It’s been the worst-kept secret in cyclocross, and way back in August we reported that Sven Nys may be signing with Trek but on Decemeber 30, Trek confirmed his switch with a press release. But over the last two months, we wanted to learn more about how this odd marriage came to be. Today, we bring you this exclusive story by Ted Burns. 

Sven Nys celebrates with his American fans with a commanding win at the Clif Bar Cross Vegas 2013. © Cyclocross Magazine

Sven Nys is the one most bike manufacturers want. Trek Bicycle landed him. photo: Cross Vegas 2013. © Cyclocross Magazine

There is no bigger name in cyclocross than Sven Nys, the man who has dominated professional cyclocross since he won his first Superprestige series in 1999. Since he started racing professionally in 1998, he’s won two Elite World Championships, six World Cup titles, eight Belgian Championships, and countless series and other races. He’s an icon on both sides of the Atlantic, and has even inspired a twitter hash tag which has come to represent power, grace, and success, #svenness. [Read our profile of him is CXM Issue 20.]

When the rumor mill started swirling last August that Nys might ride a Trek in 2014, many were in disbelief that the reigning World Champion would switch from his long time bike sponsor Colnago [see Nys’ Cross Vegas-winning Colnago Cross Prestige bike profile]. Nys had ridden and won on a Colnago for 15 years, but in recent years the brand had become more associated with beauty, and craftsmanship, than technical innovation. Still, it was a happy partnership, one that Nys showed his gratitude for at the end of the Superprestige race in Diegem:

When Nys confirmed that he would be riding Trek in 2014 before Cross Vegas, the disbelief turned to anger and some fans accused Nys of selling out. Trek remained silent, preferring wait until January 1st, as is traditionally done with cyclocross signings, to release their big news.

Before Compton and Nys there was Myrah, but this was in 1995. © Cyclocross Magazine

Before Compton and Nys on Trek there was Myrah, but that was in the mid 90s. photo: ’95 Nats. © Cyclocross Magazine

Although Trek has offered cyclocross bikes since as far back as 2000, and had champions like Don Myrah racing Trek cyclocross bikes in the mid-90s, the recent attention given to the sport by Trek has largely been driven by former pro and Worlds team member Matt Shriver, who now heads up part of Trek’s sponsored teams program.

Shriver started at Trek in 2010 and worked with Radioshack-Leopard and the Bontrager Cycling Team before pushing the company to get more involved in cyclocross. In the summer of 2012, Shriver spearheaded a three-year plan that aimed to put Trek at the forefront of cyclocross. The anchor of this initiative was an American-based, grassroots team called the Trek Cyclocross Collective.

Some may say it’s too late, but given the sport appears to still be growing in size and prominence, perhaps it’s now a smart bet on a sure thing.

The plan accelerated in July of 2012 when Shriver learned that Katie Compton was looking for a sponsor. The Trek team met with Compton and realized she was an ideal fit to meet their marketing and product testing goals. The two parties hit it off and Compton started racing under the Trek Cyclocross Collective colors that August in New Zealand. Trek signified their commitment to the sport even further in 2012 when the USGP’s main sponsor Exergy fell through, and Trek stepped in as a title sponsor to fill the void and enable the series to continue.

The investment brought high-level exposure not only through the race series, but also through Compton’s victories. She went on to win the World Cup overall, and placed second at the 2013 World Championships in Louisville, KY. Then, based on Compton’s feedback and testing, Trek launched the Crockett, their new aluminum cyclocross bike, before the 2013-14 season.