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An interview with Sven Nys, December 4, 2004
One goal: The World's
Two days after top cyclo-crosser Sven Nys achieved his 25th Superprestige race victory, Cyclingnews' Hedwig Kröner spoke to the relentless Rabobank rider on the phone at his home in Belgium. Of course, he sounded eager to win some more, especially bearing in mind the World Championships at the beginning of next year. He also talked about his dreams on the road, as well as showing his son Thibau, who just turned two, how to ride a BMX - because that's how it all started for Nys. Before winning cyclo-cross races, Nys won eight BMX National Championship titles, starting competition at eight years old!
Cyclingnews: Congratulations on your win on Sunday. Tell us about the race.
Sven Nys: When you win, it's always a good race! But still, it was hard as it was raining the whole day. At the start, I left with Groenendaal and Commeyne, but after three laps, I was riding alone through the whole race. I was really strong that day. Bart Wellens crashed during the first lap and moved back to the front during the race, but it was impossible for him to come back all the way because I was riding with more than half a minute's lead.
CN: Gieten was you 25th Superprestige race victory. Have you counted how many races you have won in your career?
SN: Well, I've been with Rabobank since 1998 and I know that this was my 98th victory for the team as a professional. So another two races will make a hundred for Rabobank.
CN: You've been Espoir World Champion in 1997 and 1998, but the Elite World Championships is about the only major race you haven't won. Why do you think that is?
SN: I don't know, but I sure hope that it'll happen this year because the conditions are good for me. I've always been second, fourth or fifth, but never won. The riders who won the World Championships focused on this particular race to be at their best, while I've raced successfully during the whole season - that might be the reason why I've never won it.
CN: What's your favourite type of course, in which conditions?
SN: I like it when it's hard - rain and mud, when you can show how much power you have in the race. [laughs]
CN: Are there any races you are especially looking forward to for the rest of this season?
SN: The World Championships. I've won so many races, but this one can make my whole career complete. It's the one thing I've been missing.
CN: Have you already visited the course in Sankt Wendel? The race organisers only changed it slightly since you won the world cup race there in 2003...
SN: No, but I know the course very well from last year when I won it. It was extremely bad weather, very cold and raining the whole day. But I think it's a very nice race, a good race to win the World's. Very steep climbs, and you have to run up some stairs - I like it very much. I won my first World Championships in Germany in Munich, so maybe it's time now to win the World's a third time, now in the Elite category and also in Germany. I hope that I can do that.
CN: This season's Superprestige might also be your fifth overall victory...
SN: Yes, I would be the only guy to have won the Superprestige five times, and that's one thing I want to do this year, too. I've also won the most Superprestige races of all: 25. It would be very nice to say to my child that I'm the absolute best at the Superprestige!
CN: Do you still fear your rivals to achieve that?
SN: It's never done until it is done. But the three remaining races are Diegem, Hoogstraten and Vorselaar, and I like them very much. I've won these races before, so I think that the chances of winning the Superprestige overall this year are big.
CN: How do you cope with Richard Groenendaal being a major rival although you are in the same team?
SN: It's not so bad because having your biggest rival in your own team is better than to have him in another team. You know him better of course, and if you still lose then the victory remains within the team. So for the team, it's not a big problem! Sometimes, when I feel that I can't win, I try to help Groenendaal, but most of the times I try to win for myself.
CN: Which is more important to you, the Superprestige or the World Cup?
SN: Both are equally important to me, but as I lead the Superprestige now I'll focus on that overall victory first. I'll try to win a few World Cups but I'll see at the end of the season if I'm first on the UCI's list.
CN: But you are leading now in the World Cup standings, too.
SN: I'm leading now, but I'll wait until the last few races to see where I stand. It also depends on the outcome of the World's, as a victory would mean 400 points, which is pretty important for the UCI lead!
CN: What are your chances of winning the next Belgian National Championships on January 9, 2005?
SN: I've won it twice already, so I hope I can do it again. The race is on a new circuit in Wachtebeke, so I don't know what we will see there, but if the conditions are good, I'm not afraid of any race. So we'll wait and see how the conditions are in the first week of January.
CN: Is jumping barriers faster on the bike than off it? Do you plan to dismount while pre-riding the course, or just go with the feel of it?
SN: Most of the times I know before the race if I can do it or not. Sometimes you take the risk, sometimes it's better not to. But once you're in the race, with the adrenaline and all the people to support you, you decide to do it once or twice. It depends on the space between the barriers. If they're very close to one another, it's risky to stay on the bike. There are not too many races where it's possible to jump over the barriers - so sometimes I know before the race if it's possible, sometimes I take the risk.
Cyclingnews: You have seven months in between the end and the start of the season, so how do you structure your "off-season"?
Sven Nys: That's when I get in shape, it's the most important period to build up my condition. I try to stay healthy and do a lot of road racing. I usually start with the road racing at the beginning of June and then I don't stop anymore. So the only vacation I take is the month of March - I don't train, I don't do any sport at all. On April 1, I start to built up my condition again, and I don't stop until the end of the Cyclo-Cross season. That's a very long time, but if you don't train in the summer, you can't race so many races in winter at a top level.
CN: Do you have any more ambitions for the road - is being a top cyclo-crosser more lucrative than being an (average) roadie? Or is it not about the money?
SN: I have many dreams, but I will stick to cyclo-cross at the moment. I like the Classics in the beginning of the season, but I chose to be a cyclo-crosser; it's my job and I like it.
CN: Do you still ride a BMX once in a while?
SN: I have a BMX but I don't ride it right now. I think I'll wait until my son is a little bit older, and then I will start again to show him.
CN: How do you get along with the other guys in this relatively small group of top-level cyclo-crossers?
SN: Well, we are not really good friends because we race against each other every week, so we can't be. But we do get along well and joke around, so it's no problem.
CN: What do you think about organising a World Cup race in the States for next season?
SN: I think it's a good plan for cyclo-cross. We don't know where it will take place yet, but I'm ready to fly to America and try to win that race also!