You could be forgiven for assuming that two Trek-sponsored racers, nicknamed Spartacus and The Cannibal from Baal, both famous for dropping all-comers when conditions are the worst and the courses are the toughest, would be acquaintances, if not close friends. Yet much to our surprise, Fabian Cancellara, repeat winner of the 2014 Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) and Sven Nys had never met before this month.
Perhaps a gladiator fighting to free slaves and a cannibal don’t have much in common and won’t get along, but thanks to Belgium’s sportmagazine.knack.be, the two dominant cyclists were introduced to each other recently, and shared stories about racing cyclocross and the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix.
Beyond relying on Trek’s IsoSpeed Decoupler (on the Trek Boone and Domane bikes) to smooth out the bumps on the race course, the two racers have a few things in common. Between the Swiss and Belgian legends, they share 15 victories in the most cobbled races, with Nys winning the Koppenberg cyclocross race nine times, and Cancellara winning Paris-Roubaix three times, and the Tour of Flanders three times. They’ve even participated in each other’s disciplines, since Cancellara even raced cyclocross for four years as a Junior, and Nys raced Paris-Roubaix three times.
Some surprising facts from the two champions’ careers: Sven Nys had competed in two Paris-Roubaix races prior to Cancellara entering his first in 2003, which was Nys’ last attempt at the cobbled Hell of the North race. Both racers told Sport/Voetbalmagazine they suffered greatly in their debut at Paris-Roubaix, with Nys saying, “[That] one day my hematocrit dropped from 42 to 38!”
Nys also admitted that after finishing the Queen of the classics, the emotions got to him. “When journalists interviewed me, I even started to cry,” Nys told Sport/Voetbalmagazine. “Hell had become Paradise.”
Cancellara also revealed he watches Nys, and tuned in live to see Nys race to win the 2014 Belgian Cyclocross National Championship in Waregem, and was impressed by Nys’ skills in the sand.
Cancellara will be lining up this weekend at Paris-Roubaix in hopes of repeating his Flanders/Paris-Roubaix double from last year.