Belgian cyclo-cross champion Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet Tonissteiner) had won the Koppenbergcross no less than seven times, including the past six editions, and never before had the huge crowds witnessed such a tense race in one of cyclo-cross's classic races. Police and organizers estimated that 15,000 spectators turned out to watch the day's race, won for the seventh time by Nys, in Belgium.
"This is the heyday for cyclo-cross," said race winner Nys. "This is a classic race and it sticks in people's minds. Everybody talks about (this race) for months to come. People are still referring about the epic battle with Lars Boom from last year's edition. Never before was this race as exciting as this one.
"It was tactically the hardest of all seven wins," Nys said.
Arch rival Niels Albert (BKCP Powerplus) had some trouble on the first lap which allowed Nys to pick up bonus points at the intermediate sprint after two laps. "That sprint forces you to do things you normally wouldn't do. I felt really good at the start, but after that sprint, I felt really bad," Nys said.
That obliged others to take the initiative as Nys dropped back to fifth position though he never fell out of touch with the leaders. The 33-year-old Belgian said he was getting stronger every lap. "Every lap I was climbing up the Koppenberg in a bigger gear, making me feel stronger and stronger. I felt that nobody would be able to drop me anymore," Nys said.
In the meantime, Albert recovered from his tough start but then seemed to suffer and was no longer able to put the other leaders under pressure.
"Suddenly there was a moment when I saw that Albert wasn't near the front so I accelerated," Nys said of his first serious attack of the race.
Upon starting the penultimate lap, a group of seven leaders was all back together; however, Nys felt like he was in the mental pole position.
"I knew I had one blistering attack left, but I didn't know if it would be enough to get rid of the others; that's why I started my (final lap's) attack so early on the climb," said Nys, who in the latter parts of the race, believed Zdenek Stybar would be the man to beat.
After the race, he was surprised to hear Stybar finished fifth. "I figured he would certainly be on the podium, but clearly everybody had a bad moment," Nys said before summarizing his thoughts about the day. "Winning solo after such a late decision in the race. is the most beautiful way to win a race."
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