Belgian Toppers react to mixed fortunes in Namur World Cup
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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Belgian Toppers react to mixed fortunes in Namur World Cup

by Ben Atkins at 12:34 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross
 
“At the finish I felt like setting fire to my bike,” says World champion Niels Albert

niels albertThe fifth round of the Cyclocross World Cup in Namur, Belgium, was dominated by the top three names in the sport, as might have been expected. The finishing order may have been a little different from recent races, with Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) riding alone to victory; the two riders behind him, however, enjoyed mixed fortunes, as a late puncture cost Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) a chance to take second place with Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) passing him in the final metres.

For Pauwels though, it was a day to remember, as he managed to put a recent run of bad luck behind him and ride most of the race alone. His victory was, surprisingly, only his third of the season so far, having taken the opening round of the World Cup in Tabor, Czech Republic back in October, and the Scheldecross at the beginning of this month.

"It was a heavy course and they don’t normally suit me so well,” said Pauwels to the Sporza TV cameras afterwards.

"In the second lap I took over, and just raced my own pace,” he explained. “I looked around and saw that I had forced a gap. It is very nice to be able to ride the while race at your own pace; at the end I could even get my breath back and consolidate.”

Pauwels’ victory lifts him to within eleven points of Albert, and the 28-year-old is confident that he can successfully defend the competition that he won last year.

"There are three races left [Zolder, Rome and Hoogerheide - Ed) where I know I can go well; it looks so good,” he said confidently.

For Albert it was a day to forget; the World champion had clearly been the second best man in the race, but had been denied by a puncture in the closing stages of the final lap.

"I'm really frustrated," Albert told the Sporza cameras. "In the off-camber section I got a puncture, I could only just cursing. I was standing still on every climb; that way I certainly lost twenty seconds on Sven.

“At the finish I felt like setting fire to my bike, but bikes don’t burn that well,” he laughed.

While he would have conceded ten points to Pauwels at the finish, his puncture meant that he lost 15; more importantly, instead of gaining five points on Nys - his nearest challenger - he ended up losing five.

"Kevin was by far the best today,” he conceded. “I lost ten points today in the finale. I think, however, that I was certainly entitled to that second place.”

Albert still leads the overall World Cup, with 345 points, but Nys now has 335, and Pauwels has 334, with just 11 points between the three toppers with three races to go.

sven nysNys himself was philosophical about the race finish, having been denied by a technical problem in the previous day’s race in Essen. He was clearly pleased to have taken second place in the race, but was a little disappointed with the circumstances.

"I was certainly gifted ten points at the finish,” the Belgian champion admitted. “That’s nice, although I would have preferred to catch ]Albert[ in a different way.

"The first part of the race I wasn’t bad, but also not super. Only the last three or four laps, did I get a good feeling. But you can’t win if you don’t have good legs in the beginning. Kevin was much too good today; I had no answer to his pace.”

Nys had a bad start to the 2012/13 World Cup, with fifth and sixth places in Tabor and Plzeň, Czech Republic, respectively, but responded with victories in both Koksijde, Belgium, and Roubaix, France. The Kannibaal is chasing Albert in the overall standings - of the World Cup and Bpost Bank Trofee - but could do nothing to challenge for victory today.

"I could do nothing more than try to consolidate my position and finish as high up in the points as possible," he said.

The three Belgian toppers will come face to face again on December 26th, as the World Cup heads to the motor circuit at Zolder, in northern Belgium. Pauwels won the corresponding race last year, but the three of them will likely come under pressure from the runner-up from that race, Zdeněk Štybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), who began his short ‘cross season in Essen yesterday.

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