Belgian coach worried about Niels Albert, tipping Zdenek Stybar
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Belgian coach worried about Niels Albert, tipping Zdenek Stybar

by Ben Atkins at 8:34 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross, World Championships
 

Belgian national cyclocross coach Rudy De Bie is hopeful that World Champion Niels Albert can recover from his broken rib in time to defend his rainbow jersey in Tabor, Czech Republic on January 31st. De Bie, in an interview with Sport.be, admits that the nature of Albert’s injury has him worried.

"A broken rib is a serious injury where the rider is usually seriously affected for a few weeks,” said De Bie. “It is such a painful injury that you can sleep difficult. We need at least to pay Niels a compliment for the way he performed in the World Cup race in Roubaix [where he finished 8th – ed]. We hope he can be at his best again at the World Championships."

As well as current rainbow jersey Albert, the Belgian team includes three former World Champions in Sven Nys (2005), Bart Wellens (2003 & 2004) and Erwin Vervecken (2001, 2006 & 2007). On top of this, former junior and under-23 World champion Kevin Pauwels won December’s World Cup race in Zolder, Belgium, and Bart Aernouts and Klaas Vantournout have been competitive in virtually every race this season.

Like many national teams heading into World Championships, Belgium is faced with the problem of getting a number of top riders to collaborate for the benefit the national good.

"Everybody wants to win,” he said. “We are faced with many individuals with a lot of ambition in our selection."

According to De Bie, he will discuss advance tactics with the riders but this will not impose a definite role for each one during the race.

"The role that a rider gets is not imposed in advance, but will only be given during the race. Riders will get a certain role depending on the progress of the race. It is clear that if the race breaks up at the start, then it will be more of an individual contest."

De Bie is well aware that the there is a very real chance that the new World Champion will not be a Belgian and sees Czech champion Zdenek Stybar as the main favourite. "Anyone who follows cyclocross has seen that Stybar has ridden superbly this season,” he said. “In his homeland he will be the man to beat."

On top of the problem of getting all of his favourites to co-operate, De Bie is also faced with the issue of riders from different countries potentially working with their trade teammates. This is where he has taken affirmative action to prevent his Belgian riders working towards a Stybar victory.

"The key for us is that there is a Belgian World champion,” he said. “We have two riders in our selection who ride on the same team as Stybar [Pauwels and Wellens ride with Stybar for Telenet-Fidea – ed]. To avoid problems, the riders have signed a behaviour charter – just like last year – saying that they will ride for their country first."

"These are clear agreements with the riders themselves and I am convinced that the riders will keep to the agreements they have made."

If the Belgians manage to work together – as they did in 2009, when Albert took the rainbow jersey and Nys took the bronze medal behind him – then they could conceivably beat Stybar on his home turf. Whether or not Albert will be competitive remains to be seen.

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