Kevin Pauwels takes Heusden-Zolder World Cup in a tight sprint with Stybar
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Monday, December 26, 2011

Kevin Pauwels takes Heusden-Zolder World Cup in a tight sprint with Stybar

by Ben Atkins at 10:57 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross, Race Reports and Results
Sunweb-Revor rider retakes competition lead as Nys crashes on final corner; near perfect winter continues for Marianne Vos

kevin pauwelsKevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) won the sixth round of the cyclocross World Cup in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium, in a tight two-man sprint with Zdenek Stybar (Quick Step). The 27-year-old, who had led the competition before a disappointing fourth place in Namur the previous week, was the best of a three-man group that had escaped in the first half of the race; Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet), the third member of the group, slipped off on the final tarmac corner and was unable to contest the sprint.

"I wasn’t sure I could win the sprint, but I had something left over,” said Pauwels to Sporza afterwards. "The race itself was not so tough; occasionally someone rode away, but then it went quiet again when we got back together again. It was more like interval training.

"Did I know Nys has fallen in the sprint?” he asked rhetorically. “No, I was just busy with Stybar.”

The result gives back Pauwels the World Cup lead, which he held until Nys took it from him in Namur the previous weekend. He also leads in the Gazet van Antwerpen (GvA) Trofee, by a long way, which has two races coming up in the next six days.

"The next two World Cup crosses should be good for me,” he said. “I’m already good in the GvA Trofee, but I still can win the World Cup, which would be fantastic."

The traditional Boxing Day race, on and around the Zolder motor racing circuit, took place over the mud that had finally returned to the Belgian sport the previous weekend. With the course utilising the steep banks at the side of the circuit, as well as the woods around the edge, the only manmade elements were a steep set of muddy wooden steps and a ramp that would take them back down to the tarmac near the end of each lap.

Pauwels gets to the front early and forces the pace

Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) sprinted away from the line as usual and led the peloton off the motor circuit and onto the grass for the first time. He was passed by team captain Pauwels, who was shadowed by Nys – all dressed in the white of World Cup leader.

Pauwels began to wind the pace up as the race passed through the woods for the first time, and he and Nys began to edge clear of the rest. Steve Chainel (FDJ) led a group across though, which included Vantornout, Stybar, last year’s winner Lars Boom (Rabobank), and Telenet-Fidea pair Tom Meeusen and Bart Wellens, and moved quickly to the front.

The Frenchman tried to get away, but Nys was having none of it and pulled Pauwels and Stybar up to him, before getting a few metres clear himself. Pauwels quickly managed to join the World Cup leader, with Boom pulling Stybar across, and it was the World champion who led over the line for the first time; accelerating as he started the second lap.

Stybar managed to jump himself clear but misjudged an early hairpin bend and slipped off; he was soon caught by the Nys lead pack once more.

Into the woods once more, and Nys began to put the pressure on; a stumble from Boom on a rooted section saw Nys and Pauwels open a gap of a few seconds. Very quickly, the race took on the appearance of so many this season; with the current two top riders riding away from the rest.

As Pauwels led across the line, the leading pair was 6 seconds ahead of Stybar, Boom and Wellens. Stybar was frantically leading the chasers, and almost caught up in the first few snaking bends in the racing circuit’s infield; the World champion beat himself under braking though and lost ground as the others accelerated away.

Stybar fights his way up to the front

Into the woods though, Stybar was edging ever closer to Nys and Pauwels, with Boom and Wellens locked on his wheel; Boom came through as they exited the trees and closed the last few lengths himself to make a five-man group up front. Not far behind them though, Albert was leading a big bunch, and the Belgian champion was determined to catch up.

Nys was in no mood to hang around though, and kept the pressure on up front, which was beginning to put Wellens into difficulty. It was a four-man group that Boom led over the line, with Wellens a few seconds behind; Albert was chasing hard just a few more seconds further back.

It was Pauwels’s turn to put the pressure on through the woods, but he was making no difference to the group. Suddenly though, Nys stumbled – in the same place that Boom had previously – and the Sunweb-Revor rider was away. Nys managed to pull him back though, with Stybar on his wheel; the frantic chase had dropped Boom though, who dropped back to Wellens.

Albert led Vantornout, Chainel and Meeusen up to the two chasers and, across the line with four down and five to go, Pauwels, Nys and Stybar were 15 seconds ahead of the group of six.

Nys led around virtually the entire lap, but Pauwels and Stybar stuck doggedly to his back wheel. Albert was still leading the chase, asking for no help from the others, and began to pull Wellens away from the rest; Boom and Vantornout fought back up to him though, with Chainel and Meeusen chasing, but they were still 15 seconds behind as they crossed the line once more.

Pauwels took over into lap six, and Nys stumbled in the woods once more. The Kannibaal calmly made his way back up to the other two though; although Pauwels kept the pressure on to make it as hard as possible for him.

The leading three cannot escape one another

Pauwels made a mess of an uphill corner, but was safe as both Nys and Stybar struggled too. The World champion came out of it the better though, and made his own bid for freedom, but was soon pulled back by a determined Pauwels.

With three to go the three leaders were still away, with Vantornout leading Boom and Chainel some 27 seconds back, with Albert, Meeusen and Wellens fighting to get back on terms. Stybar led through the early grassy sections, and into the woods, but couldn’t shake the other two. Nys began to turn the screw in the second half of the lap, putting the World champion into trouble; Pauwels too was struggling to hold onto the Kannibaal’s wheel, but the three were together again as they crossed the line.

The chase group was now more than thirty seconds back, with the podium places seemingly now decided.

Pauwels led around most of the lap, pulling over to let Nys take over as they entered the closing sections. It was an acceleration from Stybar though that finally snapped the elastic, with a Pauwels stumble opening the gap further. Both riders fought their way back up to the World champion though, and they were all together again as they took the bell.

Three riders together with one to go

Nys changed his bike the first time past the pits; once he rejoined Pauwels – mindful of the Kannibaal’s speciality last lap attacks – was reluctant to let him past as they approached the woods.

On the front Stybar kept putting in little digs to try to detach Pauwels form his wheel; Pauwels slipped a little on an uphill corner, which baulked Nys a little, and allowed the World champion a little daylight. Once again the two Belgians fought their way back up to the lone Czech, and they entered the final section as a trio again.

Disaster struck for Nys as they rounded the final corner and the muddy sidewalls of his tyres slipped from under him; this left Stybar and Pauwels to sprint for the line. The World champion had the lead but Pauwels pulled alongside and began to edge gradually ahead; Stybar seemed to be missing a top gear and, as Pauwels passed him just before the line, he brought his fist down on his bars in frustration.

Pauwels took the line with his arms in the air, to win his third World Cup race of the season; retaking the series leader’s jersey from Nys in the process.

Marianne Vos shows the World who’s best yet again

Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit) took her seventh victory of her short season so far, and the fifth in the space of just over a week, in the women’s World Cup race. The World champion finished 29 seconds clear of compatriot Daphny van den Brand (AA, who returned to the podium after an indifferent two-weeks spell, with Sanne van Paassen (Brainwash) – in her first race of the month – completing an all-Dutch podium 1’11” back.

More details to follow.

Result Cyclocross World Cup Heusden-Zolder Elite Men
1. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor
2. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quick Step
3. Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
4. Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor
5. Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea
6. Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet-Fidea
7. Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank
8. Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
9. Steve Chainel (Fra) FDJ
10. Radomir Simunek (Cze) BKCP-Powerplus

Result Cyclocross World Cup Heusden-Zolder Elite Men
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit
2. Daphny van den Brand (Ned) AA
3. Sanne van Paassen (Ned) Brainwash Wielerploeg
4. Sanne Cant (Bel) Boxx Veldritacademie
5. Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Fra) AC Bazancourt
6. Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger) Stevens
7. Lucie Chainel-Lefevre (Fra)
8. Nikki Harris (GBr) Telenet-Fidea
9. Caroline Mani (Fra)
10. Pavla Havlikova (Cze) Telenet-Fidea


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