Broken rib for world champion Albert
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Monday, January 11, 2010

Broken rib for world champion Albert

by Conal Andrews at 6:15 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross, National Championships
 

With the defence of his title now just three weeks away, it has been revealed that world champion Niels Albert suffered a broken rib in his fall during yesterday’s Belgian cyclo-cross championships in Oostmalle. He was knocked from his bike by a spectator, and lost contact with the leading riders. Sven Nys had been ramping up the pace at the time, and went on to win.

Confirming the news of the injury, BKCP team manger Christophe Roodhooft said that his immediate race programme has been affected. It remains to be seen if the injury will have an impact on his goal to take the rainbow jersey once more.

“With the broken rib Niels cannot race in Otegem (Monday),” he said. “The World Cup cross in Roubaix on Sunday may be compromised.

“We want the rest of the season to finish calmly. The facts remain as they are and it is unfortunate that the statements of the man involved - who coolly explains that he is a supporter of Albert while being amongst the fans of another rider – are taken to be more important than those of the rider himself.”

Albert said after the race that it was a supporter of Sven Nys who pulled him down, and this was reportedly backed up by a number of accounts. The specatator has been named as Patrick Beniest, and apparently came to the race with supporters from St Lievens-Houtem.

“It happened very quickly and I did not do it on purpose,” he was reported by Sporza as saying. “It was slippery where we were and I slid away. I tried to keep upright and bumped against Albert…

“I also encouraged all riders, including Albert. I’m more a fan of his than of Nys, as he has guts. Sorry Niels.”

Nys has been critical of the incident, saying that he does not support the behaviour. “This does not belong in cross,” he said, according to the same Belgian paper. “I think [good] sportsmanship is more important than the victory. Such people should be banned for life. I don’t want someone like this to be called a supporter of mine. I want nothing to do with that.”

The new champion has also had problems at races from over-zealous fans, and wants this matter to act as a turning point. “It is far too common. I hope that in the next few days people use their brains and they will behave.”

Albert said after the race that Nys was the strongest rider, appearing to acknowledge that the victory might have gone the same way had the problem not happened. Roodhooft echoed this, underlining that they were not claiming that Albert would have triumphed.

“We have never called the victory of Nys into question…we are not saying that Albert could have won otherwise,” he explained. “[But] we hope that the incident gives rise to an extensive analysis of the safety of the riders. Hopefully the appropriate measures are taken.”

Beniest has been reported as someone who normally supports soccer rather than cyclo-cross, and is unlikely to be welcome at any upcoming events due to the furore his actions have caused. He denied reports that he was very drunk.

“I was not so sick that I did not know what I did,” he insisted. “Actually, there should be a better fence as it wobbled very badly.”

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