The final Superprestige cyclo-cross round in Middelkerke, Belgium, was supposed to salvage Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) his lackluster season. Albert had won two World Cup rounds but missed out on the overall win, finishing third behind Lars van der Haar (Rabobank Development Team) and teammate Philipp Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus). Albert won none of the Bpost Bank Trophy rounds and performed below par at the Belgian and the world championships.
In the Superprestige series Albert had won two rounds, Hamme-Zogge and Gieten, and he led the series by four points over Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink) when entering Sunday's final round in windy Middelkerke. His four-point lead meant he had to stay within three positions of Nys to claim the overall title.
While Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) managed an impressive solo in Middelkerke both Albert and Nys were struggling. For a long time Nys rode in fourth place while Albert was riding in seventh position. During the penultimate lap Nys bridged up to Dutch champion Lars van der Haar and left him behind in the final lap. Nys placed third while Albert could do no better than seventh.
The duo were now tied on overall points in the Superprestige series, both at 101, with Nys claiming the overall win as he won more Superprestige rounds (four to Albert's two).
"I never thought this would happen to me," Albert said. "I saw that Nys wasn't having a super day and there was never too many riders amongst us. It was possible today. I didn't know in what position Sven was riding. I just tried to get as fast to the finish as possible. It's like my whole season: I'm close but not close enough. That's not good enough to win any series.
"As a sportsman you have to be disappointed after a day like today," said Albert. "Right after the race I said my season was over. My team will have a lot of work with me. My head is no longer focused on racing. I don't want to ride like this, I don't want to train like this. There's no fun to it.
"I'm fighting as hard as I can to finish in seventh place. That's not my position. After Rome [World Cup] things stopped working for me. There were more drops than peeks. I want to forget about the 2013-2014 cyclo-cross season as soon as possible."
When searching for solutions Albert realizes many people have advice but not a lot is useful. "There's not a lot of people who raced at this level, let alone stand at the start line of a race like this. I'm often receiving criticism for the way I'm living for it.
"I'm actually doing more for it than other years but it seems like that's not in my favour. I'm inviting people to see what I'm doing for two weeks in Spain. I'm also doing monstrous training rides," Albert said, referring to Nys' tweets including training data. "Right now I need rest, distractions."