Cyclocross World Cup: Kevin Pauwels leads from the front to take Namur race
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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cyclocross World Cup: Kevin Pauwels leads from the front to take Namur race

by Ben Atkins at 10:31 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross, Race Reports and Results
 
Final lap puncture sees Sven Nys steal second from Niels Albert; overall World Cup gets tighter

kevin pauwelsKevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) put on a supreme solo display to take victory in the fifth round of the Cyclocross World Cup, at the Namur Citadel, Belgium. The 28-year-old broke away in the very first lap of the eight-lap race, and managed to get clear alone early in the third. Once clear, there was no catching the winner of the very first World Cup round, in Tabor, Czech Republic, and he crossed the line almost a minute clear.

World champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) was seemingly heading for a comfortable second place - and to extend his World Cup lead - but a puncture in the final metres of the final lap allowed Belgian champion Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) past to take the place from him.

Apparently putting the disappointment of the technical problem that had put him out of contention in Essen, the day before, Pauwels got clear with former French champion Francis Mourey (FDJ-BigMat) and US champion Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) in the very first lap, Pauwels went solo shortly afterwards. Little by little, he eked out his lead over Albert, which was to peak at 50 seconds with three laps to go.

Behind the two solo riders, a group of Nys, Mourey, Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) and Bart Aernouts (AA Drink) were fighting to close the gap, but were seemingly fighting for third place. With just over two laps to go, Nys broke clear of the others and began to gradually close in on Albert; the World champion’s second place looked sure, however, until a puncture in the final metres allowed the Belgian champion past.

Albert held on to his overall World Cup lead, but the three Belgians were now within just eleven points of one another, with three races still to come.

Mourey makes the first gap but Pauwels closes it quickly and opens up his own

With Belgian cyclocross being an almost exclusively Flemish affair, the Namur World Cup race - in the town that the Flemish call Namen - would be a rare visit south into Wallonia. Continuing rain in the country was to make the course almost as muddy as the previous day’s race in Essen, further north; despite the conditions, however, bike changes were relatively rare for most riders.

As usual, Lars van der Haar (Rabobank-Giant) was away from the line first, but he was overtaken by US champion Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) and Francis Mourey (FDJ-BigMat) before they reached the first muddy climb. The Frenchman forced the first gap, with van der Haar and Powers chasing close behind, but Pauwels was leading the rest of the field not far behind them.

Onto the first of the long, muddy drop offs, Mourey had managed to open up a lead of a few seconds, ahead of a long Pauwels-and-Powers-led string of riders. As he crossed the long, off-camber straight - where most riders were reduced to using their right leg to kick their bikes along - Pauwels closed the gap to the former French champion; behind them, Albert and Nys were both making their way through the field.

Albert squeezed his way past Powers and began to fight his way across the gap; at the end of lap one the World champion was 12 seconds behind, with van der Haar, Nys, Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor), Bart Aernouts (AA Drink), Simon Zahner (EKZ) and Powers a further ten seconds back.

Pauwels had no intention of being caught by his compatriot, however, and began to press on; Nys had made his way to the front of the chase group, and he too - with Vantorbout in attendance - was beginning to close in on the leaders.

By the end of lap two, Albert had only managed to cut the gap to nine seconds though, while Vantornout, Nys, van der Haar and Aernouts were still 22 seconds behind the two leaders.

Pauwels began to force himself clear again as the third lap went on, as Albert gradually closed on Mourey; having made the World Cup podium once this season already, however, the Frenchman was not about to surrender to either of the Belgians and doggedly fought to keep Pauwels in sight.

Albert was getting closer, and closer, however, then disaster struck for Mourey as he suffered a puncture on a piece of flat singletrack. The World champion squeezed past Mourey, but Pauwels was 22 seconds ahead at the end of the lap, with Nys’ group - which now contained Mourey - at 42 seconds.

Pauwels’ lead keeps growing but Nys begins to chase Albert behind him

Pauwels was still riding smoothly up front, and was still opening up his lead over Albert; Nys and Vantornout continually exchanged the lead at the head of the chase group, but neither seemed able to close in on the World champion.

Changing his bike shortly before the end of the lap, the Sunweb-Revor rider was 38 seconds clear of Albert - who’d also passed through the pits - at the race’s halfway point; the rest were now 1’08” behind, and seemingly unable to compete with the two leaders.

Mourey then took to the head of the chase group, which put, first van der Haar, then Aernouts in trouble; Vantornout then came forward, which also put pressure on Nys. Pauwels was still pounding the pace up front, however, with his lead over Albert up to 50 seconds with three laps to go. The group of four was now 1’22” back; holding its deficit to Albert, but still losing ground on leader Pauwels.

This seemed to be Nys’ cue to accelerate, which saw Aernouts dropped again, and the Belgian champion gradually began to pull clear of Vantornout and Mourey. Albert was holding in second place, however, and had cut the gap slightly to Pauwels to 46 seconds as they began the penultimate lap. Nys was now at 1’09” - having closed a little - with Mourey just behind him, but Vantornout had now also been well and truly dropped.

Despite beginning to look tired, Pauwels’ lead over Albert appeared to be growing again in the first half of the lap, while Nys now had the World champion in his sights on the long, off-camber straight. Pauwels calmly took a clean bike, close to the finish, and rode on to take the bell.

Pauwels continues to victory; Albert looks dead set for second

Albert’s head was beginning to bob from side to side, as he rode past the pits, and - sure enough - his deficit had grown to 49 seconds; Nys was now free of Mourey in third place, and was just 19 seconds behind Albert; the World champion began to look over his shoulder, as he could seemingly sense his big rival approaching.

All three Belgians were looking tired at this point, and beginning to wobble on the technical sections of the course, but all were managing to stay upright. Nys was closer still to Albert on the off-camber straight, but the World champion looked to have enough of a lead to secure second place.

Pauwels was still going relatively smoothly as he scaled the final steep climb back up to the citadel and, with just a slight glance over his shoulder to make sure Albert wasn’t too close, and had plenty of time to wipe the worst of the mud from the front of his skinsuit as he crossed the line.

Nys had caught up with Albert on the final climb, with the World champion apparently suffering from a puncture. Nys passed him just as they arrived at the pits and, with Albert electing to change his bike, the Belgian champion cruised to a surprise second place.

Albert rolled over for third, with Mourey not far behind in fourth, just a few seconds clear of Vantornout.

With Nys’ overtaking Albert in the final metres, the World champion’s lead in the overall World Cup classification was down to just ten points; Pauwels’ victory, however, meant that the Sunweb-Revor rider was now just a single point behind Nys.

Result Elite Men
1. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor
2. Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony
3. Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
4. Francis Mourey (Fra) FDJ-BigMat
5. Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor
6. Bart Aernouts (Bel) AA Drink
7. Thijs van Amerongen (Ned) AA Drink
8. Lars van der Haar (Ned) Rabobank Giant Offroad Team
9. Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea
10. Niels Wubben (Ned) Rabobank Giant Offroad Team

World Cup standing after five rounds
1. Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus 345pts
2. Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony 335
3. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor 334
4. Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor 264
5. Bart Aernouts (Bel) AA Drink 246
6. Lars van der Haar (Ned) Rabobank Giant Offroad Team 243
7. Francis Mourey (Fra) FDJ-BigMat 240
8. Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea 230
9. Thijs van Amerongen (Ned) AA Drink 213
10. Radomir Simunek (Cze) BKCP-Powerplus 203

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