In other seasons Sven Nys has dominated the early part of the cyclo-cross season, but this time round it’s his fellow Belgian Niels Albert who is playing that role. Albert won his third World Cup out of three on Sunday in Nommay, with Nys taking third place, nine seconds back.
The 33-year-old is nevertheless confident that he’s on course for a good season. He told Cyclingnews on Tuesday that he expects his form to keep building and that he now wants to start beating riders such as world champion Albert and Sunday’s runner-up Zdenek Stybar.
“Everything is working well at the moment,” he said, sounding under no pressure at all. “Every weekend I have finished on the podium. There were a few races where I thought I could win and it didn’t happen, but my condition is really good. I won the big race at the Koppenberg [the GVA Trofee – Koppenbergcross on October 25] and that was a good experience, a good feeling.
“The next races – the World Cups and the race on Sunday in Gavere – are very important for me," he said. "I hope I can have the good feeling that I have now, and that I won’t only be just on the podium but will be winning races in the next month.”
The dominant cyclo-cross rider of recent years, Nys has also done some mountain biking and finished an excellent ninth at last year's Beijing Olympic Games in China. He rode the International Cycling Union (UCI) Mountain Bike World Championships in Australia this year and while that didn’t quite go to plan – he was 14th after suffering stomach problems during the race – he will continue to combine both disciplines.
For Nys, going from one type of racing to the other is part of the reason why he didn’t start the season in top condition.
“The mountain bike championships were late in the season and it was mid September before I was back and over my jet-lag,” the Landbouwkrediet-Colnago rider explained. “The first World Cup was on the first weekend in October and perhaps that was a little bit too early for me, explaining why I didn’t have my best form then.
“I also changed my bikes a few weeks ago and it took me a while to have a good feeling on my cross bike," he said. "Everything works well now and I feel that I am really good.”
Nys won the Superprestige race in Ruddervoorde, the event in Woerden and the aforementioned GVA trophy race at the Koppenberg, but has been beaten by Albert and Sybar in some other events. He did not finish the first World Cup, was second to Albert in round two in Plzen and then took third on Sunday behind his two big rivals. He was strong towards the end of the most recent event, and admits he could have been fighting for the win had it continued on several more minutes.
“I think it was possible to beat Albert if the race was one lap longer,” he said. “But that is racing and it finished there, so I must not complain. The condition was good, though. I trained last week in Spain, doing long-distance training to prepare myself for the next weeks. I guess that was the reason why I was not good in the beginning of the race.
“I did not have the most powerful legs early on but after half an hour, I felt that I was really good," he said. "Then you know that the condition is building well at the moment. When I do some easy training, I think I will be in a good position for the weeks ahead.”
Nys is a highly skilled bike handler and relishes the thought of more testing conditions. “There are two good riders at the moment, [namely] Stybar and Niels Albert,” he said. “But I think I can beat them. When the races are more technical and it is more like [pure] cyclo-cross, I will do well. Apart from the Koppenberg race, the other races we have done so far were very fast and it was not so easy to do technical things there.”
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