“Stybar was too strong.” The always pro king of cross Sven Nys summed it up perfectly after the Cyclocross World Championships where he finished second to defending champion Zdenek Stybar.
The duel came to take place Stybar vs Nys, Czech vs Belgian, 25-year old vs 34-year old. The two marked each other from the first lap and then with six laps to go in St Wendel, they were off the front together.
After finishing third at the Hoogerheide World Cup, Nys quickly stated the name of his main competitor for the rainbow jersey: Stybar.
“When I’m really strong enough and I go to the final with Niels [Albert] and Kevin [Pauwels], I think it’s possible to win. When you go with Stybar to the final, it’s really dangerous in the last lap because he’s doing what I do, and when I think I must do that, he’s doing it also and I don’t know if I can win, maybe I can lose but that’s the dangerous guy to ride with on the last lap. The other guys it’s possible, Stybar may be also but then everything must be 100% perfect.”
Both have won the Worlds before at the Elite level, Stybar the previous year in Tabor and Nys in 2005 in St Wendel. Who would take it this year? Both had also faced injuries and/or illnesses this season. Nys was felled by a virus on the day of the Belgian Championships, which cost him his chance at winning the driekleur jersey, the black, yellow and red jersey of the National Champion, for the 8th time.
But Nys did not use the illness as an excuse. “This year I was ill but today I was on my maximum.”
He went on to say, “Maybe the race was not hard enough because it’s a race like the World Championships were the last few years, not technical just hard racing.”
Known for his superb technical skills, Nys does prefer races such as Koppenberg, Aspere-Gavere, Baal, all races that he has won this year and multiple times before. “That are totally different races with a lot of technical skills, a lot of mud, some running and here it’s full speed and it’s more a race for Stybar. Today we saw it, he was a little bit stronger than me and of course he didn’t race the whole season.”
Every year, Nys races the whole season without focusing on a single event. In our previous 1-1, he knew that it could impact his World Championship but he doesn’t want to change his ways even though he came second on Sunday.
“I like my sport and I like to race all the races in Belgium. I am second today and maybe you can see put everything on the Worlds but you’re going to be ill two weeks before then it’s bad that you don’t race the whole season. Maybe some times I win again the World Championships, we’ll see but I’m happy with my season.”
Back to the race, with four laps to go, Stybar and Nys were still together and then Stybar attacked and Nys just could not follow, a surprise for the Belgian. “I was riding very well but it was one acceleration too many for me but after that I was still riding fast.”
Then a flat where Nys lost a few more seconds but he could not have caught Stybar anyways. “ I lost again 5,6 seconds but it was not enough to win today but I am really happy with my second place. I am 10 years older and I won here before and I’m really happy with my second place because I’ve done everything, I raced a perfect race, just a small flat tire but otherwise I’m really happy with my second place, it was, for me, the maximum.”
Even though he didn’t win the rainbow, Nys was not disappointed and is certainly not ready to stop racing. “I’m motivated and when you come here and you see all the crowds, it’s not so difficult to motivate myself, it’s one of the nicest things you can do. I’m really strong, I’m standing two times first in overall ranking classifications, I was ill on the Belgian Championships but I think I’m riding [only] five times not on the podium this season so I don’t think you see it on my level that I am 35. I like my job, I like my sport and I want to try to promote the sport for as long as possible. Today I was second but I’m not disappointed because I was the second strongest today.”
As for Stybar’s win, Nys concluded, “It’s very good for the sport because it is an international sport not only in Belgium and Stybar is a great champion.”
Nys took over the UCI standings with his second place at Worlds and he’s not done racing cross this season. He also currently leads the Superprestige and GvA Series and wants to win them all…again.