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Back 3.13.2018

Nick Nuyens on his Tour of Flanders Victory and What Makes Wout Special

Nick Nuyens today (top) and at 2011 Tour of Flanders. 

The Belgian believed he could win a Monument, and he did. Now he’s leading a new generation of racers at Veranda's Willems-Crelan.

Nick Nuyens holds an enduring spot in Zipp history. An image from his thrilling 2011 victory at the Tour of Flanders graced of our product catalog the next year. 

In that race, the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Nuyens displayed so much of what makes pro cycling – at its best – so dramatic and engrossing. Nuyens showed strength, cunning, and self-belief in defeating his formidable breakaway companions, Fabian Cancellara and Sylvan Chavanel. His triumph was the second of three straight victories in the Tour of Flanders (along with Cancellara in 2010 and Tom Boonen in 2012) aboard Zipp 303s. Nuyens’ career included many other highlights, including victories in Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne and Dwars Door Vlaanderen.

These days, Nuyens is the manager of Veranda's Willems-Crelan Pro Cycling Team, an upstart Belgian UCI Pro Continental squad. The team already made waves this season with Wout van Aert’s gritty third place at Strade Bianche in Italy. We caught up with Nuyens to discuss his career then and now:

What are your main objectives with the team this spring?
​We want to show ourselves. Show that we are there as a team and that we provide an added value to each race we participate in. Obviously, we also hope to have some results with Wout van Aert, but also with Sean De Bie and Stijn Devolder (two-time Flanders champ), and hopefully, Zico Waeytens (coming back after he broke his wrist) is able to perform straight away. Looking at van Aert, the main objective is to give him full support in his "classics journey," to assure that he knows in a few months if he wants to continue in road racing or not.

How important was it for the team to get invites to the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix?
​For sure being at Roubaix this year (Flanders we did last year already) and also Strade Bianche, has been a very big next step in the development of our team. It's only our second year, but we are already doing the program we were aiming for. It’s giving us a really nice base to continue to grow and take the next steps as a team in general.

What are the biggest factors of success for young pro cyclists? It could be something with training, mental approach, etc.
​​Talent is obviously a basic condition, but if there is not a ‘head’ on the athlete, he won't make it. Stepping up each time again when things are not going the way they were supposed to, that is probably the biggest distinguishing factor. Looking forward, trying to improve yourself each time, being critical of yourself... all those elements. That's also why we hashtag #aimhigher for the team. Work for it, and you'll get it! (Of course, you need to set realistic goals!) Being a top athlete is being professional seven days a week, 24 hours a day in everything you do.

In the 2011 Tour of Flanders, Nuyens played a savvy game of tatics while also pushing his physical limits. To make the final selection, he strains to hang on as Fabian Cancellara attacks. Then, with Cancellara and Sylvain Chavanel, he skillfully plays his cards.

In pro road racing, how do tactics and team strength influence the outcome vs. simply having the strongest rider win? There are some races where clearly the strongest rider wins. But other races seem so tactical.
​​ I'm happy that not always the strongest rider is winning the race, otherwise, I would probably have never had won a single race! But I was very good in tactics and I won some quite nice races. But, for sure, you need the legs before you can start to play the game....

Besides that, you always need your team to win. Even when you’re all alone in the final, your team helped you get there by taking care of you the first part of the race (going for bottles, rain jacket, taking wind, positioning). Pro Cycling is a very complex mixture of an individual and team sport: You need your team, but you have to push all by yourself.

Many smaller teams are very aggressive at putting riders into the early breakaways. Do you see this as a good strategy?
​The main reason is mostly to get some publicity. Most of the teams do this when they know they won't have a rider in the final. Another reason might be, obviously, the tactics: when the advantage gets high enough, teammates might meet again deep in the final....

Wout van Aert on his way to third place at  Strade Bianche in Italy. 

What most impresses you about Wout van Aert?
​His focus and fighting spirit during the race.

A well played sprint followed by an ultimate goal achieved.  

What did winning the Tour of Flanders mean for your career? You must still get asked about it often in public. What did it mean to you personally?
​Before, I won some very nice races. But winning Flanders brought my career to a higher level. I'm in history books of cycling now, and it seems that everybody knows this!

At a certain moment, it became my ultimate goal: I knew I would never win five Classics, but I was convinced that I was capable of winning one....which I finally did, and that’s not bad at all.

It makes me very proud of what I did on the bike, even though it ended not the way I preferred because of my bad crash and a broken hip.

You won Flanders on Zipp 303 wheels. What was it like switching to carbon wheels for the Spring Classics? Was that an advancement you thought would happen in your career?
​​Best wheels I ever used! I felt very comfortable on the wheels and having that feeling is probably the most important thing for a rider!

Difference stages of a cycling life, Nick Nuyens, top, at his moment of triumph at Flanders in 2011 and, now, leading a new generation of racers with Veranda's Willems-Crelan Pro Cycling Team.

Follow Veranda's Willems-Crelan @verandaswillems_crelan on Instagram and @snipercycling on Twitter.

All 2011 images of Tour of Flanders ® Getty Images

Other images courtesdy of Veranda's Willems-Crelan