Going into the Belgian cyclo-cross championships Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) was one of the two favourites - together with Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) to sport the tricolore jersey for the next 365 days. The Belgian media was getting ready for a great duel between the two citizens of Baal. It was to be a fight between the new and old generation, as the two men from Baal differ in age by 10 years.
When the race got underway, Nys was consistently riding in the top three, while Albert had a poor start and had to work his way back up from about 10th position. While Albert was moving up Nys got stuck in third place, and Albert sneaked past Nys and powered through the sand towards sole leader Kevin Pauwels (Telenet-Fidea).
One lap later, Nys still hadn't bridged up towards the front, and to the surprise of many, he even started to lose ground. Albert dominated the race while Nys rode anonymously around eighth position. The defending Belgian champion didn't bother to finish the last lap and headed for his camper. Cyclingnews was one of the privileged media to enter the camper and listen to the dethroned Belgian champion.
The atmosphere in the Nys camp was deceptive as its leader wasn't able to put up a fight against eventual winner Albert. While sitting there, Sven's wife Isabelle Nijs tried to keep their dog Trouble away from the people' feet.
"After 300 metres I knew it wasn't going to happen today. During the first lap, the pace wasn't high in front, but I felt that I couldn't go any faster. I didn't have the feeling that I was suffering," said Nys.
"Every time I exited the sand section, I was aching for air. I had that feeling before, but often it gets better during the race. It's something I haven't felt during the last few months. Already during course reconnaissance, I didn't feel great. It's weird because I'm not feeling ill. But just like you, I'm looking for reasons."
"Sometimes sport is easy, sometimes complicated. This time it's complicated. For now it's been a bad day, end of the line," Nys said right after his race.
Being a seven-time Belgian champion Nys will have to get used not to be wearing the tricolor jersey, but he wasn't disappointed. "If I would have lost the race in the last lap or if I'd made a technical mistake, then I would be disappointed," Nys said.
A few hours later, the reason for Nys' off-day became clear when Nys' wife Isabelle Nijs said her husband had fever. "When we arrived home, it was clear what the reason was. Sven was shaking all over - his body warm and cold at the same time with a constant feeling of nausea. There are all clear symptoms of the flu. Sven went to bed right away," Isabelle Nijs said.
Nys called off his participation for the small national race in Otegem on Monday. He'll be focusing on next week's World Cup round in Pont-Château, France.