Sven Nys will exchange his skinny tires for fat ones on Thursday when he kicks off his summer mountain bike race season with the Fidea Mountain Bike Cup in Gooik.
For the past two weeks, the Belgian cyclo-cross star, who also races his mountain bike, has been training on the island of Majorca.
"The training went very well. I've mostly worked on my general fitness, that is, high mileage," said the Landbouwkrediet racer. "During the first week, we had the best weather with temperatures at around 30 degrees Celsius." Encountering wet weather during the second half of his stay, Nys said, "I still pulled of my plan and got the necessary hours sitting on the bike. Here in Belgium it is also more like autumn than spring."
The Fidea MTB Cup Gooik will serve as round two of the Belgian Grand Prix of Mountain Biking.
"With the return to fitness, it is now time to step into racing and to raise my level. Gooik is one of the many brand new mountain bike races this season, which I can only applaud. The motocross site is a beautiful location and good for organizing a MTB contest. I'm looking forward to it. I'm even starting to get a bit nervous, and that is a good sign."
A talented field is expected in Gooik. World marathon champion Roel Paulissen (Cannondale) will be among the starters. Jimmy Tielens (Saeco) won the first round of the Belgian Grand Prix at the Grote Prijs Antwerpen this past weekend. En route to victory, he beat number-nine world ranked Geoff Kabush (Maxxis - Rocky Mountain) of Canada. Kabush and Tielens will be two of the favorites for Thursday's contest along with Rudi van Houts (Multivan Merida), Gerben de Kneght and Bart Aernouts (Rabobank). The Trek-Brentjens team, the Lingier Versluys, and the Trek KMC trade team are also fielding riders.
"The spectators should be looking forward to many leaders at the race. I will immediately know where I stand," said Nys. "The other mountain bikers have already been racing for awhile, but I only just got my first kilometers ridden. The course has gotten at least one good review so far, and I will not be lacking for motivation."
"I'm pleased that there are more and more mountain bikers doing both of the two disciplines I do. The popularity of our sport is growing and Belgium can only benefit from an increase in the level of elite mountain biking."
In the women's race, this weekend's winner Laura Turpijn (Merida Combee) will aim to keep her streak alive. She will face challenges from Anne Terpstra (Stappenbelt MTB Team), Petra Mermans (Trek KMC), Joyce Vanderbaken (Rendementhypo) and Sanne van Paassen (DSB Bank).