The impressive Namur citadel in Belgium was the fantastic location for a Sunday packed with splendid UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup racing action.

Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) almost has the overall victory in the pocket after taking a great second win in the World Cup. Czech champion Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team) beat a star-studded line-up in the Women’s category during her World Cup debut. Wout Van Aert (Belgium) won a high-quality race in the Men Under 23 category. Johan Jacobs (Switzerland) surprisingly won the Juniors Men race in the first race of the day on a grey Sunday morning in Namur.

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Elite Men’s race

The win from Pauwels in the Elite Men category was no surprise. Pauwels is enjoying great form and the Belgian rider has been dominating the World Cup so far.

The Namur winner of 2012 took his time to move forward, allowing Swiss rider Marcel Wildhaber (Scott-Odlo MTB Racing Team) to set the pace. Only in the fourth of nine laps Pauwels reacted on the earlier attack from Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) together with Dutch champion Lars van der Haar (Giant-Development Team) and Corné van Kessel (Telenet-Fidea). When Van der Haar attacked in the sixth lap everybody was in the hurt box. Meeusen faded, Van Kessel crashed hard and Pauwels needed time to work his way back to the Dutchman. With two laps to go the two were back together and from there Pauwels took charge, knowing that Philipp Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus) was coming closer too. In the final lap he rode well through a difficult off-camber section while Van der Haar struggled. Pauwels powered to the win while Van der Haar had to work hard to hold off Walsleben. Meeusen his fourth place was enough to put him in second place in the World Cup at a huge 77 points from Pauwels. Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) was ill and didn’t race in Namur. He tumbles from second to sixth place overall.

Women’s race

Several strong riders made their debut in the World Cup in the Women’s category on Sunday afternoon. Among them was UCI World Champion Marianne Vos who wasted no time and quickly accelerated away. Also Nash made her debut and she needed more time to get her engine going, trailing Vos by 13 seconds after the opening lap, with the rest of the field already out of sight. Halfway the second lap Nash slipped away in a left hand corner and landed into the netting, trailing Vos by 22 seconds. From there the Czech champion started to crawl her way back to the leader who lost momentum. In the third of five laps Nash bridged across to Vos and took the lead. In a muddy section Nash powered away while Vos suffered and rode into the netting, losing even more time. Nash showed no signs of fatigue and rode towards the third World Cup victory of her career, after winning in Roubaix and Tabor. Vos finished as runner-up in her first cyclo-cross race of the season. Compton claimed the final podium spot. Sanne Cant salvaged her World Cup lead by one point over Compton.

Under 23 Men’s race

In-form Wout Van Aert (Belgium) exploited a last lap high speed crash from then race leader Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) in the Men Under 23 category. The new cyclo-cross stars fought out a great duel in Namur, clocking faster lap times than the Elite Men. Van Aert takes over the lead in the World Cup from compatriot Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium) who finished third in Namur.

Juniors Men’s race

Johan Jacobs (Switzerland) won the Juniors Men race ahead of unbeaten Eli Iserbyt (Belgium). Iserbyt remains in the overall lead of the World Cup after two rounds.

Already in a few days time, on Boxing Day, the fifth round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup is held on the famous car racing circuit of Zolder in Belgium. Watch it live on tv.uci.ch, the UCI YouTube channel.