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Belgian satisfied with his decision to stick with cyclo-cross
Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) has expressed his satisfaction with a decision to remain dedicated to cyclo-cross, following recent speculation that 'cross rival Zdenek Stybar (Telenet-Fidea) is on the verge of converting to the road with ProTour squad Quick Step.
Albert had himself contemplated a switch to road early this year during a frustrating period of the 2009-2010 season, but last month confirmed he will continue to race on the European cyclo-cross circuit until at least 2014 after signing a three-year contract with BCKP-Powerplus.
The 24-year-old Belgian preceded Stybar as cyclo-cross world champion in 2009. Despite only earning one win thus far this season, Albert is treating the speculation swirling around his Czech rival as a blessing for his chances of re-capturing his 2009 form.
"If things remain uncertain for him [Stybar] for a couple of months, then that's going to take its toll for him mentally. I would find it really annoying to be in that position," said Albert, according to Het Nieuwsblad. "I doubt I would be able to perform at my best, because certainty is really important for a rider."
Stybar, 24, has continued his domination of the European 'cross scene this year winning the first two rounds of the 2010-2011 World Cup series and trading wins in the Superprestige and GvA Trophy series' with Sven Nys and Kevin Pauwels. However, despite his performances in the rainbow jersey, the Czech star admitted this week that contract negotiations with his current team Fidea-Telenet had stalled and that he had subsequently received a contract offer from Quick Step which would give him the opportunity to race the Spring Classics on the road and potentially race the cross-country mountain-bike race at 2012 Olympic Games.
That news was followed on Thursday by the announcement that Czech billionaires Zdenek Bakala and Bessel Kok had purchased a majority share in the Belgian ProTour squad. Stybar's profile both in his native Czech Republic and Belgium would make him an ideal acquisition for the squad.
In contrast to the fanfare surrounding Stybar's proposed move to Quick Step Albert described the comparatively nature of his own recent contract negotiations with BCKP-Powerplus sports director Christoph Roodhooft.
"I got a telephone call from Christoph in the morning while I was out training," he said. "He asked me 'Can you come past and see me? Because there a contract is ready for you.' I stood there, with the railway in earshot. I asked to Christoph what he would ask, and he made me a proposal.
"I rode past to see him in Morkhoven, came in along the backdoor, and signed the contract with a pen from Aldi. We didn't drink any champagne because five minutes later I was back out training."
Despite having taken pause to consider his options for a career on the road in January, Albert indicated his contentment with the decision to remain true to his cyclo-cross roots. "After I signed the new contract I spoke to my mother and my girlfriend, and both said the same thing to me: 'If you are satisfied in that team and with the offer, then you must do that.' So far I have no regrets."