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Belgien Sunweb rider joins the Dutch champion in the lead duo that dominated most of the cyclo-cross race in Kalmthout and gets rid of his companion by showing splendid technical abilities in the tricky corners on the final lap

Photo: John de Jong






15.12.2013 @ 18:58 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) finally broke the drought that has plagued him since his World Cup win in Rome in January when he beat Lars van der Haahr (Rabobank) in an exciting duel in today's cyclo-cross race in Kalmthout. The duo joined forces for most of the race but the Belgian showed splendid technical abilities on the final lap to drop his companion in a series of technical corners and rolled across the line on his own to take a beautiful solo win.


A few years ago, Kevin Pauwels dominated much of the cyclo-cross season when a cold winter saw most of the muddy circuits in Belgium turned into hard, dry courses that suited the Belgian's abilities perfectly. Since that magnificent year, the Belgian has been unable to repeat those successes but whenever he gets a chance to show his abilities in his favoured terrain, he takes his chance.


He did so when he won a world cup race on a very fast course in Rome in January and today he did it again when dry and hot conditions had turned the course in Kalmthout into a treat for him. He broke his long drought when he emerged triumphant from an exciting battle with Lars van der Haahr.


Both Pauwels and van der Haahr are known as some of the fastest sprinters in the business and they were clearly very motivated to benefit from the conditions. Already from the start, they were riding attentively near the front and when the Dutch champion accelerated halfway through the race, the duo escaped from their rivals.


Niels Albert realized that something had to be done and he hit the front in an attempt to get back to the leaders. Only Klaas Vantornout and Sven Nys could keep up with the former world champion but the trio failed to gain any ground on the superior front duo.


Disaster struck for Nys when he crashed on a tricky descent. He almost got back to the chase group but just as he was about to regain contact, he stumbled on the stairs. A dejected world champion fell back to the main peloton and finished outside the top 10.


After leading the race for most of the final lap, van der Haahr allowed Pauwels to hit the front towards the end. That proved to be a costly decision as the Belgian showed his good technical abilities in fast conditions to get rid of the world champion in a series of tricky corners. The Dutch champion did his get to get back but failed in his attempt and had to settle for second. Albert had a mechanical on the penultimate lap and as he had to get a new bike, he lost ground to Vantornout who completed the podium.


The cyclo-cross elite will be back in action on Wednesday in the Cyclocross van het Waasland, with the series of prestigious Christmas races kicking off next weekend with the Bpost Bank Trofee race in Essen where Zdenek Stybar will make his return to the off-road discipline.


Bina with a fast start

As so often before, Lars van der Haahr won the opening sprint and led the peloton through the first few corners. He was passed by Martin Bina who was responsible for the pace-setting in the early part of the race and strung out the peloton with van der Haahr, Kevin Pauwels, Klaas Vantornout, Sven Nys, Wietse Bosmans and Francis Mourey on his wheel. Niels Albert had his usual slow start and was riding back in around 15th position.


Through the first sand section, van der Haahr again took the front and the Dutch champion started to apply the pressure. As he passed the line to start the second lap, several gaps had opened up, with van der Haahr, Pauwels, Bina and Vantornout being a few seconds ahead of the main peloton which was led by Nys.


Nys brings it back together

Shortly after the passage of the line, Pauwels hit the front but while the Belgian did his best to keep the gap, Nys brought things back together. The flat, dry course made it difficult to create any gaps and the peloton stayed together for the remaining part of the lap.


Just before the second passage of the line, van der Haahr accelerated furiously, with the Dutch champion significantly upping the pace on the third lap. A small group of around 15 riders had separated itself as riders started to tire after the fast start.


Peeters leads the group

Bina was riding well and hit the front midway through the lap. The Czech led the peloton until the nxt passage of the line when Wietse Bosmans briefly took over the pace-setting before being passed by Rob Peeters. The Belgian strung out the front group, with Pauwels, Bosmanns, van der Haahr, Nys, Bina, Jim Aernouts, Vantornout, Albert, Mourey, Philipp Walsleben and Tom Meeusen on his wheel.


Just before the next passage of the line, van der Haahr made his next acceleration. The Dutchman was well-suited to the fast, dry course and appeared to be extremely motivated to take his first win since the world cup victory in Tabor in October.


The decisive split is created

Van der Haahr's pace was so fierce that it created a split. The Dutch champion was joined by Pauwels, Bosmans, Vantornout, Nys and Jim Aernouts in the front group. However, Bosmans was unable to stay in contact with Pauwels and soon after, van der Haahr and Pauwels were riding alone in the front while Bina brought the chase groups back together.


At the passage of the line, Pauwels and van der Haahr were 10 seconds ahead of the peloton in which Walsleben had now hit the front as he tried to reel in the front dup. However, Pauwels' teammate Jim Aernouts did a good job as he tried to disrupt the chase by overtaking the German champion just before a tricky corner.


Walsleben leads the chase

Walsleben was quickly back on the front and his pace started to tire the riders in the main group. Several riders were digging dig just to keep up, with Bart Wellens fighting hard at the back of the bunch.


Pauwels led the front duo for most of the lap and when they crossed the line, they had extended their lead to around 20 seconds. Walsleben led a diminished main group onto the next lap, with Vantornour, Nys and Albert being glued to his wheel.


Albert tightens the screws

Shortly after the passage of the line, Albert felt that it was time to tighten the screws and the former world champion hit the front with a fierce acceleration. Only Vantornout and Nys were able to keep up with him while Walsleben, Meeusen and Bosmans made up the next group.


Albert kept the pace high for most of the lap and it was fast enough to force Nys to make a mistake on a descent. The world champion crashed and while he was quickly back on his bike, he has lost around 10 seconds to Albert and Vantonout.


The gap comes down

At the next passage of the line, Albert had reduced the deficit to just 10 seconds. He was passed by Vantornout as the Belgian champion decided that it was time to lend the former world champion a hand.


Nys was riding really well and had almost closed the gap when the world champion made another costly mistake. He stumbled and while he lost much less time than he did at his first incident, the loss was costly as the race was about to enter its crucial phase.


The chasers lose ground

Pauwels led the peloton for most of the lap and managed to extend the gap to 22 seconds at the next passage of the line. Nys had been joined by Meeusen and was again about to regain contact with the chase duo.


Not much happened during the next lap as the  gap between the two duos was rather stable. Behind the first four riders, a big group had formed as Nys had evidently given up.


Pauwels leads the front duo

Pauwels was unfazed by van der Haahr's many accelerations and led the front duo for the entire penultimate lap. The fast course suited the Belgian perfectly and he appeared to be at ease when he negotiated the difficulties of the circuit.


The front duo started the final lap with a big gap over Vantornout who had left Albert behind as the former world champion had decided to swap bikes in the pits. Meanwhile, Pauwels slowed down as the cat-and-mouse game in the front group had now started.


Van der Haahr applies the pressure

Van der Haahr decided that there was no time to slow down and so the Dutch champion hit the front to make sure that the pace was sufficiently fast to keep Vantornout at bay. He made several accelerations during the final lap in an attempt to shake Pauwels but the Belgian was glued to his wheel.


Halfway through the lap, Pauwels again hit the front but was evidently not riding full gas. Van der Haahr stayed behind but made a small mistake through some tricky corners and lost several metres to the Sunweb rider.


Pauwels keeps van der Haahr at bay

Pauwels quickly realized that he was a lone leader and accelerated furiously. Van der Haahr dug deep as he tried to regain contact but it was too late. Pauwels crossed the line in solo fashion to take his first win since January while a disappointed van der Haahr was again second.


Vantornout crossed the line on his own to complete the podium while Albert was 4th. Meeusen had escaped from the big group to take fifth while a dejected Nys rolled across the line a few seconds behind the peloton.



1. Kevin Pauwels

2. Lars van der Haahr

3. Klaas Vantornout

4. Niels Albert

5. Tom Meussen

6. Jim Aernouts

7. Bart Wellens

8. Wietse Bosmans

9. Martin Bina

10. Philipp Walsleben



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