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Kevin Pauwels dominates 2011 Superprestige Gavere

Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) exploded out of a lead group with just over two laps remaining to win round four of the Superprestige series on Sunday in Gavere.

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2011 Superprestige Gavere, Kevin Pauwels
Kevin Pauwels had locked up the race with one lap to go. Photo: Dan Seaton

Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) exploded out of a lead group with just over two laps remaining to win round four of the Superprestige series on Sunday in Gavere.

The Sunweb rider, who on Saturday won a thrilling sprint with world champion Zdenek Stybar (Quick Step) at the GVA Trofee’s GP Hasselt, held his fire in the early going on Sunday, watching Stybar, Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet), Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea), Bart Aernouts (Rabobank-Giant) and others beat their heads against the brick wall of the tough Gavere circuit, with its long climbs, fast descents and mud-streaked grassy tracks.

Then he simply left them all behind, rocketing past Nys and Stybar and out of sight.

Pauwels had more than a half-minute’s advantage going into the bell lap and rode an error-free finale to the finish, high-fiving spectators and crossing the line alone.

Bart Wellens (Telenet) made a late bid for second as the chase briefly faltered, but was overhauled short of the finish. Stybar led out the sprint for second only to run out of gas in the final meters, and Meeusen kept pushing to slip past him at the line.

Aernouts crossed fourth with Nys fifth.

Pauwels shows patience

After six wins this season — and two this weekend — Pauwels’ victory on a course widely regarded as one of the most difficult in cyclocross confirmed that the 27-year-old has truly become one of the best in the world. And after wins on the Koppenberg and on an exceptionally difficult course in Ronse, Pauwels told reporters that he never doubted himself today.

“During the race I sometimes was sitting far back in the field,” he told reporters at the end of the race. “But I always had everything under control.”

2011 Superprestige Gavere, Tom Meeusen
Tom Meeusen reacts to a big second-place finish. Photo: Dan Seaton

Pauwels rode today with a degree of acumen missing from some of his past efforts, earning praise from some of his competitors for covering attacks and avoiding mistakes. He told reporters that his recent success has helped him avoid panic about the things he can’t control.

“Sometimes the other guys will fly past you and you don’t have a choice about it,” he said. Pauwels found himself deep in the field on more than one occasion, but was able to make his decisive move only when it was likely to work.

Pauwels also acknowledged that his recent rise was buoyed by excellent fall weather that has kept races largely fast and dry.

“It’s OK with me if the weather stays the same,” he joked. “I’ve become a bit stronger, but I’m training the same way. If the courses are muddy, I’ll be better than last year, but (truly muddy) courses like the one in Hamme-Zogge last year — that’s different. I was third then and I’d have to be happy with a result like that again this year.”

Meeusen misses the mud

While Pauwels took the time to wave to his grandmother and shake hands with Belgian astronaut Frank De Winne on the podium, it was second-place finisher Meeusen who was the most animated, pumping his fist in the air in celebration when they called his name.

“I have to be really, really happy with this kind of finish,” he told VeloNews.com. “For me it’s not so easy to reach the podium. There are so many good riders, and most of the time it’s the same guys who end up on the podium. So even if I have a podium spot once, it’s really nice, and I’m really happy with this result.”

2011 Superprestige Gavere, Jonathan Page
Jonathan Page bounced back from a poor start. Photo: Dan Seaton

Meeusen, however, said that unlike Pauwels, who excels in fast conditions, he would have preferred to race in the muddy conditions for which Gavere is known.

“I like the mud more,” said Meeusen. “Then it’s more a fight with yourself. Today you have to look in every turn that you don’t get passed. You have to constantly search for a line where the others can’t pass you, and always have to be in the front of the group. That’s very nervous, so I like the mud better. But I am fast in the sprint, and today there was a sprint for second, so I had a better chance for it.”

And Meeusen was not the only one satisfied with a race he didn’t win today. The day also marked — perhaps — the beginnings of a return to form for American Jonathan Page (Planet Bike), who has struggled with both medical and mechanical problems for much of the first half of the season.

Page, who finished 21st, climbed steadily back into contention after a botched start left him near the back of the field before losing several spots in the final laps of the race. The American acknowledged that a finish outside the top 20 is not exactly satisfying, but said he felt like today marked a bit of a turning point for him.

“It was good to be riding the bike today. I felt a lot better than I have,” he said on the finish line, explaining that he is beginning to understand some of the issues that have dogged him for much of the season.

“I’ve got some things to work on, but they are relatively simple,” Page said. “When you have three different things that aren’t working, it’s difficult. I saw in just the last three days (since getting a diagnosis) I’m already feel much better.”

Canadian Craig Richey, the only other North American in the race, finished 34th.

Race note

Nys now leads the series, tied on points (50) with Stybar. Pauwels sits third with 45. The next round of the series is November 27 at Gieten.

Stay tuned for photos.

Quick results

  • 1. Kevin Pauwels, 1:02:05
  • 2. Tom Meeusen 0:32
  • 3. Zdenek Stybar (Tsj)
  • 4. Bart Aernouts
  • 5. Sven Nys 0:36

Complete results