Monday, May 19, 2014

Beste Wensen, Niels Albert!

I can’t let today end without mentioning Niels Albert, whose retirement from the top ranks of professional cyclocross has shocked and saddened fans everywhere. The 28-year-old Belgian, a two-time world champion, has a cardiac arrhythmia for which there is no effective medical treatment. Continuing to race would literally put his life in danger, and he has made a wise but emotionally painful choice to walk away.

I don’t want to sound like I’m writing an epitaph—there is no reason to think Albert will not have a long and happy life—but I will remember him as a prolific winner who, on his better days, could simply ride away from Sven Nys, Zdeněk Štybar, Kevin Pauwels, Tom Meeusen and all other rivals. Albert wasn’t always the best starter, but if he got to the front of the race it was usually bad news for everyone else. What he lacked in flash he more than made up for with well-practiced technical competence and quiet determination. Hopefully he will find a way to stay close to the sport he loves.

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