Kevin Pauwels announced his retirement this week, hanging up his wheels after an 18 year career. While Pauwels is shy and quiet off the bike, on the bike he has let his legs do a lot of talking. Defying generations, Pauwels career is bookended by the Niels Albert/Sven Nys and the Mathieu van der Poel/Wout van Aert eras. Pauwels found success no matter who his competition was. In fact, Pauwels may have raced, and beaten, more current, former and future World Champions than an other rider.
Pauwels burst onto the scene winning the Junior World Championship in 2002. In 2004, Pauwels continued to show his prowess winning the U23 World Championship ahead of riders like Zdenek Stybar, Lars Boom and Klaas Vantornout.
At the elite level, Pauwels was never able to capture another world title, but his consistency netted him 5 third place finishes. Pauwels also racked up a pair of World Cup titles in 2012 and 2015. In 2012 he beat Sven Nys and Zdenek Stybar and bested Lars van Der Haar and Corne van Kessel in 2015. He also lead the UCI ranking those years ahead of Stybar and Sven Nys in 2012 and Van Aert and Van der Haar in 2015. Pauwels other overall victory was the 2012 GVA Troffee (now DVV). Stybar finished second that year and Nys finished third.
When it comes to looking at Pauwels overall career it is clearly one of success at all levels. He may never have won an elite world title, but he did compete at the highest level across two generations of cyclocross stars. That’s something that we may never see again.