By Brecht Decaluwé
Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus ) proved that he is fully recovered from a crash that took him out of competition in mid-November. The 22-year-old Belgian won the final rehearsal ahead of the national championships that will happen throughout Europe next weekend. Albert won the race with an impressive solo effort which he initiated during the second of ten laps. Italian "crossista" Enrico Franzoi (Liquigas) finished second at twenty seconds behind Albert. Fifteen seconds later, Czech national champion Zdenek Stybar (Fidea Cycling Team) won the sprint for the remaining podium spot ahead of Kevin Pauwels (Fidea Cycling Team) and Sven Vanthourenhout (Sunweb Projob Cycling Team).
"I felt strong and wanted to make it a hard race. I was joined by Klaas and Enrico and when Klaas crashed behind me, I was able to get a couple of metres. Then one shouldn't delay, of course. It's been awhile since I was able to win. This feels good, especially ahead of the Belgian championships," Albert said to Sporza.
"The last few weeks, I saw every race as a training, adding additional training sessions before and after. I should be able to battle for the win next week. I can focus on one race. I've been unlucky this season, and hopefully I can make up for that at the championships," Albert said.
Franzoi had no choice but to acknowledge Albert's strength although he easily managed to stay ahead of the chasers. "I was very strong," Franzoi said to Sporza. "This was a good race to get a result. I'm happy with my race. It's important to build up [my] form [heading] towards the Italian Championships."
Continue to the full race report, results and photos