Could we finally be witnessing the arrival of a cyclo-cross star with the ability to break beat Sven Nys' stranglehold on the scene? After the performance of young Belgian Niels Albert in Tabor last weekend, some of the sport's best have indicated that this may be the case. Judging by the reactions of Alberts' countrymen Nys and Wellens, the 2008-09 season may be the Palmans rider's to lose.
Niels Albert: "This is really my breakthrough"
Niels Albert spoke to Belgian press agency Belga after the biggest win of his career, and explained that, "The writing is now on the wall and I can ride the the rest of the season without too much stress. Yet it didn't all go smoothly. After the start Thijs Al fell behind me. His bars became stuck in my back wheel and I was forced to run, which dropped me back six or seven places.
"It took until halfway through the race before I really came to the front. With just under three laps 'til the end I felt my time had come. I still felt fresh enough to attack and I immediately hit a gap of 10 or 15 seconds. That's when I knew the prize was mine. To make up 15 seconds on this fast track is a nigh impossible task. At last I took a victory after my results from the Superprestige and the Gazet van Antwerpen Trophy. It's a really great victory because I also beat three strong Czechs in their own country. This is really my breakthrough."
Sven Nys: "I got the chance to tackle Alberts from behind"
"I felt that Niels Albert would get a good start and I was ready to jump on his wheel, but I was never given a chance," said Nys. "Françis Mourey was difficult – I knew this after I had passed the stairs. Precisely at the time that I wanted to pass him, he unclipped from his pedals, lost balance and I fell against him. Immediately the race was over for me while it all still had yet to begin. I proved that I was [physically] ready by moving up from ninth to fourth position. But it was not to be. Fortunately, this is not a disaster. After such a setback I was still fourth and only ten points down in the World Cup on Niels Albert, so it is not so bad. It could be worse."
"I had a good start, but suddenly the pack moved to the wrong side and I was swarmed," said Wellens. "Several riders came down around Niels Albert and I was involved. I think that my fight back shows that I'm okay. Had there been another lap, I may have even got onto the podium. I can safely say that Niels Albert was the strongest man there. He has the ability to go for the kill, something I don't. I hope that he isn't as strong riding during the rest of the winter otherwise we are seriously in trouble."