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James Moultrie

Thibau Nys follows in father's footsteps in winning Koppenbergcross

Belgian Thibau Nys pictured in action during the men elite race of the Koppenbergcross the first race out of eight of the X2O Badkamers trophy cyclocross competition in Melden Oudenaarde.

Thibau Nys (Baloise Trek Lions) powered to victory solo at the Koppenbergcross after taking the lead on the opening lap and holding off the chase from teammate Lars van der Haar and Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal).

Rain and previous races in the day made the notoriously tough course even harder and turned it into a complete mud bath, but the 20-year-old looked experienced beyond his age as he navigated the treacherous conditions and took his third elite-level win.

Cyclocross legend and Nys’ father Sven Nys has the record for wins at the Koppenbergcross with nine and last took victory on the iconic course in 2012, 11 years prior to his son achieving the feat to similar roars from the Belgian crowd.

Thibau Nys pointed to his father and signalled ten for the Nys family on his hands as he crossed the finish line.

“I have rarely experienced a race like that,” Nys said. “It was such a slow cross that really drained you completely. Then you have time to think because you are only concerned with yourself, with finding your pace. You're not busy with anything else. That's a strange feeling, especially when you're riding around all alone.”

Nys also spoke of his celebration and following in his father’s footsteps at the Koppenbergcross, but didn’t want to get ahead of himself with the European Championships approaching quickly. 

"It is unbelievable. We've been talking about this for a long time. To top it off like this... We finally have ten," said Nys. “I just want to enjoy this now. The season is already incredible. I don't care if I lose on Sunday [at the European Championships]. I'll just go all in and see where it ends.”

Nys didn’t have the ideal start as the pack hit the iconic Koppenberg for the first time as his wheel slipped and became slightly tangled with teammate Pim Ronhaar, but the duo quickly recovered and found themselves in the top three behind Lander Loockx (TDT-Unibet).

Loockx capitalised on the running sections of the course to gain a small lead before Nys decided enough was enough and dived up the inside of a corner to take the lead from his Belgian compatriot.

The riders fought for rare patches of grass on the mud-ridden course, with most forced to run more than they were used to and the race reduced to only five laps due to the slow lap time. 

Ronhaar slipped away due to small mistakes as he came close to a complete slide out then put his foot through a netted barrier, signalling the end of his time close to the front. Nys also hit the deck once as he tried to carry as much speed as possible through each corner, but thankfully he did no damage to himself or the bike.

Behind the leader, Iserbyt had only Van der Haar now for company on the final lap, but his Belgian team claimed he wasn’t having his best day. The pair would fight right to the line up the Koppenberg, but Van der Haar had the better kick at the end of the arduous hour of racing. 

Cameron Mason (Cyclocross Reds) took a brilliant fourth place behind and continued what has been a great 2023-24 season so far ahead of European Champion Michael Vanthourenhout. This was his last appearance in the jersey ahead of his title defence this weekend in Pontchâteau.

Nys will be the favourite going into the men’s race this Sunday, with an eye on his first elite-level jersey. Iserbyt, Van der Haar and Vanthourenhout are likely to be his key competitors in France. 


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