Despite Belgium being awarded a seventh spot for the elite men at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships thanks to the presence of outgoing champion Wout Van Aert in the team, there is no place for five-time bronze medalist Kevin Pauwels.
Pauwels missed out on the selection after finishing 10th in the Nommay World Cup this weekend, nearly four minutes behind winner Mathieu van der Poel.
Team selector Sven Vanthourenhout chose the country's top two riders - Van Aert (2nd) and Laurens Sweeck (5th), plus Toon Aerts (7th), Michael Vanthourenhout (8th), Quinten Hermans (9th), Tim Merlier (11th) and Daan Soete (13th) for the elite men's race, despite Hermans and Soete finishing well behind Pauwels in Nommay.
"Kevin is not there for the first time since he is a professional," Vanthourenhout said to Het Nieuwsblad. "That is a result of his race performances this season. He is also realistic enough to see that. This season he was caught by the younger generation and later also passed."
Pauwels' non-selection could well be in violation of the UCI rules for Worlds, which state "Each federation shall be required to include its first three ranked riders in their Men Elite's and Women's team, as long as they are in the top 50 of the UCI Cyclo-cross Classification as published after the national championships in Europe."
In addition to being in the top 10 of the rankings all season, Pauwels has been second to Van Aert in the rankings among Belgians until the latest published standings, when Sweeck overtook him.
However, the regulations state, "This rule shall not apply to riders who have failed to fulfil their obligations under the regulations. In the event of a dispute on this issue, it shall be the responsibility of the National Federation to decide whether the rider will be selected."
Pauwels said the non-selection was perhaps the greatest disappointment of his career. "Sven Vanthourenhout told me that he would have picked me for the selection if I had ridden well in Nommay yesterday. Maybe I was too comfortable. I once thought maybe I was not assured a Worlds selection. Am I angry now? Perhaps that Quinten Hermans is there. I have nothing against the guy, and he is of course new pro. But lately I have usually finished ahead of him."
Pauwels admits that his season has not been the best, his back has bothered him, but he never imagined he would not be selected for the Worlds.
"I had hoped that my palmares would be taken into account. I have been on the podium in five of the last seven world championships. The two times I was not on podium, I was fourth or had bad luck. Last year I got bronze. I haven't missed a single world championship since 2001. The course in Valkenburg is also very good. I have shown that in recent years. And I would have had no problem doing anything that was possible for the Belgian team."
Belgium for the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships
Elite Men: Toon Aerts, Quinten Hermans, Tim Merlier, Daan Soete, Laurens Sweeck, Wout van Aert, Michael Vanthourenhout. Reserves: Jens Adams, Kevin Pauwels
Elite: Sanne Cant, Loes Sels, Kim Van de Steene, Ellen Van Loy, Karen Verhestraeten, Jolien Verschueren. Reserve: Joyce Vanderbeken
U23 Men: Thijs Aerts, Eli Iserbyt, Timo Kielich, Yannick Peeters, Jelle Schuermans, Toon Vandenbosch. Reserves: Stijn Caluwe, Thomas Joseph
U23 Women: Axelle Bellaert, Marthe Truyen, Laura Verdonschot, Suzanne Verhoeven.
Junior Men: Jarno Bellens, Ryan Cortjens, Gerben Kuypers, Witse Meeussen, Niels Vandeputte. Reserve: Anton Ferdinande.
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