Niels Albert and Lars Boom clash over lack of cooperation in Zolder World Cup
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Niels Albert and Lars Boom clash over lack of cooperation in Zolder World Cup

by Ben Atkins at 11:12 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross
 
Belgian and Dutch cyclocross champions in disagreement over the chase of the race’s top three

niels albertMidway around the fourth of nine laps in yesterday’s cyclocross World Cup race in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium, the race-winning trio of Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor), Zdenek Stybar (Quick Step) and Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) escaped. The three leaders crossed the line just fifteen seconds ahead of a six-man chase group; there was no organisation in the chase though, and Belgian champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) could be seen remonstrating with Dutch champion Lars Boom (Rabobank) as the rolled over.

Both riders clearly had different ideas over the best course of action to take, since both have very different objectives this season. Albert has recently returned to racing after almost six weeks out with a broken wrist, while Boom is riding just six races this winter, to keep his training interesting and prepare for the Spring Classics.

For Albert though, his eventual eighth place was a far cry from his victory in the Diegem Superprestige just three days before.

“I knew that I’d also get bad results after my comeback,” Albert told the Belgian media. “If they’re not going to cooperate in the chasing group then we won’t catch up. I did ask Lars Boom to take over, but he answered ‘I’m not chasing’

“Then I decided that I wouldn’t bother either, so I saved my legs in the final half hour. What difference does it make if I finish fourth or eighth?”

Neither rider has any chance at all of finishing high up in the overall World Cup classification, with Albert starting the competition badly in the two Czech races and missing the Koksijde, Belgium, and Igorre, Spain, races; while Boom’s short winter season means that he was only to ride the Belgian races of Namur and Heusden-Zolder.

Nevertheless, Albert feels that the day’s result was worth chasing, even if it would have meant nothing in the rankings.

“I don’t understand what Boom was thinking,” he said. “The overall classification is out of reach for both of us, but we’re there to make a race of it anyway.”

lars boomFor Boom though, the answer is simple, he is not there for results and obviously saw no reason to drag the group across to the leaders.

“Why should I take part in the chase?” said the Dutchman to Het Nieuwsblad. “I’m only riding a few ‘cross races this season, and I don’t care about the results. It’s not for me to close gaps and bring the others back.”

Boom finished the race in seventh place, just eight seconds ahead of Albert; for the winner of last year’s edition of the race, this doesn’t matter though, with the only race he cares about being the one to retain his red, white and blue driekleur on January 8th.

“I’m lacking in race fitness,” he explained. “The next few races will improve my form, especially with a view to the Dutch championships.”

Boom is no stranger to the ire of the top Belgians, partly because he is one of the few riders from abroad that can threaten their hegemony – along with Stybar – in a branch of the sport that they all but own. The Dutchman’s trash talking in the 2008/09 season, when he was World champion, did indirectly work in Albert’s favour though; Boom’s threat saw a very rare bit of cooperation between the Belgians in the World championships in Hoogerheide, Netherlands, in January 2009, which saw Albert ride to a solo victory.

The two champions’ relationship, and whether things have soured, will be tested this coming Wednesday in the Azencross, in Loenhout, just outside Antwerp.

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