Sven Nys: “When I talk to my son Thibau about quitting, he blinks away a tear.”
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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sven Nys: “When I talk to my son Thibau about quitting, he blinks away a tear.”

by Ben Atkins at 3:57 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross
Cyclocross’ Kannibaal talks retirement with a season and a half to go

sven nysSven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) still starts virtually every cyclocross race as the overwhelming favourite, even at the age of 36. The Kannibaal van Baal has already won nine races this winter, including yesterday’s World Cup in the dunes of Koksijde, Belgium, but he is already looking ahead to his retirement at the end of next season.

In an interview with Het Nieuwsblad, given just before that Koksijde victory, Nys explained that he is more relaxed than many of the people around him about stepping away from the sport.

“I find it strange but everyone has suddenly asked me that question at the same time,” he said.

“How many times I've heard them this week..?” he puffed. “Apparently there are a lot of people who find it more difficult to deal with with my impending departure than I do.”

Nys’ victory tally so far compares favourably with the years of his peak in the middle of the previous decade; while he may not equal his personal record of 30 wins, that he achieved in the 2006/07 season, the Belgian champion certainly seems to be on his way to one of his bigger totals.

"I think that maybe I can ride every race with that end date in my head,” he explained. “Because it is less obvious than everyone thinks, with the daily pressure of going from morning to evening in the spotlight. If I pull open my mobile home in Asper-Gavere, it does not stop until I pull it closed again. Camera crews, people wanting autographs, kids in wheelchairs, someone who needs me for the Week van de Friet, people who will install the Hansgrohe shower faucet in my mobile home. That all uses up energy.

“When I find out that the cross begins in fifty minutes, I sit with my thoughts totally somewhere else. I’ll be 38 and will have a need for a quieter life. Not so much physically, but mentally. Because I’ve got to be able to recharge after Ruddervoorde, after winning the Superprestige for the twelfth time.”

Of his nine wins so far, four have come in the Superprestige series, in which he had a perfect record this year until today’s narrow defeat in Gieten, Netherlands. He has taken the series an incredible ten times - missing out just three times since he turned pro in 1998 - and ‘Mr Superprestige’ does seem destined to take his eleventh title.

Sunweb-Revor’s Klaas Vantornout denied him his 60th race victory in Gieten today, but that surely can’t be too long in coming.

Dreaming of a quiet life

Sven Nys has been the biggest star in cyclocross almost since his career began, but now looks ahead to February 1st 2014 with a certain longing. There is still more than a season and a half of cyclocross ahead of him - and the prospect of yet more trophies to add to what must be the biggest cabinet in cycling - but ‘De Koning’ knows exactly what he’s looking forward to the most.

“I want a life where I can wake up without immediately thinking, what is the weather like, and what exactly does that mean for my training?” he said. “I have to do that 24 hours a day. If my plane is going to land, I check that my knees are certainly not coming into contact with the seat in front of me. It goes that far. I also want to stop when I am still among the best. If everything’s too hard, then maybe I went a year too far.”

February 1st is the date that has been set, but he did admit that he might, possibly, be a little flexible in that.

“I have signed a contract with Landbouwkrediet-KDL until that date,” he confirmed, but admitted that his team - and certain members of his - would love for him to continue...

“And my wife Isabelle says she would rather that I continue,” he added. “When I talk to my son Thibau about quitting, he blinks away a tear. For him it is a party every week, going to the cross, and having a large playground to cycle around. If I told him that I was going to race another ten years, he’d jump a hole in the sky. He knows only too well that this time may never come back. There are many people around me who say I could easily go on, but in my head I'm ready to quit.”

With Nys having been the centre of all things cyclocross in Belgium for well over a decade, he will be sorely missed when he does finally hang up his bike. For the man himself however, a world without racing competitively week-in, week-out, holds no fears as he will still be keeping busy.

“I have no fear of the black hole,” he said. “With my management agency Golazo we have bought the area on the Balenberg, and we want to create an experience centre around cyclocross and other off road cycling disciplines.

“We want to educate the youth and visitors. I also want to pass on my experience in professional sport to people from the business world. I've already done that and it pleases me enormously. For the rest, I’ll wait and see.”


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