Belgian cyclocross coach seeks to quell talk of civil war in Worlds team
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Monday, January 24, 2011

Belgian cyclocross coach seeks to quell talk of civil war in Worlds team

by Ben Atkins at 12:09 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross, World Championships
Rudy De Bie is confident that his riders will not ride against one another in St-Wendel this weekend

niels albertBelgian cyclocross coach Rudy De Bie is playing down talk of a civil war within the national team at this coming Sunday’s World Championships. Recent statements from Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) and Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) have indicated that neither expect the Belgians to work together, and Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) expressed bitterness about being chased down by Nys early on in last year’s race, but De Bie is keen to stress that this does not mean that his captains will deliberately race against one another.

“What he says is nothing new,” he told Het Nieuwsblad, referring to Niels Albert’s statements, “Sven Nys said the same thing earlier, albeit in different words.”

After his victory in yesterday’s World Cup race in Hoogerheide, Netherlands, that gave him an overwhelming victory in the overall competition, Albert expressed doubts that the Belgians would work together this coming weekend.

“On the contrary,” he told Het Nieuwsblad, “I think in St-Wendel we certainly won’t ride as a block. I will ride the race on my own feelings.

“Yes of course there are national interests,” he explained. “and naturally it would be best for a Belgian to win the World Championships. But you also have to be realistic, we race 40 days against each other and one day together; it’s not obvious.

“I’m with it in principle,” Albert added, “if I have too much to consider in the race, just let my legs do the talking.”

Albert’s comments mirrored those of Sven Nys who, speaking after the World Cup race in Pontchâteau, France, expressed similar doubts about the Belgians working together.

sven nys"A Belgian coalition?” said Nys, according to Sporza, in response to a French reporter’s question. “That would be difficult, very difficult. We simply have a number of riders that can be world champion.”

The last time, and only time in recent memory, that the Belgians worked together was in Hoogerheide in 2009, when Albert attacked early on and the rest of his compatriots conspired to thwart the efforts of the Netherlands’ Lars Boom. Both Nys and Albert have ruled out a similar tactic this time to see off Belgium’s biggest rival this time, the Czech Republic’s defending champion Zdenek Stybar though; it was Boom’s mouth, and provocative comments before the 2009 race, and not his quality as a competitor, that caused the coalition that time.

"That's the only time that this happened,” explained Albert. “Because everybody especially wanted to beat Boom. He had us all against him by alienating us with his advance predictions.

“Now it's different,” he said, “Stybar is just a competitor like any other.”

Partly due to a knee injury that wrecked the mid part of Stybar’s season, Albert, Nys and Kevin Pauwels (Telenet-Fidea) currently sit in the top three places in the International Cycling Union (UCI) rankings. De Bie sincerely hopes that these rankings will be reflected in Sunday’s result, or at least that the three riders don’t act to cancel each other out to Stybar’s advantage. He will speak to his riders, he says but knows that to lecture them would be a waste of time.

“Those guys are paid by their sponsors,” said De Bie, “who also has demands. We will have a week together as a team, but I will not give them a sermon; it would be futile.

“I will remind them of their responsibility to the Belgian ‘cross public,” he explained, “because it’s thanks to those crowds that they earn a living. I just want them to not deliberately ride towards the team’s downfall.”

Stybar may be the deciding factor in the way that the Belgian team rides. In yesterday’s World Cup race the outgoing World champion made the early running before fading in the later stages to eventually finish fourth behind Albert, Nys and Pauwels. Stybar has recently been on an extended training camp in Mallorca, even missing out on the Pontchâteau World Cup, in order to be in the freshest condition possible for Sunday. On the evidence of Hoogerheide, it may well be that he has miscalculated and robbed himself of race fitness just at the wrong time.

If this is anything like the case the the Belgians will have it virtually their own way and we may well witness a full on civil war on Sunday.


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