OOSTMALLE, Belgium—This was it. Sven Nys’ final race. It seems almost incomprehensible that in a career that’s been going for so long we won’t see him line up again. And yet, today is the day that the chapter of his life as an Elite cyclocross racer ended. Of course, he’s still going to be involved in the sport at the highest level, just outside the tape. And we suspect that that fact will have us all talking about Nys for some time to come.
It wasn’t just fans that were marking the occasion of the legend’s retirement from competition. The current World Champion Wout van Aert noted the occasion on social media.
Today will be a special day. I feel honoured that I can participate in the last race of CX legend Sven Nys. Enjoy! #sluitingsprijs #oostmalle
Posted by Wout van Aert on Sunday, February 21, 2016
As for the Elite Men’s race itself, it was a fully European affair with Belgian Kevin Pauwels taking the victory. Nine seconds back, van Aert went head-to-head with Tom Meeusen with the World Champion taking second place by a single second.
Nys rolled in in 25th with long-time teammate Sven Vanthourenhout in 24th. They rolled towards the finish arms around each other’s shoulders talking, with Nys waving to the crowd as well. As the two crossed the line, confetti flew about and they stopped and embraced as a final, emotional show of support for what’s been a stellar career.
In this video you can see the fanfare that came with Nys’ finale. And it’s clear to understand the impact of the moment, even if you don’t speak Flemish.
For the ‘Murcans @ellebellerina warming up. She’ll need it today #oostmalle #sluitingprijs pic.twitter.com/Q86gPXnlSb
— Meow (@meowclank) February 21, 2016
There obviously was other racing going on as well. for the Elite Women, European and Belgian National Champion Sanne Cant took the win going clear over Loes Sels and Maud Kapththeijns. American Elle Anderson had a great ride and went inside the top 10 finishing in eighth.
Jens Dekker wint de laatste cross van het seizoen! #oostmalle A photo posted by Cyclocrossfan (@cyclocrossss) on
For the U23 Men, Belgian Daan Soete won ahead of countryman Quinten Hermans and Czech rider Adam Toupalik. And in the Junior Men’s Race, World Champion Jens Dekker of The Netherlands kept up his winning ways taking the final race of the season. Nineteen seconds back, his countryman Mitch Groot and Toon Vandebosch were second and third separated by just three seconds.
Clearly though, with all the racing that happened today, the man of the hour was Nys.
Thanks Sven! #mercisven #cyclocross #cx #svennys #svenness #cycling #oostmalle #cyclinginflanders
A photo posted by Cycling In Flanders (@cyclinginflanders) on
2016 Internationale Sluitingsprijs Oostmalle Elite Men's Results
|2||VAN AERT Wout||BEL||21||59:59|
|4||VAN DER POEL Mathieu||NED||20||01:00:05|
|5||VAN DER HAAR Lars||NED||24||01:00:06|
|13||VAN DER POEL David||NED||23||01:01:22|
|16||VAN KESSEL Corne||NED||24||01:02:04|
|17||VAN AMERONGEN Thijs||NED||29||01:02:05|
|18||VAN DEN BRAND Twan||NED||26||01:02:07|
|27||VAN COMPERNOLLE Kenneth||BEL||27||01:03:28|
|30||DE CLEYN Dave||BEL||27||01:04:44|