At CrossVegas 2014, the Women’s Elite Race came down to the wire, with Meredith Miller edging Nash and Compton at the finish line. In the Men’s Elite Race, however, the winning moment came on the last lap but long before the finish line. Sven Nys waited for just the right moment to strike, using both his fitness and technique to hop the barriers and open up a commanding gap on the last lap. We talked with the Jeremy Powers and Lars van der Haar, both known to hop barriers as well, about the key move, and a bit with Nys and van der Haar about the controversy around the bottle feed.
When we asked third-place finisher Jeremy Powers to explain what happened at the front of the race before Sven Nys dug in, he answered: “I made a move earlier on. Then Sven made a few attacks, jumped over the barriers and went as hard as he could. Lars went as hard as he could, and I went as hard as I could… and Sven won.”
We wondered why the race felt so tactical this year, and everyone appeared to be waiting for Sven to make a move.
“Well, this course used to be a lot different last year,” Powers told us. “On the backside there was a long stretch where you could really open it up with a hill right after. Now that changed to a technical section, you saw all the turns back there; so fast, so many corners, and that seemed to neutralize the field. That made for a very exciting last lap, but otherwise, you didn’t see many guys attacking.”
Lars van der Haar, bombarded with questions on all sides after the race, was asked how much of Nys’ lead was physical vs. tactical or finesse: “It was just the barriers,” he answered. “That was it.”
“Then one corner to the right, he had a little bit of a gap. We were both strong and I got some time back here in the corners, and so I was a little bit stronger there. It was good of him. I tried to be smart to be in front of him at the barriers, but he was able to jump them pretty quick, and I wasn’t able to click straight away into my pedals and it cost me the victory here.”
We asked van der Haar if he wanted the race to come down to a sprint: “Yeah, I was trying to,” he answered. “[Nys] caught me on the barriers and two corners. I wasn’t able to get that back any more. Maybe there was a chance if he’d make a mistake, I was hoping he’d make a mistake. I saw him making a lot of mistakes, but on the last lap he didn’t make any, so that was it.”
With so much of this race seeming to be dictated by one set of barriers, we asked van der Haar if he ever practiced hopping the barriers: “Yeah, I train on it, but there’s still a little bit of trauma when I crashed two years ago, and there was a tear in my calf, and I still don’t dare to go full-on.”
During the press conference, Sven Nys had a few thoughts on his last move to take a commanding lead during the race: “I wanted to wait until the last few laps to do something special,” he said. “It was always waiting… waiting… but I felt really strong the whole race.”
Had Sven Nys been pulled from the race due to feeding during the second lap, or been disqualified after the race was over, we would likely be discussing a much different story than the move at the end of the race. As Nys was only fined, we asked van der Haar his thoughts on the process.
“If he would have been disqualified, it wouldn’t have been completely fair,” he said.
“He made a mistake but the commissionaire should have taken him out straight away because he influenced the whole race. You don’t know what would have happened if he would have been taken out of the race, so I don’t think she could have taken the decision to take him out, and I don’t want to win like that either.”
“He got the feeling that he won; I got the feeling I got second. Keep it with that and I think we have to be supportive, and I’m okay with this. He made a mistake, it’s punishable with a fine, next time maybe they should be quicker to make a decision in the race. A decision like that can’t take more than one or two laps: you have to be strict, have to be quick.”
“I had a little thing like that in Zolder in the pits, they also tried to get me out at the end of the race, but because they didn’t make a decision then, they can’t take you out anymore.”
Nys explained his side, saying, “It my mistake…I don’t think it was an advantage, what I had, there we special weather circumstances.” He said he didn’t hear the rule, and apologized. “They wanted to disqualify me, but I said, ‘if you do it, okay, it’s like that, but I [said] sorry, and it’s also better for the fans that the guy who is winning the race is also coming to the podium.’ And then she thought about it, she spoke with the other guys, and she said, ‘okay, I’ll fine you 1000 Swiss Francs.'”
Nys was relieved with that judgement. “I said, ‘okay, thank you!’ because I pay the bill and I’m happy that I won the race because I think I was the strongest in the race. It’s not because I take a bottle that I won the race.”
As for his victory, Nys said, “I’m really happy with a victory here, my second one, it’s good for motivation for the next few races in Europe.”
Nys is undefeated in the States, after winning Worlds and CrossVegas in 2013, and now repeating the Vegas win in 2014. “I never lost a race over here!” he exclaimed to Cyclocross Magazine. “I definitely want to come back, it’s a special feeling to race over here, the sport is growing a lot, you feel a lot of motivation over here, I’ve won a lot of races, but this is special.”