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TABOR, Czech Republic (VN) — Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) soloed to victory in round one of the 2012-13 UCI World Cup on Sunday.
With two and a half laps remaining Pauwels shed a strong lead group containing teammate Klaas Vantornout, champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) and Lars Van Der Haar (Rabobank), and held his advantage to the line.
Albert took command of the pursuit, with Van Der Haar glued to his wheel, only to suffer the indignity of seeing the Rabobank man come around him on the pavement to take second.
The world champ hung on for third.
Vantornout was best of the rest, followed by a surging Belgian champ Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet), who snapped a chain early on and had to fight his way back through the field.
Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus), meanwhile, rode to a fine seventh place on the day.
Strong start for Vantornout
Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) got off to a strong start. Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) nearly came to grief bunny-hopping the barriers on the first go-round, but nonetheless found himself in the lead midway through the first lap, with Albert sitting 12th wheel,
Van Der Haar (Rabobank) brierfly took over the pace-making going into lap two, but Nys soon took charge again. Once again he rode the barriers, this time more smoothly, and took a few bike lengths over Pauwels, Vantornout and Van Der Haar.
Soon that quartet had formed a lead group, with Radomir Simunek (BKCP) leading the chase.
Pauwels pushes, Albert advances, Nys struggles
With seven laps remaining Pauwels was on the front and Albert was moving through traffic toward the leaders.
The Sunweb rider really gave it some stick on lap three and Van Der Haar led the chase. Behind, Nys was afoot — he appeared to have snapped his chain — and jogged to the pit for a fresh bike, seemingly out of contention.
The lead group was now five, with Vantornout, Pauwels, Van Der Haar, Simunek and Albert bringing up the rear. And they were well and truly away.
Vantornout drove the group as behind, more than a half-minute down, a determined Nys began picking his way through traffic.
With six laps to go Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) was trying to bridge, but Pauwels and Van Der Haar were railing it, stringing out the lead group going into the staircase.
At the barriers Albert had moved up to third wheel. Simunek was yo-yoing off the group, and Meeusen was closing in. Shortly thereafter Albert took the lead, and Simunek found himself distanced again.
Five laps to go
Sunweb had the advantage in the lead quintet as a wide-eyed Meeusen continued fighting to bridge. Nys was mired in the top 20, behind a group containing U.S. champ Powers.
The leaders finally dropped Simunek as Albert pushed the pace, Pauwels on his wheel.
With four laps to go Pauwels took the helm. A big chase containing Powers and Nys followed a couple dozen seconds behind.
The Sunweb rider took a few bike lengths early in the lap and Albert led the chase as Simunek fought to regain contact. Behind, a gritty Powers led the chase, with a resurgent Nys edging forward.
Just as his teammate seemed certain to rejoin Albert took the front once again and gave it the gas as the Powers-Nys group closed to within 27 seconds of the leaders. Vantornout was next to have trouble holding the wheel.
Powers leads pursuit
Forty-four minutes into the race Albert was at the front of the lead group with Simunek still chasing, some five seconds down. Powers, meanwhile, had taken charge of a big chase that at the staircase was perhaps only a dozen seconds down.
Nys moved forward in that group, riding the barriers as Powers ran them and latching onto the American’s wheel.
Albert continued to push the lead group, but could not shed the others. Then Pauwels had a dig, taking a small lead and forcing the world champ to chase.
Behind, Nys took over the chase from Powers, then left the American behind.
Nys closes in
Pauwels, Albert, Vantornout and Van Der Haar continued to lead with Simunek fourth and Nys closing in.
Then the determined Pauwels began prying open another gap as Nys overtook Simunek and then powered past him.
Ahead, going into the stairs, the three chasers had dragged themselves back up to Pauwels. Nys led Simunek just behind, followed by Powers.
Then Pauwels was suddenly all alone off the front — Van der Haar led the chase at the barriers with Vantornout and Albert, who seemed to be fading.
Once more Nys rode the barriers, only a handful of seconds down now and putting distance on Simunek.
The impetus seemed to leave the three chasers as Pauwels drove along alone, 16 seconds off the front.
Pauwels was on his own, 15 seconds ahead of Albert, who had Van Der Haar locked to his wheel. Nys was a half minute down while Powers led a small group a further 10 seconds in arrears.
At the barriers Pauwels was solidly in command — the three-man chase was well distanced, and Vantornout was losing contact, though Van Der Haar stayed glued to the world champion’s wheel.
Pauwels hit the pavement for the final time, looked over one shoulder and then raised both hands in celebration. Van Der Haar finally came off Albert’s wheel to take second, leaving the crumbs of third for a clearly frustrated world champ.