Having been ruled out with a broken trapezoid bone in his hand for four weeks, Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) returned into action at the Gazet van Antwerpen round in Essen on December 17 and the World Cup round in Namur one day later. With two second places he achieved much more than expected. Less than a week later he completed his comeback to the top of the cyclo-cross scene with a clear victory in the dark cross in Diegem on Friday evening.
“Before last weekend I certainly didn’t expect this but it turned out I was alright," he said. "While warming up today there was humor; I felt relaxed. I picked out this race to be good and I succeeded. I feel like racing. I’ve got a bag full of confidence and I hope to offer my entourage some great moments. From now on the only things that matter are the championships.”
In two weeks Albert hopes to successfully defend his Belgian cyclo-cross title in Hooglede-Gits. It’s the same location as the 2007 cyclo-cross world championships, where Niels Albert finished as runner-up in the Men's Under 23 category behind Lars Boom (Rabobank).
“The national championships are close. I checked out the weather forecast and there’s no frost expected. It’ll be a very muddy affair. It’s my chance to make up my season and put the team back on the map,” he said. Three weeks later there’s the world championships in Koksijde, Belgium. That race is held on a sand course, which are his preffered underground conditions. "Whenever there’s a sand section in a course I feel like a kid on the playground. I tend to ride well through the sand which showed today,” he said.
Before those two championship races Albert takes part in some more races which are part of the Superprestige Series and the Gazet van Antwerpen Trophy. He is eyeing one of those races more than the others. “I hope to do well in Baal,” he said. It’s the hometown of both Albert and his arch rival Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet). “It will not be easy, but for once I want to provide a nice battle. I want to turn it into a spectacle,” Albert said.
After going through the post-race procedures, Albert was looking forward to an easy day with his family on Saturday. “It’s already late. It’s good for once and I understand the organizers. On a working day people wouldn’t show up and now there were huge crowds but we really don’t need more races like this. You can’t imagine riding down the Koppenberg in the dark,” he said.
“I still have to do the doping control, meet sponsors, press and VIPs. Luckily it’s not too far away from home but it’ll be 11pm for sure before I get home. I’ll take a sleeping pill. Tomorrow evening we’re at my parents place. I’m looking forward to unpacking Christmas gifts but I've already given myself a nice one.”