The fearsome Koppenberg may be best known for its links to the Tour of Flanders, but each November 1, the famous Flemish hill plays host to perhaps the most beautiful cyclo-cross race of the winter, the Koppenbergcross.
Sven Nys certainly thinks so. The Landbouwkrediet rider has a phenomenal record in the event and he cruised to his 9th victory on the Koppenberg on Thursday afternoon with a typically classy performance.
“This was a very special win. For me, this race is like the Tour of Flanders or the world championships,” Nys said afterwards.
Even in a world-class field like that at the Koppenbergcross, the cream quickly rises to the top, and after three of the race’s eight laps, Nys and world champion Niels Albert were clear of the field.
Over the next five ascensions of the Koppenberg, the pair were locked in a fierce duel, with neither man willing to concede a centimetre in the Flanders mud. The Koppenberg was a cauldron of noise, filled with passionate Belgian supporters, and on the final lap, they erupted with excitement when Nys pressed clear of Albert.
The 36-year-old opened a gap on the steepest part of the Koppenberg and held his tempo all the way to the finish to win by 14 seconds. After bad luck ruined his challenge in the season’s early races, Nys was delighted to win the Koppenbergcross and move up to second place overall in the bpost Bank Trofee standings.
“I put all my frustrations in one acceleration,” Nys smiled. “I spared my strength until the final lap and then I gave it everything. That was the plan and it worked. This was my dream. Yes, this is my Tour of Flanders.”