Thibau Nys’ Koppenbergcross win extended his father’s legacy

Thibau and his father, Sven, have now racked up 10 cobble trophies in the Nys name

When Thibau Nys crossed the finish line first at Koppenbergcross on Wednesday, he flashed all 10 fingers. One represented his win on one of cyclocross’ most iconic courses, the first of his budding career. The other nine represented his father Sven Nys’ record nine wins on the treacherous cobbles. 

The gesture sent a clear message: Nys is doing everything he can to follow in his father’s footsteps, and extend a family legacy into a new generation.

“I already knew it was my dream to win on the Koppenberg and put the 10 fingers in the air,” Nys said after the win. “It’s something that’s been on my mind since the last time my dad won. So between thinking that and dreaming those scenarios in your mind, and then actually winning, you still don’t truly believe it. But it’s a day I will never forget.”

Sven Nys encouraging his son to one of the biggest wins of his career.

Nys took the lead on the first lap of the race and then held off the field in miserable conditions. Torrential rain muddied an already-difficult course. The race was reduced to just five laps. After nearly one hour of racing, Nys finished seven seconds ahead of teammate Lars van der Haar, who was coming off a spectacular World Cup win last Sunday in Maasmechelen. Eli Iserbyt took third, 17 seconds behind Nys. 

“You see all the weather forecasts for the coming days, and you see that it’s going to rain a lot on the Koppenberg, and you know it will be mythical conditions like back in the old days,” Nys said. “It’s something I think not every rider is suited for, but I think every rider looks forward to a race like this on the Koppenberg, where it’s super muddy and slippery conditions.”

The Nys trophy room earned another cobble.

Nys’ first win comes 11 years after his father’s last win in Oudenaarde, and 22 years after Sven Nys’ first. A member of the Nys family has now won nearly 42 percent of every Koppenbergcross held this century.

“People always say the cyclocross season really starts on the first of November, when we race on the Koppenberg,” Nys said. “It’s such a classic monument race that every rider wants to win once in his career. There are not a lot of riders who are able to win that race. And to finish it off in my first full year as an elite rider, it’s better than I ever could have dreamed of. And I can slowly start building up as many wins on the Koppenberg as possible. 

“I’m still far from what my dad reached in his career by winning nine times, but I think it’s a race that really suits me.”

Koppenbergcross is one of the legendary races of cyclocross.

This year’s Koppenbergcross also continued Baloise Trek’s remarkable start to the season. Nys now has three elite wins this season, highlighted by his first ever World Cup win in Waterloo. Van der Haar currently leads the World Cup overall, and appears to be in some of the best form of his career. David Haverdings, just 19 years old, added to the team accolades by winning the men’s U23 race.

“Lars rode a super, super strong race in conditions that are not 100 percent optimal for him,” Nys said. “So I think he’s in perfect shape for the European Championship coming up next Sunday. I think we both have a lot of help from each other, giving a lot of confidence for each other and always having someone who can support you from the front or from the back when someone’s in the attack. It helps us win a lot more races together than without each other.”

Thibau Nys and Lars van der Haar sharing a podium as teammates for the second time this season.

The stage is set for a thrilling race in Pontchâteau, France, for this year’s European Championships. The men’s elite race will take place at 3 p.m. local time (CET). You won’t want to miss any of the action.