Sven Nys feels like 25 years old, ready for Superprestige Hamme-Zogge
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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sven Nys feels like 25 years old, ready for Superprestige Hamme-Zogge

by Bjorn Haake at 5:18 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross
The 34-year-old is too young to retire

sven nysFormer cannibal Nys had a tough start to the season and many had written him off. Younger riders like Zdenek Stybar, Niels Albert or Kevin Pauwels seemed to have the upper hand on him. But come November, Nys has struck back. He now heads into the Superprestige on Sunday as one of the big favorites, ready to achieve his fourth win in Hamme-Zogge in as many participations.

Nys is obvlivious to the talk in the Belgian press about being too old. "As long as I can still keep up in training I am not worried," he told Het Nieuwsblad. Constantly being asked about his age is strange to him. "This comes because of Erwin Vervecken. When he retired I was the oldest competitor. But what does this mean, the oldest? I am 34. That is no age to retire."

Nys points out to his dominating first win of the season at the Koppenbergcross. "How long has it been since someone won with over a minute? Maybe at the Worlds, with Stybar. You can't say that it is looking bad."

Nys points out his experience as an advantage in racing with the young guns. And his mental approach when lining up at the start. "I am determined and mentally I feel like a 25-year-old." He adds that he hasn't lost his explosiveness. "At the start I am always the first or second guy, together with Stybar. I am not saying I am better than ten years ago, but I am certainly not less, either."

Nys is less dominating now, but still feels that the pressure is with the young riders to move up to his level. Despite not winning as much, the Belgian notices a rise in popularity. "I have more fans now than when I won 30 times per season."

Last year the duel between Albert and Nys was electrifying fans in both camps, occasionally even drifting into the unsportsmanlike of trying to hinder the 'enemy' racer during races. This year, it has been the Stybar domination against a whole slew of strong Belgians that dictated the season.

Nys had to smile when he was asked about former cross racer Mario De Clercq's statement ("The older a crosser gets, the meaner he becomes."). Nys disagrees. "That has more to do with character. Mario is a really nice person outside of sports, but in competition he was bad. The longer the winter lasted, the less I could take it. He only had one goal - to beat me."

Nys explained that De Clercq would try everything, including making arrangements with other racers, to beat Nys. Nys himself doesn't see the necessity for such foul plays. "No, that's not me." Conversely, he feels better prepared to fight off such mind games. "At the start of the Koppenbergcross Niels felt my tire and asked 'How hard did you pump it up?'"

Nys explained that his tires weren't really pumped up hard at all. His only thought was that others shouldn't play these games, a diversion from the past. "In the earlier years I would have thought 'Really? Is that true? Should I still let out some air?"

These days, Nys fully focuses on himself, and his attention to details is great fun for him. He does not suffer from any kind of burnout syndrome. "Putting my body into pain, training the running with the bike, working on details. I find that tremendously captivating. The results are the reward for all the work."

He also enjoys the work itself and he still feels young at heart. "Part of you always has to stay a little bit like a child to enjoy life."


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