By Brecht Decaluwé in Ruddervoorde, Belgium
Sven Nys won the Belgian cyclo-cross championships for the sixth time on Sunday, holding off a last-lap charge from young rider Niels Albert by mere metres in Ruddervoorde where temperatures barely climbed over 0° Celsius. The new 'tricolore' jersey will now be added to his 2008-2009 accomplishments which to date include leads in the UCI, World Cup, Gazet van Antwerpen and Superprestige rankings.
Despite the arrival of several good young riders, the 32 year-old continues to dominate the European cyclo-cross circuit, despite switching over to MTB after last year's cyclo-cross season. "Six times is impressive. There were few occasions that I was truly defeated. When I didn't win it was because I crashed and when Wellens won it was more of a running race," Nys said.
"We expected that I would have some sort of collapse after my Olympic campaign but it didn't happen. I was more selective in terms of participating in cyclo-cross races and it paid off. I've made it through the Christmas weeks fresher than ever."
In front of 15,000 fans, Nys attacked from the gun to form an early selection. Only three riders were able to follow: Sven Vanthourenhout, Kevin Pauwels and Klaas Vantornout. Last year's under 23 champion, Niels Albert suffered a mechanical at the start and was forced to chase after taking a fresh bike.
"Niels Albert was coming back when Klaas was leading the group, but as soon as I put down the hammer the gap to Niels increased again. I wasn't looking at anybody as I figured nobody was comfortably on my wheel. Nobody could complete those laps faster than I did," Nys claimed.
On the seventh out of ten laps, Vantornout crashed, disrupting the lead group and giving Nys the sole leader's position. Albert waged a strong comeback to get within shouting distance of Nys on the last lap, but the latter dug deep to hold on to the victory. "I would never have forgiven myself if I would have given away the victory," Nys said.