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2003 CX Worlds

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2004 World Cyclo-cross Championships - CM

Pont-Château, France, January 31-February 1, 2004

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January 31 - Junior Men: 40 Minutes

Albert crowns season with first World's win

By Chris Henry in Pont-Château, with additional reporting by Mélanie Leveau

Niels Albert, world champion
Photo ©: Chris Henry/Cyclingnews

Belgian Niels Albert opened the Cyclo-cross World Championships festivities in Pontchâteau Saturday, delighting his followers and compatriots with a convincing win in the junior men's race.

Despite pleasant temperatures and a dry course Friday, the climate has returned to what could have been predicted all along: rain, cold, and a driving wind. No matter for the world's top juniors, as they careened around the course and the leaders left no doubt that only the strongest would win. Niels' closest competition came from Czech Roman Kreuziger, son of a cyclo-cross racer, and top French hope Clément Lhotellerie, offering a repeat of the podium from the European championships this season.

"I knew I had to drop Kreuziger in the last lap, since I knew he would be faster if it came down to a sprint," Albert commented after his win. "The race was harder than I expected, and after the rain this morning I didn't expect to do this well, but in the end I succeeded."

Clément Cid of France
Photo ©: CN

The Belgians took control from the drop of the flag, setting a very fast pace despite the worsening conditions of the parcours. With several riders among the leaders through the first turns, Belgium kept the pressure on even if the field stayed largely together for the first ten minutes. A crash slowed many in the group on the first lap, and eventually Niels made the first selection with Kreuziger on his wheel. The French duo of Lhotellerie and Clément Cid trailed by just 8 and 17 seconds, setting the stage for the fight for the final podium.

Albert from this point on never relinquished his position at the head of the race. Kreuziger hung tough, but stayed mostly on the Belgian's wheel, preferring to let him take the pressure of leading the race. Eventually, Kreuziger ran into trouble as his legs tired in the fourth of six laps, allowing Albert to establish a crucial gap between the two leaders. The two Frenchmen in pursuit often worked together, cheered on as they put in a superb performance on home soil. France, in fact, finished second to the Czech Republic in combined results, with four riders in the top ten. Albert, on the other hand, was the only Belgian to crack the top ten, but his victory surely erased any disappointment the team might have felt.

The main chase group
Photo ©: CN

"I can't have any regrets [about finishing third], since I was dropped on the very first lap," explained a subdued Lhotellerie. "I felt good, I think I rode a good race, but clearly the two riders ahead were stronger."

As Albert continued to put the pressure on Kreuziger, the gap became permanent, and barring disaster the Belgian became increasingly aware that he was on his way to the rainbow jersey. Kreuziger couldn't relax, knowing that Lhotellerie and Cid were a good distance behind but still scrambling for the silver and bronze medals. By the fifth lap, Albert's gaps to Kreuziger and Lhotellerie were up to 18" and 1'09".

Into the final lap, with the rain easing but the Belgian cheers growing louder by the minute, Albert surged ahead through the mud and mess of the Coët-Roz circuit. Never losing his composure, he entered the final straight behind stragglers from the previous lap to realize just what he had accomplished. Congratulated by his team, his fans, and his girlfriend at the finish, the former BMX rider Albert confirmed his successful season and European title with a first rainbow jersey after just three years of riding cyclo-cross.

The American contingent struggled with the high speed and abysmal conditions, although James Driscoll rode strongly all day and more than held his own to finish a credible 22nd place, 3'52 behind Albert.


Images by Chris Henry/Cyclingnews.com


1 Niels Albert (Belgium)               40.33 (23.822 km/h)
2 Roman Kreuziger (Czech Republic)      0.22
3 Clément Lhotellerie (France)          1.29
4 Clément Cid (France)                  1.47
5 Petr Novotny (Czech Republic)         1.49
6 Jan Skarnitzl (Czech Republic)        2.05
7 René Lang (Switzerland)               2.10
8 Thijs Van Amerongen (Nederlands)      2.44
9 Damien Robert (France)                2.46
10 Jonathan Lopez (France)                  
11 Jempy Drucker (Luxembourg)           2.51
12 Rikke Dijkxhoorn (Nederlands)        3.08
13 Christoph Pfingsten (Germany)        3.10
14 Delio Fernandez Cruz (Spain)         3.17
15 Philip Walsleben (Germany)           3.19
16 Ricardo Van De Velde (Nederlands)    3.23
17 Julien Berard (France)               3.27
18 Quincy Vens (Belgium)                    
19 Ales Broz (Czech Republic)           3.36
20 Fabio Ursi (Italia)                  3.40
21 Jeroen Dingemans (Belgium)           3.48
22 Jamey Driscoll (United States)       3.52
23 Federico Piccin (Italia)             3.54
24 Julien Taramarcaz (Switzerland)      4.09
25 Miguel Valles Fernandez (Spain)      4.16
26 Karol Wrobel (Poland)                4.22
27 Rafael Nick (Switzerland)            4.31
28 Bart Verschueren (Belgium)           4.33
29 Michal Prachar (Slovakia)            4.52
30 Michael Qvindjerg (Denemark)         4.57
31 Davy De Scheemaeker (Belgium)        5.06
32 Sascha Wagner (Germany)              5.14
33 Marco Weilenmann (Switzerland)       5.23
34 Ian Bibby (Great Britain)                
35 Rik Van Ijzendoorn (Nederlands)          
36 Davide Malacarne (Italia)                
37 Jan Verhaegh (Nederlands)            5.33
38 Ondrej Bambula (Czech Republic)          
39 Konrad Lebas (United States)         5.39
40 Alex Atkins (Great Britain)              
41 Przemyslaw Taciak (Poland)           5.44
42 Jokin Irazola Asua (Spain)               
43 Krzysztof Wieczorek (Poland)         6.06
44 Hugo Alfonso Martinez Rus (Spain)    6.18
45 Andrea Spessotto (Italia)            6.26
46 Tucker Thomas (United States)        6.39
47 Akira Ishii (Japan)                  6.48
48 Michal Lorenc (Poland)               7.47
49 Gabriele Mercante (Italia)               
50 Adam Switters (United States)        8.01
51 Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spain)      8.09
52 Karol Sroka (Poland)                 8.24
53 Paul Voss (Germany)                  8.33
DNF Andy Brooks (United States)             
DNF Ben Crawforth (Great Britain)           
Nations Ranking
1 Czech Republic                          13 pts
2 France                                  16
3 Nederlands                              36
4 Belgium                                 40
5 Switzerland                             58
6 Germany                                 60
7 Italia                                  79
8 Spain                                   81
9 United States                          107
10 Poland                                110
11 Great Britain                          74
12 Luxembourg                             11
13 Slovakia                               29
14 Denemark                               30
15 Japan                                  47