Just three days after Belgian Niels Albert bid farewell to his title as World Champion in Tábor, Czech Republic after a resounding defeat at the hands of Zdenek Stybar and the icy championship parcours, the Belgian sped to victory in the Parkcross Maldegem in his home country.
With Stybar trailing in for seventh, Albert insisted that he wasn't out for revenge after his time in the rainbow bands was ended.
"Last year when I came here as the new world champion, I was 13th. It's normal that Stybar wasn't in the mix."
After Albert's domination of the early part of the 'cross season, he suffered a broken rib at the hands of an unruly spectator during the Belgian Championships. But after pulling out of the world championship race, Albert blamed his poor performance less on the injury than the fact that he simply didn't like the course.
In Tabor, it seemed his heart wasn't in the race from the first lap - he was already 14th at the end of the first lap, and two laps later, he was seen shaking his head when he passed the pit zone where his manager Christophe Roodhooft was present. A journalist asked if that wasn't too early to give up.
"No, I was doing all I could and I noticed that I was only going backwards. Then you have to make the conclusion. Of course Christophe wanted me to continue, and I was also thinking about the fans who traveled all the way to the Czech Republic to support me. But I was riding between riders who normally aren't of my level," Albert said.
Albert quickly hid in his camper and took his time to digest his defeat. After being freshened up, a friendly Albert talked with the press on the past year, the race and the future ahead.
"My year is over," Albert said of his world title. "I won't be losing any sleep about this race, but it did bring some stress along."
After starting the season with a bang by dominating September and October, Albert lost the fight for the World Cup two weeks ago in Roubaix against Stybar. Albert didn't win the Belgian national championships and so only two goals remain: taking the Superprestige series and the Gazet van Antwerpen Trophy.
"Physically I'm not bad, but we'll see how I fare in those races. Today I just got fed up by the course. It didn't suit me, and I think those courses will remain my weak point," Albert stated. "This was an exceptionally cold winter. I didn't notice much of that global warming people are talking about," Albert joked.
"I'm disappointed as I did everything to be good here and my whole entourage was available to make the best of it.
"This will remain in my head for two to three days, but Christophe tried to cheer me on by saying that I would receive a new kit," Albert smiled before explaining it would be strange to see Stybar in 'his' jersey. "It won't hurt too much to see Stybar in the rainbow jersey during the upcoming races, but I think at the start of next season it will hurt a little more."