By Brecht Decaluwé in Kalmthout
Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner) didn't let a black eye slow him down on the way to victory at the opening round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Kalmthout, Belgium, on Sunday. Despite injuring himself in a fall during Saturday's Kleicross in Lebbeke, Belgium, on Saturday, Nys proved he was ready for action again on Sunday morning.
"I've had a relatively good night's sleep," he said before the start. "My left eye is swollen and looks quite bright blue. But my vision is good enough and the risks are not too great to start. Furthermore, I have two swollen fingers on my left hand and my right upper arm is also in pain. But that is cyclo-cross."
Although compatriot Niels Albert (Palman Cras) performed a majority of the work at the front of the race, Nys bested him in a final two-man sprint. For a brief time after Nys suffered a tire problem which caused him to drop back, Albert was off the front alone, but Nys worked to catch him.
Albert seldom looked back during the final eight laps of the race. He seemed to notice that Nys had bridged back up, but he never asked the Belgian champion to do any work.
"Together with Nys I was the strongest man in the race," Albert said. "I knew he was on his limit because I was riding against my limit as well. Maybe I could've ridden more tactically and allowed him to take the lead, but then maybe the others could have caught back up to us, and winning that sprint is far more difficult."
Albert led out the short headwind sprint, while a cagey Nys waited just long enough to overtake his younger compatriot on the line to grab the first World Cup race of the season.
When asked about the eye problem Nys faced after Saturday's crash, the Belgian champion replied, "My eye? Today I was mainly confronted with pain in my legs," he said.