Next year on March 5th, the cyclocross world will say goodbye to the Sven Nys. The legend of the sport will have raced at the Elite level for 18 years.
As late as November of last year, Nys was considered the racer who defied age. At 37, he was still able to take the Belgian National Championship and nearly defended the rainbow jersey he won at the 2013 Cyclocross World Championship at Louisville against Zdeněk Štybar at Hoogerheide. These efforts were not simply the icing on the cake, but an extension of one of the most illustrious careers in cyclocross.
Even at the start of last season, Nys was taking wins at CrossVegas and the early stage of the BPost Series. Around the time of the Milton Keynes World Cup, however, there was something off about his performance, especially in the later half of races. Within a month, he even took an extended break, staving off rumors of announcing his retirement to reporters.
Glimpses of his past performances were always present. At the 2015 Belgian National Championship, he dictated the pace of most of the race alone in front, thanks in part to his will and in part to Wout van Aert’s broken derailleur hanger. Even here, however, he finished off the podium.
In an interview with Het Nieuwsblad, Nys admitted that he “Feared the decline.”
A large celebration honoring his career is already underway. The “Thank You Sven” event will be held in Antwerp, and is almost sold out after only a day of going for sale.