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2003 World Cyclo-cross Championships - CM

Pont-Château, France, January 31-February 1, 2004

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January 31 - U23 Men: 50 Minutes

Belgian train keeps rolling

Kevin Pauwels takes 'surprise' win

By Chris Henry in Pont-Château, with additional reporting by Mélanie Leveau
Pauwels powers to second rainbow
Photo ©: Chris Henry/Cyclingnews

After Niels Albert opened the Belgian account in the junior men's race Saturday morning, it was another man from the heartland of cyclo-cross, Kevin Pauwels, who took the espoirs event in the afternoon. In dramatically different conditions to the morning, the espoirs race took off under an emerging sun and the men under 23 years of age wasted no time in getting down to business. Although muddy, the Pontchâteau course remains quite fast, and there was little margin for error within the tight field. This year's silver medal went to tenacious Pole Mariusz Gil, just 8" behind Pauwels, followed another 8" later by Martin Zlamalik of the Czech Republic.

"This is a big surprise, I only expected to finish in the top ten," a shocked Pauwels said, wearing his new rainbow jersey. He may have surprised himself, but with a junior world title from Zolder, Belgium in 2002 others were hardly shocked.

Similar to the junior race in the morning, a crash among the first leaders in the opening lap disrupted the peloton as the three leaders went down together. Seizing the opportunity, Zdenek Stybar (Cze) surged ahead and opened a sizable gap quite early in the race. It didn't last long, even though the wily Zdenek ultimately held on for a fine sixth place.

Through the first passage of the finish line, a group of ten began to emerge, including three Czechs (Simunek, Stybar, Zlamalik), three French (Chainel, Minard, Belot), two Belgians (Pauwels, Vantornout), Gil from Poland, and Struch from Germany. The Czech trio set the pace, trying to establish a winning selection as early as possible. After scorching the parcours in the more difficult sections, the leaders often used the paved passage through the finish area to watch each other, and thus more riders rejoined the first group and ultimately the peloton came back together.

Minard makes his move
Photo ©: CN

It was on the third lap that the Belgians tried to make their move, with Wesley Van der Linden launching an attack- without success. The cat and mouse continued until Frenchman Sébastien Minard opened up a gap on the toughest hill of the course. His speed on foot up the hill and over the barriers was enough to open several seconds of daylight between Minard and the other leaders, as the primary chase began to take form and the peloton stretched throughout more of the twisting parcours.

With 9" in hand, Pauwels took responsibility to chase Minard with only Gil on his wheel. Pauwels' compatriot Van der Linden jumped across to this group as it swept up Minard, who had trouble holding the wheels but rejoined on the tarmac at the top of the course. This lead quartet now had 17" over a chasing group, and the fight for the medals was on. The Belgian duo set the pace, hoping to emerge alone, but Gil hung on. Minard began to lose ground, precisely as the Czech Zlamalik put in a late race acceleration. Zlamalik joined the Frenchman for some time, helping to pull back the three leaders on the fifth lap.

The U23 podium
Photo ©: CN

As the finish grew near, Van der Linden put in another acceleration in an effort to force a final selection. Clearly in good form, Van der Linden's move could have been successful were it not for a crash on the final rise toward the start/finish. With his chances gone, teammate Pauwels knew he would have to take his chance, and he put in the decisive attack with 400 metres to go. Gil and Zlamalik tried to follow, but the race once more went Belgium's way as Pauwels took a dream win. Gil told reporters he had feared for his second place, but managed to dig deep enough to hold off the Czech challenge from behind.


Images by Chris Henry/Cyclingnews.com

Images by Luc Claessen/Cyclingnews/www.actiefotos.be


1 Kevin Pauwels (Belgium)               49.38 (22.666 km/h)
2 Mariusz Gil (Poland)                   0.08
3 Martin Zlamalik (Czech Republic)       0.16
4 Sébastien Minard (France)                  
5 Lukas Flückiger (Switzerland)          0.18
6 Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic)         0.25
7 Krzysztof Kuzniak (Poland)                 
8 Enrico Franzoi (Italy)                     
9 Klaas Vantornout (Belgium)             0.29
10 Wesley Van Der Linden (Belgium)           
11 Steve Chainel (France)                0.46
12 Marco Bianco (Italy)                  0.52
13 Bart Aernouts (Belgium)               0.57
14 Lars Boom (Netherlands)               0.59
15 Erik Miorini (Italy)                  1.06
16 Simon Zahner (Switzerland)            1.16
17 Pierre Bernard Vaillant (France)      1.32
18 Vladimir Kyzivat (Czech Republic)     1.40
19 Ismael Esteban Aguando (Spain)        1.47
20 Yves Corminboeuf (Switzerland)            
21 Radomir Simunek (Czech Republic)      1.53
22 Johannes Sickmueller (Germany)        1.59
23 Julien Belgy (France)                 2.02
24 Koen De Kort (Netherlands)                
25 Sebastiaan Langeveld (Netherlands)    2.21
26 Stéphane Belot (France)               2.26
27 Eddy Van Ijzendoorn (Netherlands)     2.33
28 Julen Zubero (Spain)                  2.41
29 Roger Schuppli (Switzerland)          2.56
30 Pirmin Lang (Switzerland)             3.21
31 Bart Dirkx (Netherlands)              3.27
32 Jochen Uhrig (Germany)                3.40
33 Marco Aurelio Fontana (Italy)         3.45
34 Andre Greipel (Germany)               4.01
35 Marian Hecl (Slovakia)                4.27
36 Geert Wellens (Belgium)               4.41
37 Leo Karstens (Germany)                4.55
38 Oscar Vazquez (Spain)                 5.15
39 Jeremy Powers (United States)         5.29
40 Anthony Jesse (United States)         5.48
41 Matt White (United States)            5.54
42 Martin Bina (Czech Republic)          6.25
43 Egoitz Murgoitio (Spain)              6.37
1 lap behind
44 Luca Damiani (Italy)                      
45 Kazuhiro Yamamoto (Japan)                 
DNF Thorsten Struch (Germany)                
DNF Alan Obye (United States)                
DNF Michael Cody (United States)             
DNS Derik Zampedri (Italy)                   
Nations Ranking
1 Belgium                                 20 pts
2 Czech Republic                          27
3 France                                  32
4 Italia                                  35
5 Switzerland                             41
6 Nederlands                              63
7 Spain                                   85
8 Germany                                 88
9 United States                          120
10 Poland                                  9
11 Slovakia                               35
12 Japan                                  45