Albert overcomes mental struggles in Hamme-Zogge

The win from Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) in the Superprestige cyclo-cross race of Hamme-Zogge was the first major win for the Belgian this season. After two early season C2 wins, the 27 year-old faded away and no longer managed to fight for the victories when it mattered. The tide turned at the Superprestige round in Zonhoven when Albert showed the guts to challenge Nys in the final lap.

"After the race in Laarne, I made the mistake to keep training while my body needed a break," Albert said after his win on Sunday. "It's not because you train more that you ride faster; instead of going faster I went slower. One tries to tweak his body like a motorbike, but that's not how it works. It probably was a youth mistake."

Being over-trained was combined with another factor. Albert explained that he was struggling mentally, for example at the Koppenbergcross. "There was fear. I rode in front with Vantornout but instead of adding another notch for half a lap to keep the rest at a distance, I feared that I would blow up. That didn't make sense. I was like a football player who's an OK player but can't find his way to the goal. Ones he scores there's the confidence for much more. That's how I was riding. I wasn't finding the right rhythm.

"I worked a lot with mental coach Paul Heylen. He told me to keep smiling. After a race I had three seconds to be mad or to be happy. The past few weeks I haven't trained a lot. In Zonhoven I showed guts and it nearly delivered me the victory."

While Zonhoven turned out to be a turning point, the result of Albert's work came in Hamme-Zogge. "I came here hoping not to lose too many points on the others. It turned out the opposite way. I'm gaining points back. It's a sort of relief. Of course I'd rather drive back home with a win than a seventh place in the pocket. The course was made for big engines with its mud and running sections."

In the overall classification of the Superprestige series Albert now holds seconds place at only three points from world champion Sven Nys (Crelan-Euphony). Albert believes he can grab the overall win. "The next races suit me as well. I'd like to keep the overall win in the Superprestige series in Tremelo-Baal. Nys already took twelve overall Superprestige wins but thirteen is an odd number, isn't it," Albert said while winking to Nys who sat next to him in the post-race press tent.

"I have to thank my wife Chantal, Christoph Roodhooft [team manager] and Paul Ponnet [coach] and everybody else who kept their faith in me. Maybe the key to this win was the fact that I went to the bakery to pick up the pistolets this morning. I'll do it again tomorrow," a smiling Albert said.

On Monday Albert races in Niel. Next week the fourth round of the Superprestige series is held in Asper-Gavere.

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