Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) started Saturday's UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup round in Koksijde, Belgium tied for the overall lead with world champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus), but Pauwels's stint of bad luck continued with a heavy fall in the early laps on the rain-soaked parcours.
Pauwels lost traction and fell on a slick, right-hand bend and slid partially under the metal crowd retention barriers. The 28-year-old Belgian was slow to get back on his bike and ultimately finished the day in 12th place, more than two minutes in arrears of winner Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-KDL).
As a result, Pauwels now lies fourth overall on the World Cup standings, 31 points behind Albert who's now the sole leader at 215 points following his runner-up finish on the dunes of Koksijde.
"Until the crash happened I was reasonably fast," Pauwels told Nieuwsblad.be. "But after that contact with the fence everything changed. I hit my left ankle against the leg of the barrier and I hope over the next few days I'm not bothered too much by the incident.
"This makes all of my classifications bungled. Maybe in the future that will make it easier to win."
Pauwels won the opening round of the World Cup in Tabor on October 21 and that result has remained his sole victory of the season thus far. He crashed spectacularly on a sand dune descent at the second Superprestige round in Zonhoven on November 4, yet still managed a fourth place finish, 29 seconds behind the winner Nys. Pauwels had injured his knee in the crash, however, and had difficulty training, resulting in a fifth place finish at the next Superprestige round in Hamme-Zogge on week later. Adding insult to injury was the vocal displeasure of his team's manager after neither Pauwels nor teammate Klaas Vantornout managed to finish on the podium in Hamme-Zogge, the team's home race.
While Vantornout finished on the podium (2nd place to Nys) in the Gavere round on November 18, Pauwels again fell just shy of a podium, crossing the line 15 seconds behind third place finisher Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea).
In the other major 'cross series, Pauwels led the Bpost Bank Trofee after the first round in Ronse on October 14, but a disappointing 11th place result at the next round, the Koppenbergcross on November 1, has knocked Pauwels out of overall contention on a classification determined by time rather than points. Pauwels did finish on the podium at round three in Hasselt a week ago on November 17, but trails Albert overall by 2:38 on the classification.