The Kerstperiode of racing in Belgium started in earnest this weekend with the C1 Bpost Bank Trofee - GP Rouwmoer in Essen on Saturday followed by the World Cup in Namur which doubled as the finale of the Soudal Classics.
What a finish in the elite men's race on Saturday at the GP Rouwmoer! Jan Denuwelaere (Style & Concept) won after Zdenek Stybar was relegated to fourth place in a tumultuous two-up sprint where Denuwelaere ended up on the ground after Stybar forced him into the barriers. Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea) was second and world champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) third. American Jonathan Page finished a strong twelfth in the C1 race.
Belgian champion Sanne Cant (Veldtritacademie BKCP) won the elite women's race, European champion Helen Wyman (Kona) was second and Nikki Harris (Young Telenet Fidea), third. In her first European race of the season, Katerina Nash (Luna) was sixth.
The citadel in Namur, Belgium, was the spectacular setting for the fifth round of this season’s UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup. Rain on Sunday afternoon turned the slopes of the fortress into a muddy and slippery course for the 123 riders from 20 nations. American champion Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) dealt best with the difficult circumstances and grabbed the wins in Namur. Compton comfortably leads the World Cup standings in the Women’s category while Pauwels is closing in on Niels Albert in the Elite Men’s category.
Compton separated herself from her challengers during the opening lap. In contrast to the Elite Men’s race there was another rider who challenged the leader - Czech rider Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team). During the third of four laps, Nash closed the gap of about ten seconds and worked her way back to the wheel of Compton. However the American Champion appeared unperturbed and immediately increased her pace. Nash cracked and Compton rode on to her fourth World Cup win of the season. Nash settled for second place in her first World Cup race of the season. Another debuting World Cup rider was World Champion Marianne Vos (Rabobank Women Cycling Team). Two crashes from Vos during the opening lap were too much to overcome. Nevertheless Vos managed to hold off British Champion Helen Wyman in the final lap and secure a podium place in Namur.
American Meredith Miller (CalGiant/Specialized) was 11th, her best result so far in her career at a World Cup race while Amy Dombroski (Young Telenet Fidea) was 15th.
It was the second World Cup win of the season for Kevin Pauwels after his victory in the first round in Tábor, Czech Republic, back in October. This time he completed a long solo ride and prevailed over Belgian Champion Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) and World Champion Albert.
During the first of eight laps, Pauwels joined early leader Francis Mourey (FDJ-Big Mat). Albert tried to close the gap on the leaders on his own but he didn’t get any closer than ten seconds, while the rest of the field followed ten seconds further back. Two laps later Mourey flatted, which cost him his spot up front. The Frenchman dropped back into a group behind Pauwels and Albert, joining Sven Nys, Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor), Bart Aernouts (AA Drink – Leontien.nl Cycling Team) and Lars van der Haar (Rabobank Giant Offroad Team). Up front, Pauwels didn’t look back and his high rhythm on the spectacular course resulted in a huge lead over the rest of the field. He finished 48s in front of the runner-up, who was surprisingly not Albert... but Nys. The latter profited from a late flat tyre from Albert, taking back five points on Albert in the World Cup standings.
American Page finished 15th which should be enough to get him on the start at the 2013 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Louisville. American champion Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) was 28th.
Of note, Americans went 1-2 in the junior race which did not count as a World Cup but a C1 race for juniors. Reigning USA champion Logan Owen (Redline) soloed to the win with Curtis White (Hot Tubes) in second. Belgian Gianni van Donink was third.