. Van den Brand (Ned) AA
5. Sanne Cant (Bel) Boxx Veldritacademie
6. Sabrina Stultiens (Ned) Brainwash Wielerploeg
7. Pavla Havlikova (Cze) Telenet-Fidea
8. Gabriella Day (GBr) The Chainstay
9. Amy Dombrowski (USA) Crank Brothers
10. Arenda Grimberg (Ned)


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