Sven Nys: “The Koppenbergcross has stolen my heart”
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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sven Nys: “The Koppenbergcross has stolen my heart”

by Ben Atkins at 1:20 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross
 
Kannibaal aiming for incredible tenth victory on Flemish hill; Helen Wyman aiming for number three

sven nysSven Nys (Crelan-KDL) will start tomorrow’s Koppenbergcross in search of an incredible tenth victory in the race that is centred around one of Flanders’ most iconic climbs. The Kannibaal van Baal has taken victory in what he says is his favourite race of the year in all but three of the last twelve editions of the race, earning himself yet another nickname of the “De Koning van de Koppenberg.”

Denied by a late puncture in 2011, with Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) going on to take victory, Nys returned to dominate last year’s edition. After his victory in the horrible conditions of the GP Mario De Clercq, in Ronse, on October 13th - the previous round of he Bpost Bank Trofee - Nys will surely be the outstanding favourite once more.

"The Koppenbergcross has stolen my heart,” Nys said at the race’s presentation recently. “For me it is the main cross of the year. More important than a Belgian championship, yes."

Much of the reason for the World champion’s domination of the event is that, unlike some of the races of the calendar, the course is always challenging, requiring both power and skill from the riders.

"It is a cross where you can really show who’s the best, and that makes it so special,” Nys explained. “The man with the greatest power wins in 99 percent of the time. Here you can really make your mark. Here you an really use your big engine, because everyone comes in the correct place.

“And then there's that place on the calendar, and all the people,” he added. “The noise at Koppenbergcross is like Belgium scored in a [soccer] match, but for an hour.”

With a maximum gradient of 22%, the Koppenberg is surely among the most iconic climbs of Flanders, with its history in the Ronde van Vlaanderen in April. This is just one of the things that makes the annual cyclocross race - held on November 1st, no matter on what day of the week that falls - such a special one for Nys and many riders.

"The climb is a goose-bump moment, every single lap,” Nys said. “There are few places where there are so many people. During the climb, but also in the descent. They are both guarantees of a lot of spectacle. There is always a special atmosphere among the riders. If you're at the start, and you see that hill next to you..."

Women’s event set for an all British battle between Wyman and Harris

The ninth edition of the women’s Koppenbergcross promises to be a repeat of last year’s all British battle between European champion Helen Wyman (Kona) and British champion Nikki Harris (Telenet-Fidea). Locally-based Wyman got the better of Harris in a sprint finish to take her second cobblestone trophy in 2012, and the two compatriots look set to fill the top two places on tomorrow’s podium.

Like Nys, Harris was the class of the field in the wind and rain of Ronse, and has got the better of Wyman in both World Cup races - finishing third in Valkenburg and second in Tábor - but Wyman has struck back elsewhere, beating Harris to third place in the Nacht van Woerden and winning last weekend’s Superprestige race in Ruddervoorde.

Behind the two British riders, the fight for third place might well come down to a battle for Belgian pride, between national champion Sanne Cant (Enertherm-BKCP) and Ellen Van Loy (DNCS-Pro 2012).

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