On a very windy Saturday afternoon in Middelkerke, Belgium, Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink) and Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) battled for the overall win in the final round of the 2013-2014 Superprestige cyclo-cross series. Albert held the overall lead by four points over Nys entering the race, but when the dust settled on the Superprestige's eighth and final round Nys and Albert were tied overall on points with 101 each following a third place finish by Nys and a seventh place result from Albert.
With Nys having more wins in the eight-race series than Albert (four for Nys, two for Albert), the Belgian champion won the Superprestige series overall title for the 13th time in his illustrious career.
"It's unbelievable that this happened to me, that we're equal [on points] after eight rounds," Nys said. The ultra-experienced Belgian champion actually miscalculated the situation during the race and thought he had just missed out on the overall win. "I didn't know I had won. I thought Niels finished sixth," Nys said.
Despite knowing he won Nys didn't look like a happy man when talking with the press in the small tent that was nearly blown away by the strong winds. "Make no mistake, I'm very happy. I'm just not happy about my race. I'll enjoy this overall win, for sure, but not just yet."
Winning the Superprestige series for a 13th time shows how long Nys has been dominating the cyclo-cross scene. After winning this edition with such a small margin Nys thought back to previous years. "I've won the Superprestige in the past due to bad luck from others and one time I lost it due to bad luck in Diegem. This year I still wasn't leading despite four wins and two second places. After Gieten [Nys abandoned due to a mechanical] I gave up on it. Finishing equally on points shows how strong Niels was this season," Nys said.
The 37-year-old Belgian champion didn't feel like the fans were longing for a new man at the top. "The fans want to see a good fight and that's what they got. The age of the winner doesn't matter. Today I was beaten by a much younger Tom [Meeusen]."
When asked why he wasn't riding at top level Nys explained that he was hindered by his back. "My back got blocked due to a stupid incident earlier this week [incident during shooting of Superprestige TV-spot]. Third was the best possible result as I was only able to use my high fitness level but lacked my power. This has to be resolved by next weekend," Nys said, referring to next week's final round of the Bpost Bank Trophy cyclo-cross series in Oostmalle, Belgium.
"I can already say I've had a fantastic season: winning two series, the Belgian championship and finishing second at the world championships. That race still reverberates because of the high level, the atmosphere, the attention, the duel with [Zdenek] Stybar..."
At the finish in Middelkerke many riders were clearly longing for time off the bike. When talking with Nys it became obvious that he thought completely differently. "I will not rest a lot. For a few years now I've been advised to keep the engine running. At my age it's hard to get back to a high level when you're off the bike for a month. I'm not tired of the competition, I'm actually longing for more," Nys said.
In two weeks' time, however, Nys will enjoy a brief hiatus with a trip to the Dominican Republic.