Zdenek Stybar pulled himself equal on points with Niels Albert at the top of the UCI's Cyclo-cross World Cup rankings with a second place finish in Kalmthout on Sunday. However, the Czech champion will not get to pull on the series leader's white jersey for the next contest in Zolder this week as Albert leads in the number of World Cup wins this season, 3-2.
Missing out on his chance to lead the series was a bitter defeat for Stybar, who led the snowy race in Kalmthout at the mid-way point only to see the return of Sven Nys on the penultimate lap. Stybar failed to keep Nys at bay, and was not even able to profit from the Belgian champion's fall with less than half a lap to go.
"I cannot be satisfied," said Stybar to Sportwereld.be. "Despite a bad start I was still able to the lead halfway and get a gap, but in the last two laps I made too many mistakes. I should have switched to a bike with different tires. I did the whole race on tires with a low profile and in the final laps it was no longer the ideal choice."
The difference between the top three at the finish line was mere seconds, with each feeling as if they could have won the race. Albert was also unsatisfied after the event, since the snow left riders with one narrow track and no place to pass.
"I was certainly one of the fastest rider on the course in the final laps, but overtaking was so difficult with only a narrow path that was passable," said Albert.
"The differences were very small - we could have stood in any order on the podium."
The closeness in abilities is well reflected in the World Cup standings, where Albert sits tied with Stybar at 435 points after six rounds, with Nys moving up into third ahead of Klaas Vantornout with 350 points.
In the women's race, Daphny Van den Brand closed the gap to World Cup leader Katie Compton with her victory on Sunday, and now sits just 10 points behind with 200 points. Marianne Vos, who claimed second in Kalmthout is third with 160. Compton's third place was just enough to maintain the lead in the series, which continues on December 26 in Zolder.