What followed after the gun? Racing that reflected the racers’ fears from the very start, with the American riders going out fast and furious, while the World Champ chose to respect the heat, and sit back and wait. It wasn’t the World Champion who took the holeshot: That honor went to Tim Johnson, followed closely by the young Yanick Eckmann and hard-charging 2012 Cross Vegas champion Jeremy Powers. Nys was surprisingly far back in the pack, sitting around tenth.

Nys, when asked by Cyclocross Magazine about whether his conservative start was a planned strategy, replied, “No, I felt at the beginning of the race that I was the strongest, but you need to have the power to [lead] the whole course. But I felt myself really strong today”

Bart Wellens launched an early attack at the stairs, and was caught by Nys at the end of the first lap. But it was Nys and Sven Vanthourenhout, his loyal teammate who set the pace for a faster second lap. Nys hopped barriers and stairs with an ease born out of years of practice.

Ben Berden and Adam Craig attack the barriers with different style. © Cathy Fegan-Kim

Ben Berden and Adam Craig attack the barriers with different style. © Cathy Fegan-Kim

And then, the Americans stepped up to the plate. Trebon bridged across at second stairs, running while Nys hopped. Suddenly, it was Nys and the lanky Trebon leading the race, and the American fans went wild. Two laps in, the chase group was 20 deep. Jeremy Powers lit a match and began to chase in earnest, coming across 15 seconds back with five to go. Behind them, Troy Wells was driving in the fifth place chase group with Wellens.

“I thought those guys were bluffing,” Powers later explained in reference to Nys and Trebon’s early lead. “Today, I thought I had the numbers. In a typical road race, those guys would pull back, but that didn’t happen… Had a really hard race trying to close the gap. Even though I brought time back, I was in in the red.”

Sven Nys hops while Trebon runs. Cross Vegas 2013. © Cathy Fegan-Kim

Sven Nys hops while Trebon runs. Cross Vegas 2013. © Cathy Fegan-Kim

“Definitely for me he was the guy I was afraid of,” Nys later said of Powers. “I didn’t know how strong I would be if we [he and Powers] came together. He’s a rider who can beat me, coming back in the last two laps. I needed to push the whole race, and I knew he was suffering also because it’s hard to come back from a 20 second gap.”