By Brecht Decaluwé
The U23 race level seems to surpass the elite level as Niels Albert (Palmans) has beaten all professional riders once again, this time at the windy beach in Antwerp. Another U23 rider - Lars Boom (Rabobank) - recently won the Dutch elite champs beating more experienced competitors as well.
The 20 year-old Albert launched an early attack, and despite efforts from world champion Erwin Vervecken (Fidea) and recent Belgian champion Bart Wellens (Fidea), they only saw Albert again when the race was over. "I noticed that I was better in the mud so I went full on. It was still far to go, but I felt really well and then I like to show that," Albert laughed. Stormy weather, with wind and rain tortured the riders in Antwerp, and Albert said "It wasn’t an easy race with such weather."
His win is all the more remarkable given fact was that the top-5 was composed entirely of champions: Albert is the current U23 Belgian champion, Erwin Vervecken (2nd) is world champion, Zdenek Stybar – the current U23 world champion – finished third before his Czech compatriot Petr Dlask who is national champion, and Belgian champion Wellens completed this exclusive club.
Besides race winner Albert, all those champions ride for the Fidea team, who gave the Rabobank team a solid beating today. Sven Nys (Rabobank) didn't complete the race after crashing early on and having some mechanical troubles. "I switched bikes but my back wheel was chipped, so I lost four minutes to run towards the next pit… then my race was over," Nys explained to cyclo-cross.info. His Rabobank teammates, Bart Aernouts and Gerben De Knegt, ended up 6th and 7th.
For the full report and results, click here.