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Gallery: Training on Belgium's 'cross championship course

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Kevin Pauwels powers through the sand.

Kevin Pauwels powers through the sand. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Jim Aernouts (Sunweb-Napoleon Games)

Jim Aernouts (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Bart Aernouts (AA Drink) pre-rides the Belgian national 'cross championship circuit in Mol.

Bart Aernouts (AA Drink) pre-rides the Belgian national 'cross championship circuit in Mol. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea) finished third in last year's Belgian elite 'cross nationals.

Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea) finished third in last year's Belgian elite 'cross nationals. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Belgian championship contender Kevin Pauwels stays hydrated for his course pre-ride.

Belgian championship contender Kevin Pauwels stays hydrated for his course pre-ride. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) has only one Belgian 'cross title in his palmares, the 2002 junior championship.

Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) has only one Belgian 'cross title in his palmares, the 2002 junior championship. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Klaas Vantornout grabs some sustenance from team manager Jurgen Mettepenningen.

Klaas Vantornout grabs some sustenance from team manager Jurgen Mettepenningen. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Plenty of sand on tap for Belgian 'cross nationals this weekend.

Plenty of sand on tap for Belgian 'cross nationals this weekend. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Angelo De Clercq previews the nationals circuit.

Angelo De Clercq previews the nationals circuit. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Stef Boden in the sand at Mol.

Stef Boden in the sand at Mol. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Sunweb-Napoleon Games manager Jurgen Mettepenningen chats with Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea).

Sunweb-Napoleon Games manager Jurgen Mettepenningen chats with Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea). (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Klaas Vantornout cracks a smile

Klaas Vantornout cracks a smile (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Nothing would make Sunweb-Napoleon Games manager Jurgen Mettepenningen happier than for one of his riders to take home the elite men's title on Sunday.

Nothing would make Sunweb-Napoleon Games manager Jurgen Mettepenningen happier than for one of his riders to take home the elite men's title on Sunday. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) hopes to change his previous record at Belgium's elite 'cross nationals where he's never placed higher than third.

Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) hopes to change his previous record at Belgium's elite 'cross nationals where he's never placed higher than third. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Some serious earth-moving equipment in use to set up the Belgian 'cross championship circuit.

Some serious earth-moving equipment in use to set up the Belgian 'cross championship circuit. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) seeks his first Belgian elite 'cross title on Sunday.

Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) seeks his first Belgian elite 'cross title on Sunday. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) with former world and Belgian national 'cross champion Mario De Clercq.

Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) with former world and Belgian national 'cross champion Mario De Clercq. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Bart Aernouts (AA Drink) checks out the sandy 'cross nationals course in Mol.

Bart Aernouts (AA Drink) checks out the sandy 'cross nationals course in Mol. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) gets some assistance from team staffer Bart Risbourg regarding tire pressure.

Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) gets some assistance from team staffer Bart Risbourg regarding tire pressure. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Klaas Vantornotut gets a snack from team manager Jurgen Mettepenningen.

Klaas Vantornotut gets a snack from team manager Jurgen Mettepenningen. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) runs a sand section at the 'cross nationals venue in Mol.

Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) runs a sand section at the 'cross nationals venue in Mol. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) disusses the nationals venue with team staff.

Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) disusses the nationals venue with team staff. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Davy Commeyne, left, and Rob Peeters preview the Belgian 'cross nationals course.

Davy Commeyne, left, and Rob Peeters preview the Belgian 'cross nationals course. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Kevin Pauwels is one of the few elite 'crossers who shoulders his bike on the left side.

Kevin Pauwels is one of the few elite 'crossers who shoulders his bike on the left side. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Klaas Vantornout adjusts a camera used to film the Belgian 'cross championship circuit.

Klaas Vantornout adjusts a camera used to film the Belgian 'cross championship circuit. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Tim Merlier will contest the U23 men's championship on Sunday.

Tim Merlier will contest the U23 men's championship on Sunday. (Image credit: Photopress.be)
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Will Kevin Pauwels be crowned Belgium's elite men's 'cross champion on Sunday?

Will Kevin Pauwels be crowned Belgium's elite men's 'cross champion on Sunday? (Image credit: Photopress.be)

Perhaps no national 'cross championship is as hotly contested and heavily attended (30,000+ spectators are expected) as Belgium's, and this coming weekend in Mol the coveted champion's jerseys are once again up for grabs. Belgian titles for the junior categories will be contested on Saturday, January 12 while the elite men, elite women and U23 men will seek national championships on Sunday, January 13.

Defending elite men's champion Sven Nys's presence is still in doubt as the ailing Crelan-Euphony rider tries to fully recover from the ailment which prevented him from riding his eponymous GP Sven Nys and then contributed to a lowly 20th place finish at last Sunday's World Cup round in Rome, Italy. The legendary 'crosser already has eight elite Belgian titles in his palmares but full recover in advance of the world championships in Louisville, Kentucky may compel the Cannibal from Baal to forego competing.

Several contenders for the elite men's title, such as Kevin Pauwels, Klaas Vantornout, Rob Peeters and Bart Aernouts, took to the venue today for training. Click on the gallery to the right to view photos from today's training session.