Pauwels takes maiden World Cup in Zolder
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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pauwels takes maiden World Cup in Zolder

by Ben Atkins at 11:48 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross, Race Reports and Results

Kevin Pauwels (Telenet-Fidea) won by far the biggest race of his career by taking victory in the World Cup cyclocross race in Zolder, Belgium. He escaped a lead group of four, which included World champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) and Rabobank pair Gerben De Knegt and Bart Aernouts, at around halfway through the hour long race and stayed away to take a solo win.

"I was immediately away with Aernouts and De Knegt,” said Pauwels to Sporza after the race. “I was driving the pace, but suddenly there was Albert. On the technical sections I managed to shake him off. I kept looking back. It was the longest cyclocross I've ever ridden."

Pauwels was World junior champion in 2002 and World under-23 champion in 2004, but this was his first victory in the World Cup. "This is my finest victory,” he said, “along with my world titles as a youth."

Albert chased Pauwels hard during the closing stages, keeping the gap down to less than ten seconds, but was unable to make any impression. Eventually Pauwels’ pressure told and his lead was up to 11 seconds with 2 laps to go and 17 at the bell. The Telenet-Fidea rider eventually won by a comfortable 22 seconds over the World champion.

"I hardly saw the back of Pauwels,” said Albert to Sporza. “When I did connect, he immediately went on the attack and I just needed time to recover. Pauwels is a volatile rider, but if he is good he is a very dangerous customer.”

Despite missing out on victory, Albert increased his lead over big rival Zdenek Stybar (Telenet-Fidea) in the overall World Cup competition. “I have done a good thing in the World Cup,” he said. “Stybar is currently in slightly lower condition and I benefit most from that."

Belgian champion Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) put in a late surge to overhaul De Knegt in the final lap to finish an unlucky race in third place.

"I wasn’t good for two laps after my fall,” said Nys, who had crashed heavily in the mid part of the race. “In the last lap I gave it everything. That fall comes at a bad time with the Superprestige race Sunday in Diegem, but my condition is nothing to worry about."

Slick but not frozen

After fears over the course being frozen and dangerous, the salt that organisers had laid on the course appeared to have had the desired effect; there were only a few visibly frozen areas in the cold, sunny conditions. A fast start from Czech rider Martin Bina saw him pull a small group clear featuring Pauwels, De Knegt and Aernouts. Behind those four a group containing the majority of the pre-race favourites were giving chase.

Bina lost contact with the front group just as Albert, Nys and Zdenek Stybar (Telenet-Fidea) pulled away from the rest of the chasers. Just as it looked as though the two groups of three would become one group of six Nys came off on a technical descent, blocking Stybar and allowing Albert to join the leaders alone. Nys and Stybar were caught by the next chasing group that included Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Projob), Radomir Simunek and Dieter Vanthourenhout (BKCP-Powerplus) and Steve Chainel (Bbox-Bouyges Telecom).

Almost as soon as Albert joined the leaders, Pauwels accelerated and immediately put daylight between himself and his breakaway companions. Albert, who had just put in a huge effort to make the connection, took some time to recover before giving chase. The two Rabobank riders continued, but no longer looked like challenging the leaders again.

Aernouts slipped off on a corner causing him to lose contact with teammate De Knegt and he was caught by the chasers. Pauwels managed to hold off the charging Albert, and Nys put a huge effort into the final lap to overtook a flagging De Knegt not far from the finish and take the final podium spot.

1 Kevin Pauwels
2 Niels Albert
3 Sven Nys
4 Gerben de Knegt
5 Radomir Simunek
6 Stybar Zdenek
7 Klaas Vantornout
8 Bart Aernouts
9 Steve Chainel
10 Dieter Vanthourenhout

14 Jonathan Page
25 James Driscoll
32 Troy Wells
39 Ian Field
56 Brian Matter


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