Having struggled to make an impact in the Superprestige series against the dominant Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) and Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony), Kevin Pauwels has experienced further difficulties, revealing his racing has been affected by an injury sustained in Zonhoven. Pauwels admitted an injured knee was the primary reason for his poor performance at Hamme-Zogge - where he failed to make the podium.
The race was won by Nys, with Albert and Lars van der Haar (Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team) sprinting for the second spot on the podium. Pauwels struggled with the pace set by the current world champion Albert and Belgian champion Nys, eventually coming in fifth with teammate Klaas Vantornout a distant sixth.
"Kevin has a whole week bothered by a sore knee, but he kept it secret because he did not want to use it as an excuse," coach Marc Herremans disclosed to Nieuwsblad.
Pauwels begun the 2012 Cyclo-cross World Cup season in fine style by winning the opening round in Tabor and is currently leading the UCI standings. However, he has struggled for results in the most recent races. Last year’s World Cup winner had been unable to train properly in the lead-up to Hamme-Zogge but the "fear of making an excuse" was enough for the Belgian to keep his pain hidden.
"Kevin has not talked about it himself because he was scared to to make excuses," said Herremans. "But his knee is definitely a factor. He bumped his knee against the stem in Zonhoven and had a whole week without quality training. The day before Hamme-Zogge, he still suffered from the pain."
Despite suffering from his minor injury, his coach insists Pauwels will return to his best and that the main difference this year has been the strength of Albert and Nys, opposed to any shortcomings from his rider.
"He knows that he is doing well in training and the form can quickly turn. I gave him the example of Philippe Gilbert, who had a bad year but in the end was world champion."