12.23.2012

Pauwels wins the battle of Namur

Crossing the line Pauwels cleans his jersey by his hands: it's so covered in mud you can barely read the sponsor's name. He won solo. He doesn't look strong. Fragility is one of the qualities I like in this racer, who smiles so rarely, the shy blue eyes avoiding contact. He made the race today: determined and solid since the start.
He was in 3rd position when I finally managed to make my streaming work in front, Lars Van der Haar on his wheel, Albert in front. Who was leading? It took a bit to me to recognize the French Mourey. There was a lot of mud and the route was flooded with water but not it wasn't raining in the forest: hight, rare, bare trees and commercial banners red and blue. Red and blue was also Pauwels' jersey, lap after lap more brown. Lap after lap the leading group consolidated: Pauwels and Mourey, then Albert, then Nys leading the chase with Vantornout, Aernouts and Van der Haar.  A little mistake for Nys and Vantornout passed him, soon Aernouts passed Van der Haar  who was now the last one in small group, obviously suffering but not giving up.  
There was a hill to climb and descent: muddy, steep... It became harder and harder. Riders couldn't run anymore and painfully walked the bike on their shoulders trying to keep the pace. Atop Albert passed Mourey and Pauwels accelerated going away solo. It's a decisive move. Van der Haar got a little dropped with 5 laps to go, managed to join again the back of the chasing group but they were riding too fast. At 4 laps to go Pauwels crosses the line alone. It was impressive to see all those campers in front of the boxes area: like in the Tour de France but it's december! not exactely a month for camping!  Van der Haar got dropped again and now it was very hard to come back. 
Atop the hill again: Pauwels passed the last rider in the race - I think he's Revel: lon hairs and moustaches. Van der Haar had got already 2'' of delay. Cyclocross is like that: dropped from the front group your race is over and Pauwels was pushing hard to put a gap between himself and Albert. The wet concrete reflected a wonderful silver light while Pauwels slaloumed between the barriers. Red and blue, like his jersey under the mud.
You must be very focused to solo as Pauwels was doing, carrying his bike all alone, no opponents in sight. Time is eternity. Two laps to go: behinde  Nys attacks! only Mourey hangs on his wheel. Vantornout got a little dropped. There is a technic passage where riders must balance themself with a leg and even push to not get stucked. Amazing to see how skillful they are, fearless and firm.
Last lap for Pauwels. I'm thrilled: allez! not crashe, no fall! Pauwels won and Nys passes Albert! Incredible!
Albert also changes his bike on the way to the lowest step of the podium. 1st Pauwels 2nd Nys 3rd Albert 4th Mourey 5th Vantornout 6th Aernouts. Lars Van der Haar arrives 8th escorted by a team mate.  J.Page is 15th, Franzoi 16th.
 Spectators are cautiously descending the hill to go to watch the podium ceriumony. Good place has got its price.

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