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Cyclo-cross star Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) is riding a two-year long final farewell tour, but it turns out he isn't experiencing it as an easy stroll to retirement. The 36-year-old Belgian champion has racked up no less than nine wins so far this season, the largest part of them in the most important races. He has four out of four wins in the Superprestige series and two out of three wins in the Bpost Bank Trophy series. His latest two came back-to-back in a single weekend.
"Too bad I ran into bad luck in the World Cup," Nys said after his win in Asper-Gavere at the Superprestige round on Sunday. During both Czech World Cup rounds, Nys suddenly went backward: in Tábor due to a mechanical and in Plzen due to a crash.
"The classifications are no obsession though. I just try to win as many nice wins as possible," said Nys. "The intermediate sprint for bonus seconds in the Bpost Bank Trophy? If it doesn't cost me too much energy, I do it. But like in Ronse, I didn't push on because it was too early in the season to go to the bottom. [The classifications] is not on my mind during a race."
His rivals are left to fight over the scraps. World champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) won six races, of which two are in the series. Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) won one race: the World Cup in Tábor.
Nys has an explanation for his dominance. "I don't think I've ever been this good. I've certainly got more punch in my legs than other years. I can make a jump. I've also got the insights and experience of... a 36-year-old. Like yesterday [Saturday, in Hasselt]. It was a dream to ride like that. Closing the gap with the leaders whenever I wanted to. Today [Asper-Gavere, on Sunday] I was aware the Klaas Vantornout was able to ride a very fast last lap. I watch the races on TV and though he's not always riding near the front, he's always fast in the last lap. They don't surprise me anymore."
"Also, [former world champion] Zdenek Stybar is no longer in the sport. Niels needs to focus on all the series [whereas injuries forced him to focus on individual races in the past] and the weather circumstances haven't been favouring Kevin Pauwels. So maybe I'm better but there are other factors too," Nys said.
When asked whether a comeback from former cyclo-cross world champions Stybar and Lars Boom from the road to the field would be possible, Nys was doubtful. The longer the duo remain pure road racers, the harder it will be for either of them to ride at the highest level in cyclo-cross.
"It would be harder for Boom. Stybar is more of a pure cyclo-cross rider. Cyclo-cross riders who focus solely on the road typically morph a little. They gain a few pounds. If Stybar wants to come back he should decide this year."