At the famous Koppenbergcross on Sunday in Belgium, Cyclo-cross World Champion Niels Albert (BKCP Powerplus) had to endure another year of the continued domination of Sven Nys, 10 years older.
Albert has been the man to be this season thus far, having won all but one race prior to Sunday while Nys, who has six consecutive wins at this race during the past decade, has been struggling during the early season. Yet at the Koppenbergcross, Landbouwkrediet Tonissteiner's Nys would prove to be unbeatable again. The enduring Belgian star launched a powerful attack during the final ascent of the Koppenberg.
"Better than a second place wasn't possible today," Albert said.
Before the the race, the 23-year-old Albert said he that he would try not to attack too soon; however, he didn't plan on having such a bad start. "I never have a plan before the race, but to start as bad as today certainly wasn't my goal," Albert said.
Nonetheless, the World Champion recovered well and quickly found his spot back in the front of the race, only missing out on bonus points at the intermediate sprint two laps into the race.
Several attacks followed, and Albert was always near the front. During the fourth of ten laps, Albert put in a well-timed attack just after some riders had regained contact with the front of the race. The World Champion rode an unbelievably fast lap, and only the Czech Zdenek Stybar managed to hold on to his wheel.
Coming into the home straight and the headwind, Albert asked Stybar to take a pull but the Czech indicated with a shake of his head that he had no intention of taking a turn at the front just then.
"If Stybar would've co-operated at that moment, then we would've been gone," said Albert. "Nys was strong, but it's not always possible to close down such a gap on your own."
From then on Albert wasn't as dominant in the race, and Nys moved to the front. With three laps to go, Nys attacked, causing Albert to crack.
The World Champion had an explanation. "I don't want to search for excuses, but I've been ill this week. Normally, I can ride one gear bigger than the others, but today, it just blew my engine, which happened a couple of times. Every lap I reached the summit (of the Koppenberg) with nothing left in my tank."
"I didn't want to say I was ill before the race because it would give the others a morale boost. I started the race to win it, but to beat a good Nys, you can't have a bad day."
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