Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink) starts Saturday's Koppenbergcross wearing number one as he chases a tenth victory in the prestigious Belgian race that covers a section of the cobbles often used in the Tour of Flanders road race.
The cyclo-cross season traditional steps up a gear during the All Saints weekend, with huge crowds attending the Koppenbergcross on Saturday and then Sunday's Superprestige Zonhoven event. Both events will also include women's races with the Koppenbergcross offering equal prize money in the elite men and elite women races thanks to extra sponsorship from GP Twenty20 Cycles in the USA.
Nys first won the race in 2001 and then took seven victories between 2004-2010. He also won in 2012 but was only fifth last year when Tom Meeusen won alone.
"I'll give myself two chances for that tenth victory and Saturday is one of them,” Nys said, according to Nieuwsblad.be.
Nys has spent the last two weeks in Mallorca, training for the next block of racing, only returning to Belgium to compete in two minor races.
"Although I didn't win, I felt good in both races. (Kruibeke) was a heavy race, while (Meulebeke) was a fast race. It was exactly what I needed for the Koppenbergcross. It's remains special race for me and now I feel I'm ready.”
"I'd prefer to ride the Koppenbergcross in severe weather conditions, then my big engine comes in handy and there's a natural selection but dry weather and pleasant temperatures are predicted,” Nys explained.
“That automatically creates more contenders, as was the case last year and everyone only opened the full throttle on the last lap. But it makes no sense to complain about the weather, I've also won the Koppenbergcross in dry conditions.”
The Koppenbergcross is the second round of the bpost Bank trophy and Nys leads the time-based standings after his victory in the opening round in Ronse on October 12. He has a lead of 1:05 on Mathieu Van der Poel but the young Dutchman does not race in Oudenaarde and so will drop out of the standings. Klaas Vantornout is a threat, lying at 1:19.
Dutch national champion Lars van der Haar (Giant-Shimano) and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) are expected to be Nys' biggest rivals for victory.
"I want to keep that lead and Saturday is a good chance to do it. You have to fight in every race but knowing I can win for a tenth time is extra motivation. I'd be lying if I said that I'm not thinking about it,” Nys said.