Peeters said later that, having built a career around being a support rider for bigger names like Stybar and Wellens, he never thought of himself as a threat for the podium.
“I didn’t think I’d be on the podium today,” he said. “But I guess I knew there were possibilities. Last week I was very good as well, but I had a bad start and messed up the podium. I knew I still had the good form, but I didn’t put myself on the podium because of last week. I wasn’t nervous at all, and in the previous categories I saw that the best were always coming to the front, so during the race I started to believe I could do it. Even if you’re not normally in that position, in a world championships in your own country, you can always do something more.”
Pauwels, who managed to drop a tenacious Tom Meeusen — who crashed in the final moments of the race — to take the bronze medal, said that mistakes may have cost him a chance for gold, but that he was still happy with bronze.
“I really wanted to win,” he told the press after the race, “but I made a lot more mistakes than in the World Cup (here in November). I’m satisfied with my first medal at worlds, however.”
Meeusen did recover in time to hold off a late-surging Bart Aernouts for fourth, while Klaas Vantornout was sixth. Pre-race favorite Sven Nys, looking frustrated in the last laps, was seventh, just behind Vantornout and more than a minute behind Albert.
Defending champion Stybar, though he rode with Simunek during the middle of the race, faded all the way back to a very disappointing 13th place.
Gallery: Men’s cyclocross world championships