After the 2014 Cyclocross World Championships in Hoogerheide, a group of Belgian fans pushing a garbage bin told me, "Niels Albert is in there!". A joke, but maybe more like frustration about Niels's poor performance in the World Championships.
Some seasoned cyclocross viewers say that Niels Albert is mentally weak. There is some truth in that. See this about Niels dancing with his bike in frustration. How much better he would be if he was just that bit mentally stronger? We will never know. We will also never know how many more CX World Championships he will win. At 28, he is already a double world champion (2009, 2012).
Niels Albert is the best cyclocross-er I have seen in the sand. No one rides the sand like him. An exceptionally gifted bike handler. A strong runner. And always fun to watch. Once, at the BPost Bank Trofee at Lille, Niels shouted angrily at me because I almost knocked him off the bike when making a picture.
I am very dismayed about his abrupt retirement because of a previously undetected heart problem. I did not see it coming. Neither did the cyclocross community. And I think Niels did not see it coming too. It is a big loss to cyclocross. CX will not be the same without him. However, health is more important. And I wish him big success in whatever he decides to do next.
A celebration to Niels' entertaining racing - play the music, and enjoy my pictures of Niels Albert over the 2013/2014 cyclocross season.
Who do I cheer for now?