Together with eventual winner Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink), it was Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) who carried the weight of being pre-race favourite.
While Nys more than lived up to the expectations Albert failed. He briefly pulled in front, early on, without causing major damage and then faded away when Nys surged forward, eventually abandoning halfway the race.
Cyclingnews caught up with a disillusioned Albert when he arrived at his camper. “I had two really bad laps, the second and the third. I didn’t have the day that I wanted to have. I even struggled to close the gap on the chasers.
Today I wasn’t good enough for a championships race,” Albert said. When Nys accelerated in the third lap Albert moved to the front of the chase group.
Those good intentions were ruined little later when he bobbled when riding through a deep ditch. In the following lap Albert slipped away at the Irish bank, one of the multiple obstacles of the horse racing track. In no time Albert ended up riding alone at more than half a minute from Nys and one lap later that was nearly a minute. His team manager Christophe Roodhooft indicated it was game over. During the sixth lap Albert abandoned the race.
“If I’m not racing for second or third place then it doesn’t make sense for me and I quit the race. Not every year is the same. My season isn’t ruined by this race,” Albert said.
In the 2013-2014 season Niels Albert already won the World Cup rounds in Koksijde and Rome, the Superprestige rounds in Hamme-Zogge and Gieten and four other races. The 27 year-old was Belgian champion in 2011 and a two-time world champion (2009 and 2012).