Cyclocross roundup: Albert seeking to pull back World Cup points in Heusden-Zolder
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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Cyclocross roundup: Albert seeking to pull back World Cup points in Heusden-Zolder

by Kyle Moore at 7:01 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross
Pauwels recovering from a cold, Van der Haar nursing sore ribs, Wellens supports Jim Aernouts for Boxing Day race

Niels AlbertFormer world champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) isn’t ready to take a backseat to riders such as Lars van der Haar (Rabobank) and Francis Mourey ( in UCI World Cup cyclocross events, and one of the top Belgians is looking to gain points on cup leader van der Haar in Heusden-Zolder on the day after Christmas.

Albert finished third in Namur on Sunday, as Mourey surprised nearly everyone with the classy victory. Van der Haar came back from an early crash to finish fifth, maintaining his World Cup lead thanks to the ninth place finish in Namur by Philipp Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus).

Albert remains third in the standings. Van der Haar will wake up on Boxing Day with 257 points, while Walsleben has 244 and Albert has 235.

Albert indicated that since van der Haar and Mourey don’t ride the same heavily competitive schedule as some others, they entered the Namur race with fresher legs.

“Everything is still open,” Albert said of his World Cup chances after the Namur event. “[Sunday] Mourey and van der Haar had an advantage because they had not ridden as much. On Thursday in Heusden-Zolder, van der Haar won’t have that advantage. So maybe we can get some points back there.”

Even still, Albert admitted that Mourey was stronger in Namur, as was a certain Sven Nys. The world champ started very slowly but picked his way through the field, passing more than 30 riders before stumbling out of second place and finishing fourth.

“I had no answer for Mourey’s acceleration halfway through the race,” Albert acknowledged. “The rest of the race I rode at my own pace. Although, I must admit, the performance of the day was still from Nys.”

Cyclocross Roundup:

After a dominant run to victory in the Bpost Bank round in Essen, Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) struggled to 12th place in Namur. The quiet Belgian revealed afterward that he was struggling with a cold, but he said on Tuesday that he was feeling better, without having to take antibiotics.

“It’s a little better,” said his sports director Mario de Clercq. “Kevin is still struggling a bit with his throat and a stuffy nose. There is no fever, so we didn’t have to do antibiotics. And I don’t think that will be needed in the coming days.” Pauwels is set to start in Heusden-Zolder.

Van der Haar put his World Cup lead in danger when he crashed at the bottom of a muddy descent early in the Namur race, but he managed an admirable comeback and fifth place finish. A still photo shows van der Haar landing very awkwardly on his back, the result of which was bruised ribs.

Van der Haar tweeted about the crash after the race, saying that he hoped he’d heal quickly. But the Dutch champion is also on the Heusden-Zolder start list.

Bart WellensNot on the start line in Heusden-Zolder will be Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea). The struggling veteran was the slowest Belgian finisher in Namur. As he continues to struggle with his back and his form, Wellens rolled to a stop and spoke with his coach, nominating Jim Aernouts (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) to take his spot as part of the Belgian contingent in Heusden-Zolder.

Aernouts took fourth in Essen on Saturday and is in the midst of the best season of his career.

“Bart came up to me at the finish in Namur,” said his coach Rudy De Bie in Het Laatste Nieuws. “‘Jim is the man. Give him a chance, Rudy,’ he said to me. I thought that was classy.”

“My comment is simple – Jim deserves this selection, and I do not,” Wellens stated on the Telenet-Fidea website. “We have to be honest. There would not be a lot of logic in giving this selection to me. I do have the status, but I can’t rest on that. If others are better than me, then they need to race. Otherwise it would not be fair.

“I’m going to fight back, absolutely. I don’t have the best level at the moment, but I want to recover. I have to prove myself again, but to do that I’ll have to get my back in order.”


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