Kevin Pauwels takes impressive win over Zdenek Stybar and Sven Nys
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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Kevin Pauwels takes impressive win over Zdenek Stybar and Sven Nys

by Jered Gruber at 1:43 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross
 
26 year old Belgian distances World Champion and Belgian Champion in final lap

Sven Nys's torrid streak came to an end today in Hasselt, the backyard of Telenet-Fidea bike sponsor, Ridley. The Telenet-Fidea team did not disappoint at home, going 1-2, with Kevin Pauwels taking the win, followed by World Champion Zdenek Stybar. Stybar was followed in turn by a vanquished Sven Nys, who could do nothing to stop the two teammates in the final lap of a fast, dry race.

Mention of a fast, dry race is grounds for a quick rescan, as it was only a few days ago that Belgian press was reporting that this weekend's courses at Hasselt and Aspere-Gavere were under water. Hasselt, in particular, was a lake. The organizers put in a huge effort and pumped out hundreds of thousands of liters of water over the past week to not only make the course rideable, but in fact, it became the exact opposite of last week's mud slaughter - it was dry and fast by race time this afternoon.

After a fast and wild race, which included three riders from the beleaguered Sunweb/Revor going down very early on, Klaas Vantornout, Martin Zlamalik, and Sven Vanthourenhout, including the latter two in one wreck, the race came down to a three-way battle heading into the final lap: Stybar, Pauwels, and Nys.

Pauwels pushed out to a painful lead midway through the final lap, while Nys was outdone by Stybar in the crucial turn heading into the even more crucial sandpit.

Afterwards, Pauwels admitted that the sandpit was the crucial point for the final lap.

"I knew I had to get to the sandbox first. Anyone who rode in the lead there, would win," said the Telenet-Fidea rider to Sporza after his victory

Of course, standing atop the podium, Pauwels was right. His opinion held true for his teammate, Stybar, as well, because Stybar had enough to hold off Nys.

Pauwels has had a solid start to his cyclocross season so far in 2010, but Saturday's GVA round in Hasselt pushed it a mighty long stride forward. Looking back at the race, Pauwels seemed slightly surprised at the outcome, as he didn't feel that he was the strongest throughout the race, but happily found out otherwise in the deciding moments.

"I certainly had good legs and the course suited me better than that of the past week. I did not really feel that I was stronger during the race, but it's fun to [find out otherwise]."

The win thrust Pauwels into the overall Gazet van Antwerpen Trofee lead, but it's not something that the 26 year old is spending much time thinking about.

"The Gazet is not really an objective. I will just take it race by race. If there's not too much mud in Essen, maybe something is possible…"

Meanwhile, Zdenek Stybar's woes of the past few weeks seem to be coming under control. A back problem coupled with knee issues left the World Champion in a bad spot, but improvement in his back and an apparent improvement in the bit of tendonitis in his knee allowed the rampant 2010 winner to get back to the head of affairs.

Afterwards, a relieved Stybar spoke to Sporza and admitted that "Kevin was the best today."

As for the knee? "I'm glad that I was not bothered by it. I had a bad feeling in the legs, but I think that everyone had that after the tough race in Hamme. The speed was there, now I have to get the power to come back."

On Twitter, Stybar showed a bit more emotion: "Really, really happy with my 2nd place today. Congratulations to Kevin Pauwels. He was the strongest today!"


Behind the leading trio, Bart Wellens confirmed his recent good form with another solid finish in 4th. It will certainly be entertaining if Wellens can make a little bit more of an improvement and Niels Albert can get back to his normal top level as he has been in recent weeks and years. A five way fight at the front of the world's biggest cyclocross races would undoubtedly be exciting. Unfortunately for Albert and Nys, there would be three Telenet-Fidea riders represented in that group.

No one can be more frustrated than the Sunweb-Revor team though. With the team's manager, Jurgen Metteppenningen, lambasting his squad's mediocre results and threatening a massive cut in his outfit heading into next season - nine riders are currently vying for the final three spots on next year's team - the team still can't get off the ground. Klaas Vantornout was 2nd place overall in the GvA series coming into today's race, but left battered and bruised after getting the hole shot in the first lap, then coming to grief moments later following a mistimed turn. Another crash brought down two more Sunweb riders, Vanthourenhout and Zlamalik, and the woes continued. 

The most impressive moment of the day? World Champion Stybar contends that it was after the race and on the way home.

"Actually, the most impressive moment was after the race when a Bugati Veyron passed our camped. Never seen it on the road before. COOL!!!! :)"

 

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