As the most watched rider in cyclo-cross, Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) is getting a break from the attention heading into the World Championships in Sankt Wendel on January 30, courtesy of a flu bug three weeks before the big event. Nys is thankful for the lowered pressure, but is the tradeoff of ideal Worlds preparation worth it? Nys assures Cyclingnews he has it all under control, both physically and mentally.
"When I feel really strong for a whole period of races like in Baal and Tervuren and Loenhout and everything is going so well, you hope you can hold onto that condition for Worlds. But when there is two to three days of illness, it's not good. When I was younger I maybe panicked but now that I'm a little bit older I know what I must do to have a good feeling at World Championships when I have two weeks of time to work with – that's what I'm hoping," explains Nys.
With a little more than a week to get to top form, Nys remains optimistic. "The form is not perfect at the moment. It's difficult to have the really good feeling back in a short period, but it's getting better every day. This week I mostly trained on the road. I also trained a lot behind the motorcycle for the speed and distance. The last of my preparation I'll get in the races this weekend. I hope I can race at Hoogerheide again for the podium. If I can, then I think I will be ready for the World Championships."
Paralleling his returning fitness, his motivation is coming along nicely. Part of this is due to the event's location where Nys has had much success in the past, including his sole Elite World Cyclo-Cross Championship victory in 2005. "I also won the World Cup in Sankt Wendel the year before I won Worlds there. And I had a strong race at the Mountain Bike European Championships there [in 2008 – 16th place]. Of course that's good for my mind."
As for his competitors who are feeling the increased pressure from press and media, Nys says, "Niels [Albert of BKCP-Powerplus] is really strong at this part of the season. We've also seen last weekend that Kevin Pauwels [Telenet-Fidea] is riding strong. And [current World Champion Zdenek] Stybar is coming back." By "coming back", Nys is referring to Stybar's extended training camp in Mallorca that is expected to help him regain the dominant form he enjoyed early in the season.
Nys enthusiastically adds, "For me it's not bad that they speak a lot about those three riders, so I can go to the World Championships with not so much pressure because I'm not the only guy who they must beat. There are now three or four guys who are really strong for the moment. It's totally different than a few years ago when there was only one guy who they must try to beat. And then the pressure was really high [on me.]"
In addition to pressure coming from outside sources, there is also the pressure that Nys puts on himself which he plans to keep at bay. "World Championships are important but my season is already perfect. I had a little bit of bad luck but I won most nice races like Koppenberg, Asper-Gavere, Overijse, and my own race in Baal. The pressure is not really high."
As for the younger racers that are to one day overthrow his reign, Nys says, "Those young guys must beat me because they are ten years younger while I already won everything I want to win in my career. But of course I'm motivated to try and beat them again."