Sven Nys is bucking the trend of many retired athletes, and has continued pinning on the numbers. In fact, the cyclocross legend has been on a mission to check off a few items on his bucket list.
First it was grabbing a hand-up buck and a beer at the SSCXWC 2016 in Portland, and now it’s avoiding the hard-charging bucks of South Africa to compete with long-time cyclocross teammate and Telenet Fidea colleague Sven Vanthourenhout in the Absa Cape Epic.
The Absa Cape Epic just announced the two cyclocross legends will be making the journey to take part in the mountain bike stage race.
The event is also sponsored by faucet maker Hansgrohe, the same company that is a title sponsor of the Superprestige cyclocross series.
Nys says the opportunity is a “dream come true.” While he says he’s there to “enjoy every second” it’s clear his competitive fires still burn. “But for sure we want to do better then just finish,” he said.
Vanthourenhout, the Belgian whom Matt Kelly beat to win the 1999 Cyclocross World Championships, has also had the race in his sights for a post-retirement challenge. “I followed last year’s race on the internet and [in] videos and it was always a dream for me to do the race after my professional career,” he said.
See the full press release from the Cape Epic organizers below.
Sven Nys is arguably the best cyclocross racer ever. Now the legendary Belgian – who earned the nickname “The Cannibal from Baal” as he notched up an astonishing 140 career victories – has set his sights on the 2017 Absa Cape Epic.
Nys is a household name in much of Europe for his cyclocross achievements and his legions of fans are in awe of the strength, skill and endurance that took him to two world championships and seven World Cup titles among his seemingly endless list if successes. Now 40 and no longer racing cyclocross competitively, the Belgian has increasingly turned to his mountain bike and later this month will be in South Africa to make a “dream come true” racing the Absa Cape Epic. “The Cape Epic is the biggest stage race on a mountain bike,” he explains.
Nys is no slouch on mountain bikes: he has raced twice at the Olympic Games, taken part in several cross country world championships and won the Belgian national championship five times. He has raced in South Africa before at the Pietermaritzburg leg of the World Cup mountain bike cross country series in 2012.
Nys will be joined by fellow Belgian Sven Vanthourenhout (36), himself an accomplished cyclocross racer with two World Championship bronze medals, in team “Sven and Sven.” Vanthourenhout is also a keen mountain biker, having taken part in World Cup cross country events and many races in Belgium.
Nys plays down suggestions that they will be racing: “I want to finish and enjoy every second I am there,” he says. Vanthourenhout is a bit more bullish, saying, “We will see. It’s the first time we are racing in these conditions. So we will see after two to three days how it it is going. But for sure we want to do better then ‘just finish’.”
Unlike Nys, Vanthourenhout will be visiting South Africa for the first time and says “I’m really looking forward to be there.” They have done the bulk of their racing in Belgium and will arrive in South Africa the week before the Cape Epic.
“I’m very excited about it,” Vanthourenhout adds. “I followed last year’s race on the internet and videos and it was always a dream for me to do the race after my professional career.”
Want to see what the two cyclocrossers are in for? While the antelope video we’ve all seen isn’t from the Cape Epic race, the animals do pose a major crash risk in the stage race. Antelopes are just one of the many challenges two-rider teams face. See the official event video below: