On Sunday, when Niels Albert makes his first warm-up ride at the Super Prestige cyclo-cross race in Gavere, Belgium, he will stop and have a long look at one specific tree. “That place means something to my life,” he said. The tree almost took his life during the warm-up last year at the race.
Albert was leading the Super-Prestige series in 2008 prior to the crash. At first he thought he was not seriously injured, but a visit to hospital revealed a ruptured spleen. He remained in bed for three days and could not exercise for additional six weeks.
"I'm putting more things into perspective. In one hour's time I plummeted from the top of my abilities into a deep valley. In one hour, right? That's nothing in a lifetime! Something like that makes you realise that happiness hangs by a thread," he told Sportwereld.
"It has changed me as a man. Not that I'm happier now, but I enjoy it more: each victory, each good day of training, Even if it is in the pouring rain and I come back frozen stiff.”
Since then, he said, he is much more fanatical about the sport, paying much more attention to the details than before. “I trained hard, but did not really know exactly what I was doing. And I should be very happy that I can do that now.”
Albert, 23, returned quickly to the top. He won again the beginning of January, before claiming the world title in February.