Despite 2 seasons of doom and gloom, Milan Paulus (22) looks hopefully to the future. The rider from St-Truiden was among the world’s top juniors. A status that he could not confirm in 4 promising seasons. The Limburger is making a new start. He will return to parent team Maes Glabbeek next season, will combine road and gravel and continue to pursue his dream of becoming a professional.
Let’s take a look at the results of Milan Paulus in the U19s: 5th in the Alpine Classic, 3rd in the final ranking of the Tour du Valromey, 7th in the final classification of the Giro della Lunigiana, 10th at the World Championships in Harrogate. Of course, he had to choose the teams at the end of 2019. He chose SEG Racing, a team that folded at the end of 2021. Due to the pandemic, Paulus was rarely able to race in his own category in his first 2 years of promise.
“I mainly rode professional races then,” he remembers well. “They didn’t go badly. In the Grand Prix of the city of Leuven I even managed to catch the early flight. Corona already put a brake on my development. The fact that SEG Racing stopped was also a serious downer. Fortunately, I was able to join the Lotto Soudal promising team. Unfortunately, bad luck was the common thread throughout the past two seasons. I don’t think anyone has had more setbacks than me.”
A summary of those moments. “In my 1st season at Lotto I was involved in quite a few falls,” sighs Paulus. “I got fluid in my knee three times. Just before the Tour of Aosta I seemed to be getting into shape, but I got food poisoning. Afterwards, all kinds of tests showed that I must have had a serious form of corona. However, not a single corona test was positive. Because of that late diagnosis, I knew why I sometimes didn’t feel well. Tour de Moselle at the end of 2022 was a goal. I opened with a 6th place, but crashed 500 meters from the finish in the 2nd stage. Dislocated shoulder, fluid in the knee again: the season was over.”
Despite these setbacks, Milan Paulus was allowed to transfer to the continental development team of Lotto Dstny. Last year everything went wrong again. “After a long internship in Calpe, I became ill,” says Paulus. “I had knee problems before Liège-Bastogne-Liège U23. After a rest period the problem returned. I received an injection from doctor Claes in Herentals. After 6 weeks of inactivity I had to rebuild and this summer I ended up in a peloton with all men in top form.”
Paul showed some flashes of his talent. For example, he finished the climbing race in Herbeumont in 8th place and was able to qualify for the Gravel World Championships. His knee continued to cause concern. Today, November 10, 2023, he was operated on in Herentals. “Prepatellar friction syndrome,” the young guy explains. “Doctor Claes claims that he has never seen such a fierce inflammation before. Without surgery, the knee pain had always returned, he added.”
Which means that Milan Paulus will start with 4 weeks of rest, will then recuperate for 2 weeks and will therefore jump on the bike in the second half of December. From January 1, 2024, no longer in the shirt of Lotto Dstny, but in that of Maes Glabbeek. He already defended the colors of this team at the junior level. It is clear that the rider opts for a complete reset.
“This must be a new start,” Paulus emphasizes. “Wearing the Lotto Dstny jersey automatically creates more pressure. I also had contact with Team Flanders-Baloise, but I choose Maes Glabbeek. With that team I will be able to do my own thing. The team will ride a mainly Belgian programme. Including the Cup of Belgium and the Tour of Flemish Brabant.”
Even though he will become an Elite 2 rider next year, Milan Paulus will continue to put everything on course. He will also play more clay in 2024. “This year I only did Houffa Gravel,” he says. “There will soon be more news about the gravel project I am embarking on. I can’t say much more about that yet. I got to know gravel. I really enjoy doing that. All this with a view to 2025. I am not giving up the hope of becoming a professional.”
Many would have put that dream away for a long time. Or they would have hung the racing bike on the proverbial hook. “At the end of 2022 I hesitated to continue,” Paulus admits. “Not now, because I know why I didn’t perform as well as I should.”
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