By Gregor Brown in Loenhout, Belgium
Thijs Al has credited a change to his mountain bike season for his successes thus far in cyclo-cross. The Dutchman has claimed victories in three races and acted as the main protagonist in the others, like Tuesday's race in Loenhout, Belgium.
"I had a really easy summer and less mountain bike races," said Al after his sixth place finish in Loenhout. "This year it was all focused on the cyclo-cross season."
Last season did not go as well due to a busier mountain bike schedule, though he did have the experience of finishing on the podium of the 'cross World Cup in Hofstade in 2006.
"That was a really big step," he said. "I was thinking back to Hofstade [in Zolder] and I did not want to miss out on the win again - I was not going to be happy with just a podium.
"I did not have the confidence to achieve the same thing last year," he added. "I had a really ambitious summer. I stopped with those [mountain bike races] now. I did about three or four [races this year], and I won nationals. I did some marathon [races] to prepare for the cyclo-cross season."
Al has set a season goal of a good finish on home soil at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Hoogerheide. He will back current World Champion and Dutchman Lars Boom to put one of the team members on the podium. Al finished 44th last year at the Worlds in Treviso, Italy, and 10th the year before in Hooglede-Gits, Belgium .