On a course that saw nearly every top racer in the sport go down, Sven Nys reminded everyone that his technical skills are unmatched in the sport of cyclocross. Nys – who alone of the top five never went down on the muddy, rutty course – used his superb handling to maximize his power, riding Belgium Champion Niels Albert off his wheel and never allowing World Champion Zdenek Stybar and Kevin Pauwels to regain contact after the two crashed on separate parts of the course. With two laps to go, Albert conceded defeat to Nys, and a gap of twelve seconds quickly ballooned to nearly forty, allowing Nys to fully enjoy his finishing salute.
As his third Superprestige victory, and 6th podium placing, Nys’ ride puts him further in the overall lead for the Superprestige title, with 97 points against Kevin Pauwel’s 78. With only one race left, Nys’ has locked up the series, which will give him a record 10 Superprestige overall titles following next weekend’s race in Middelkerke. Closer, though, is the battle for second, third, and fourth, with only four points separating Pauwels, Albert, and Stybar.
“I’ve been running around quite a bit this week, so I’m looking forward to a bit of a rest week next week,” joked Page, who said he was pleased to take a top-ten finish despite what had to be the busiest week of any of the race’s 32 starters.
“They were yelling at me in the pit, and I was really on my limit. I tried to just ride within myself, maybe just slightly over the limit, and I was able to use the other guys as much as I could,” Page said of the group of four or five riders he spent much of the day with. “It wasn’t intentional, I put my effort when I needed to. I put one big effort in about two laps into it when it split. I went pretty deep because I didn’t want to see the race totally go away from me, and then I sat on as much as I could and tried to conserve — well, you can’t really conserve on a course like this — but I tried to conserve much as I could.”
“I wasn’t so happy with my race yesterday,” Page told Cyclocross Magazine. “I felt a little disappointed. I was pretty darn tired, and I was damn tired today, but that’s what happens. I’m not unhappy considering the new baby and everything. It’s all worth it.”
Second place finisher Niels Albert said he was happy with his race — and happy to finally show off the much coveted Belgian Champion’s jersey in a big race. Because he spent the weeks before the World Championships racing in the World Cup leader’s jersey, he has had few opportunities to wear his new red, yellow, and black kit since winning it the second weekend in January.
“I think the Belgium jersey is a nice jersey,” Albert told Cyclocross Magazine, “and I think my fans like it a lot. So I’m very happy, and I’ve tried to win one race in it this season. Hopefully I’ll have a nice weekend soon. I’m doing everything to win in the Belgium jersey, but it’s not easy with a very good Sven and a very good Pauwels and a very good Stybar. So I’ll try again next week.”
A couple of bobbles forced Albert from the bike and allowed Nys to open a gap of some fifteen seconds in the later laps of the race, but Albert said he thought Nys was the strongest today anyway. “I’m happy with the result,” he said. “It was not easy, because there were many, many ruts and lap by lap the track was different, so you had to be very aware of the way it was changing. It was very, very difficult.”
Nys, meanwhile, celebrated his historic win, while race commentators drew comparisons to other cyclocross greats like Roland Liboton and Eric De Vlaeminck. Nys told Cyclocross Magazine afterward that he believed his tenth Superprestige title qualified him to be considered among their legendary ranks.
“It’s something you don’t do in one year,” Nys said, saying he believes his consistency in major rankings like this more than make up for his lack of World Championship wins. “To do this you must be constant for ten years, a whole season, every year again. And it makes something special like this. Of course, there are some riders who have won more World Championships, but I was seven times on the podium there, and that’s also special. For example, (Adri) van der Poel won the Worlds only one time, same with Groenendaal. But this is really something that’s never done, and I am really proud of it.”
Nys said that the gap he was able to open going into the final laps allowed him some time to celebrate and absorb his accomplishment as he was carried around the course by a the vocal crowd that lined the course.
“It’s something special, because for the tenth time I won the overall in the Superprestige. It’s never been done and in the next ten years it’s maybe not possible to do it. The last lap was really special. Everybody knows it’s something unique, and when you can win with half a minute gap, and you know you are very strong today and there is one race coming and I don’t even need to start, well, for me it’s really special.”
Despite having locked up the title, Nys assured reporters and fans he will nonetheless be back next week for the final round of the Superprestige series in Middelkerke.
In the U23 race, Vincent Baestaens bested Jim Aernouts by a matter of seconds, closely followed by Joeri Adams. The three had a strong lead over World Champion Lars van der Haar, who came in fourth, another twenty seconds down.