Reigning Under 23 world cyclocross champion Thibau Nys has set his sights on a podium place in the elite race at this weekend’s UCI Cyclocross World Championships, admitting that it’s almost impossible to compete with defending champion Mathieu van der Poel but confident he can be the best of the rest and so save Belgian honour.
21-year-old Nys will be making his debut at elite level alongside the likes of Eli Iserbyt, Michael Vanthourenhout, and Laurens Sweeck.
Wout van Aert is already focused on his road season and so Belgium lacks rider able to really take on six-time champion Van der Poel.
Nys, who finished fourth at Sunday’s final round of the UCI World Cup in Hoogerheide, nine seconds down on Van der Poel, said he’ll certainly try to compete with the Dutchman, even if it’ll be a huge challenge.
“It’s not impossible against Mathieu, but it almost is. I just want to be on the podium next week,” Nys told WielerFlits.
“I will soon feel how hard Mathieu pushes, but if I feel good, I will definitely push.”
“I was really disappointed, but apart from that I gained a lot of confidence,” he said of his fourth place, just missing the podium in the final sprint in Hoogerheide.
“The good feeling remains. It’s very nice to race with that feeling and I look forward to the World Championships. I think I should have been on the podium with these legs. I can blame myself.”
Nys was up there with Van der Poel when the world champion made his winning attacks late in the race. He said that he may have been able to hang in there a little longer, noting that he could have finished second rather than falling back towards Baloise Trek Lions teammates Pim Ronhaar and Joris Nieuwenhuis, who will be Dutch rivals on Sunday.
“I was just one wheel too far. I don’t think he would have dropped me otherwise,” a confident Nys said of Van der Poel.
“I still wouldn’t have won, but second place would have been secured and I would be in the wheel longer. I could have answered that attack, although it’s almost impossible to ride faster than Mathieu when he is at full speed. But in the slipstream, I could have gone another lap.”
2024 road racing ambitions
Like Van der Poel, Nys is set to turn his attention to the road once the ‘cross season winds up shortly after the Tabor Worlds.
He’ll be taking on his second season as a WorldTour rider with Lidl-Trek having raced 40 days from March to September in 2023.
Last season he…