Am I really going to do this? [Pauses...] Yes. Yes I am. As I start I have no idea whether or how this will turn out to be interesting, so let's just run with it. Keep in mind, these are just his World Cup wins. Actually a rather small selection. Anyway, he is up to 336 wins in his career total, including a handful of road and track events, and a dozen MTB events too. But mostly he has wiled away his career winning CX races. And of all that, 50 times he has won on the World Cup circuit, a unique slice of the sport where things become less Belgian, faster, and just plain different. Here is every one of those.
1. Tabor, Czech Republic
Date: Nov 21, 1998
Primary Victims: Daniele Pontoni, Mario De Clercq. A 22-year-old Nys breaks through on the World Cup stage, but he was already blitzing his way through the Superprestige classification, so it's not like it was a shock.
2. Safenwil, Switzerland
Date: Nov 7, 1999
Primary Victims: Richard Groenendaal, Jiri Pospisil. Pospisil shares his name with a Czech politician. He was a pretty big winner in races from Switzerland and points south/east, but nothing much in the more traditional places.
3. Leudelange, Luxembourg
Date: Dec 5, 1999
Primary Victims: Groenendaal, Adri Van Der Poel. Groenendaal, one of the all-time Dutch CX greats, was honing his form which would propel him to a world championship, won in large part because his trade teammate Nys wouldn't help his compatriot Mario De Clercq chase down Groenendaal.
Yves Boucau, AFP/Getty
4. Zolder, Belgium
Date: Dec 17, 2000
Primary Victims: Petr Dlask, Bart Wellens. Dlask was another Czech who was cannon fodder in the northern races, but he did manage to win a lot, and bagged two Leudelanges at the end of his career, long after that race faded from the UCI.
5. Zeddam, Netherlands
Date: Jan 7, 2001
Primary Victims: Dlask, Groenendaal
6. Monopoli, Italy
Date: Nov 17, 2001
Primary Victims: Wellens, Daniele Pontoni. This is pre-peak Wellens, in his second full season of racing Elite men's.
7. Igorre, Spain
Date: November/December 2001
Primary Victims: Wellens, Erwin Vervecken. Vervecken was on the downslope of his World Championship defense at this point, though not exactly on the downslope of his career. He still had some iconic wins, including two more world titles, yet to come.
8. Wetzikon (Zurich), Switzerland
Date: Jan 20, 2002
Primary Victims: Mario De Clercq, Vervecken. Not sure where to start on Mario. Another treble-rainbow guy, who won races right up to his last one in 2004. Nys has long since eclipsed his record, but Mario was one of the greats.
9. Lievin, France
Date: Jan 5, 2003
Primary Victims: Groenendaal, Wellens. Lievin is a bit west of the Paris-Roubaix route, not far from where Flemish is spoken.
10. Hoogerheide, Netherlands
Date: Feb 16, 2003
Primary Victims: Wellens, Ben Berden. Newly minted World Champion Wellens gets a taste of Sven's Revenge. But Wellens would go on a massive tear from this point, largely at Sven's expense.
Yves Boucau, AFP/Getty
11. Torino, Italy
Date: Oct 26, 2003
Primary Victims: Wellens, Berden.
12. Sankt Wendel, Germany
Date: Nov 16, 2003
Primary Victims: Pospisil, Berden. Berden is a colorful character, to say the least. He's been kicking around the US now for a while, even racing down the road from here in Tacoma, though over this past weekend he was busy picking up a winner's check in Japan. Berden got popped in 2005 (and confessed), so while he's losing these races to Sven, he's on a program of some sort. Anyway, hopefully his career in B-list races over the last few years is more about racing at his true level.
Yves Boucau, AFP/Getty. Berden on the right (3rd) at the Belgian Championships in 2005.
13. Wetzikon, Switzerland
Date: Dec 7, 2003
Primary Victims: Wellens, Tom Vannoppen. Vannoppen spent six seasons at the elite level and pipped Sven a few times. He's one of the lesser-knowns from this post, but had his days in the sun (re: mud). This race would actually mark the end of a run for Sven in the World Cup, which he'd won overall the previous two series but would lose in 2003-04 to Groenendaal.
14. Pijnacker, Netherlands
Date: Nov 14, 2004
Primary Victims: Groenendaal, Sven Vanthourenhout. Nys breaks a five-race non-winning streak at the World Cup. He had one such stretch as a newcomer, and a longer spell in 2010-11 with a five-race drought and an epic 11-race spell, which started the process of preparing Belgians for a life after Sven (and increased the rate of inquiry into his son's abilities to unhealthy levels, where they will stay for a while).
15. Wetzikon, Switzerland
Date: Dec 5, 2004
Primary Victims: Dlask, Vervecken. Yeah, Sven liked the Wetzikon course, where he won six times. The race had its last edition in 2010, despite tracing its roots all the way to 1931, an edition won by Sven racing under the pseudonym Karl Bossard.
16. Milano, Italy
Date: Dec 8, 2004
Primary Victims: Berden, Zdenek Mlynar. This is the awesomely named Trofeo Mamma e Pappa Guerciotti, which is the not so well publicized name of the race to this day.
17. Hofstade, Belgium
Date: Dec 28, 2004
Primary Victims: Vervecken, Enrico Franzoi. Just Nys' second win on home soil... in the World Cup. In other competitions, he'd already won... a lot of races.
18. Nommay, France
Date: Jan 16, 2005
Primary Victims: Vannoppen, Vanthourenhout. At this point Vanthourenhout is a teammate at Rabobank, having left behind his road career after a falling out with Patrick Lefevre at Quick Step, where he'd been reasonably successful (winning a GP Briek Schotte, as his high point). CX rarely wins the battle for top talent. Vanthourenhout is still active in the elite level.
19. Hoogerheide, Netherlands
Date: Jan 23, 2005
Primary Victims: Davy Commeyne, Vanthourenhout. Sven is on fire at just the right time, taking another GP Adri van der Poel. Before his next World Cup win, this happened:
Both photos by Thomas Lohnes, AFP/Getty
20. Lanarvily, France
Date: Feb 13, 2005
Primary Victims: Groenendaal, Franzoi. Ho hum, back to work. FYI, for a few years the World Cup had 11 events, as opposed to its usual eight or (nowadays) seven.
21. Kalmthout, Belgium
Date: Oct 23, 2005
Primary Victims: Wellens, Dlask. Unbeknownst to many, Wellens' career was beginning its free-fall from two rainbow jerseys and a few other series victories to his prolonged period of middling results and reality TV.
22. Tabor, Czech Republic
Date: Oct 29, 2005
Primary Victims: Dlask, Kamil Ausbuher. Ausbuher's presence underlies one part of the story: some of the world cup races are pretty forgettable, at least if they're outside Belgium and early in the season.
23. Pijnacker, Netherlands
Date: Nov 13, 2005
Primary Victims: Groenendaal, Gerben De Knegt. At this point Groenendaal's career is nearly behind him, with no more World Cup wins beckoning.
24. Wetzikon, Switzerland
Date: Dec 4, 2005
Primary Victims: Groenendaal, Wellens. Like clockwork. [You see what I did there?]
25. Milano, Italy
Date: Dec 8, 2005
Primary Victims: Vervecken, Franzoi. This makes 11 wins in his last 12 World Cup starts for Nys, and 12 of 14 -- the hottest stretch of his entire career. Not that he cooled off much from here.
26. Hofstade, Belgium
Date: Dec 26, 2005
Primary Victims: Vervecken, De Knegt. De Knegt was just entering the most productive year of his career.
27. Hooglede-Gits, Belgium
Date: Dec 31, 2005
Primary Victims: Vervecken, Groenendaal. Nys' 2005 season was actually his third-best in terms of UCI points, with his best coming next. But Vervecken would get the last laugh both times, with a rainbow jersey in 2006 and '07.
28. Lievin, France
Date: Jan 15, 2006
Primary Victims: Francis Mourey, John Gadret. At this point, coming off a national champion, Gadret had been something of a force in French cyclocross, despite maintaining a full-time road career since 2004. It was something of a last hurrah, in terms of his dual career, though, as Gadret started narrowing his CX exploits down from here, confined now to the odd race and French nats, while becoming a moderately awesome roadie.
29. Aigle, Switzerland
Date: Oct 1, 2006
Primary Victims: Wellens, Vervecken. Same old.
30. Kalmthout, Belgium
Date: Oct 22, 2006
Primary Victims: Mourey, Vervecken. Mourey has had an interesting career. I'm guessing he's one of the few CX stars to complete all three grand tours, and he seems to have a regular date with the Giro d'Italia, as recently as this spring. Also, unlike some of the other non-Belgians or Dutch guys, Mourey is actually pretty competitive with the top riders, winning in places like Namur (Citadelcross) and putting the fear into his rivals on a regular basis. Off to a curiously quiet start this year though. He's spent his entire pro career with FDJ.
31. Pijnacker, Netherlands
Date: Nov 12, 2006
Primary Victims: Mourey, De Knegt. This was return to form time, after two non-wins in Tabor and Treviso. Nys wouldn't finish off a podium for some time to come, including a majority of wins -- the best stretch of his career.
32. Koksijde, Spain
Date: Nov 25, 2006
Primary Victims: Wellens, Vanthourenhout. Koksijde wasn't kind to Sven early on (one win in his first six years) but by now he'd figured it out. His win two days ago was #6 in the sand dunes.
33. Igorre, Spain
Date: Dec 3, 2006
Primary Victims: Wellens, Klaas Vantornout. KVT's first full season at the top level.
34. Nommay, France
Date: Jan 14, 2007
Primary Victims: Wellens, De Knegt
35. Hoogerheide, Netherlands
Date: Jan 21, 2007
Primary Victims: Dlask, Vervecken. This was Nys' third and (so far) final win at the GP Adri van der Poel. Who, by the way, is Mathieu's dad.
36. Tabor, Czech Republic
Date: Oct 27, 2007
Primary Victims: Vantornout, Lars Boom. Oho! At this point Boom was just beginning his Elite CX career, with a junior and U23 world title to his name already. Boom was also the Elite national CX, road race and ITT champion back home. You can see why we all got so excited.
37. Koksijde, Belgium
Date: Nov 24, 2007
Primary Victims: Vervecken, Boom.
38. Igorre, Spain
Date: Dec 2, 2007
Primary Victims: Wellens, Vantornout. Gotta give Wellens some credit here, even with Nys assuming a dominant place in the sport, Bartje didn't go down without a fight.
39. Hofstade, Belgium
Date: Dec 26, 2007
Primary Victims: Wellens, Boom. How many races are you including in the Kerstperiode? Because Nys won them all: Hofstade, Middelkerke, Diegem and of course Baal (the GP Sven Nys -- one of 12 wins for the Cannibal of Baal).
40. Kalmthout, Belgium
Date: Oct 19, 2008
Primary Victims: Niels Albert, Kevin Pauwels. Oho! It's truly a new world now. Albert and Pauwels were his primary rivals for years to come after this point, racing for rival Belgian teams. This would also mark the start of a new chapter for Nys, switching from Rabobank to Lamdbouwkrediet, his only major team change in his career.
41. Igorre, Spain
Date: Dec 7, 2008
Primary Victims: Vantornout, Vervecken. Wins starting to slow down now. Nys had gone three WC races without a win before his trusty Basque success, his fourth and last win there so far.
42. Milano, Italy
Date: Jan 25, 2009
Primary Victims: Boom, Zdenek Stybar. Oho!! More talent flooding the sport. It's no wonder things got a bit tough for Sven around now.
43. Kalmthout, Belgium
Date: Dec 20, 2009
Primary Victims: Stybar, Albert. Seven wins here so far...
44. Plzen, Czech Republic
Date: Oct 16, 2011
Primary Victims: Pauwels, Stybar. One win in two full seasons on the WC circuit. Not that he didn't win some other stuff, but that stretch of time was the "OMIGOD he's done!" period of his career, one of the more fruitful times to be a psychologist in Belgium.
45. Koksijde, Belgium
Date: Nov 26, 2011
Primary Victims: Pauwels, Bart Aernouts. Is he... back? Nys' win totals didn't vary that much in these years, but his return to the top of the World Cup leaderboard (for a time) was a thing people got excited about.
46. Namur, Belgium
Date: Dec 18, 2011
Primary Victims: Albert, Vantornout. The height of the Albert-Nys battles, with Boom and Stybar having refocused on the road. Albert got hot after this, although Rob Peeters showed up and took a couple January races, but Nys had no great momentum heading into the world championships in his beloved Koksijde, and Albert won easily.
47. Koksijde, Belgium
Date: Nov 24, 2012
Primary Victims: Albert, Mourey. Sven was hot in fall of 2013. Could this be his last big year? Could big things be on the way??
48. Roubaix, France
Date: Dec 2, 2012
Primary Victims: Pauwels, Albert. This race should be awesomer than it is, but hey. It's a velodrome with some embankments. Not much else.
49. Heusden-Zolder, Belgium
Date: Dec 26, 2012
Primary Victims: Albert, Stybar. Yes, Stybar was still around, just not as much. And Albert was still a rival, a year away from discovering the health problem that ended his career. It was Sven's year in general though, for probably the last time.
50. Koksijde, Belgium
Date: Nov 22, 2015
Primary Victims: Wout Van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel. Two riders born in 1995, when Sven was winning the Belgian junior championship.
Talk about coming full circle. Nys has been a wonder to watch. Not exactly invincible in the last several years, but tenacious and strong and intelligent enough to do what the great champions do -- extend their run even as their pure physical advantages fade. We won't see too many like Sven Nys again.