Niels Albert sustained a broken rib when he was knocked off his bike by a drunk spectator during the Belgian national cyclo-cross championship Sunday. The incident raised the issue of rider safety during major events, with champion Sven Nys also condemning it.
The injury jeopardises the rest Albert’s season. It is unknown if he will be able to ride the World Cup race in Roubaix next Sunday, his team manager Christophe Roodhooft confirmed in a press release.
Roodhooft went on to say that the spectator claimed to be a supporter of Albert, although he was standing with fans of Nys.
The spectator, interviewed by Het Niuewsblad and whose name was not released, said that the incident “happened very quickly and I didn’t do it on purpose.” He apologized to Albert and did not deny that he was drunk.
However witnesses confirmed to Sporza radio that the act was intentional.
Albert and Roodhooft both emphasised that they had put the incident behind them and hoped that it “gives rise to an extensive analysis of the safety of the riders. Hopefully the appropriate measures."
Nys was quick to condemn the incident. "It does not belong in 'cross. I think sportsmanship is more important than the victory," he said on the Sports Weekend television show. "Such people should be banished for life. I do not want someone like that to be called a supporter of mine. I want nothing to do with them."
Nys won the Belgian title for the seventh time, with Albert finishing ninth. Albert conceded that he would probably not have won even if he had not been knocked down.