TABOR, Czech Republic – “Why do we go to Tabor, why do all those Belgian fans bother to go there? They are just not worth it. What I’m saying is maybe hard, but I’m really frustrated after this World Championship.”
This is what Roland Liboton had to say to Het Nieuwsblad last Monday on the performance of the Belgian squad in Tabor. Liboton, one of the most successful cyclocross riders of the 1980’s and a member of the Belgian Cycling Federation (he approved courses for the federation), had even more pointed and detailed complaints of his country’s showing at the 2015 World Championships.
His complaints of riders from his nation included the following: The tire selection that was initially on Eli Iserbyt’s bike at the start line, which arguably cost him the chance to keep pace with the leader; the decision to have Wout van Aert ride a new, untested bike, and although he wasn’t explicit, he seemed to blame this for the mechanical problems; and he also heavily critiqued Sven Nys’ riding, which to him looked like going backwards more than going forwards.
Worst of all, in Liboton’s mind, was the way many Belgians celebrated after the event. The comment he offered Het Nieuwsblad would have also likely got him canned in the Untied States for other reasons: “[The way they celebrated] to me is the pinnacle [problem]. I mention no names, but they were pros. No flat rate they had ridden. All failed. And then they dance [in a night-club] bare-chested, exactly like women around a pole. Just disgusting.”
What should the riders have done, in his opinion? “If we do not win a World Championship, we should be crying in our room.”
The Belgian Cycling Federation took action on his unabashed comments, mostly due to the heavy critique of Nys’ performance. According to Het Nieuwsblad, Liboton was first given a message through email then by phone: he needed to publicly apologize to Nys.
Soon after, he was removed from his position, although whether the move is permanent or temporary is still up for debate. “There is too much to say after the World Championship and we needed Roland temporarily away from the field. We want to let the situation cool,” Eddy Lissens, Coordinator of the Committee Cyclocross of the Belgian Union, told Het Nieuwsblad.
Stay tuned for updates on this developing story.