Velo North American Cyclocross Man of the Year: Jeremy Powers; International Cyclocross Man of the Year: Sven Nys

Jeremy Powers and Sven Nys are our North American and International CX Men of the Year

Editor’s note: The January 2013 issue of Velo magazine, which is on newsstands now, is our 25th annual awards issue. Our 2012 Cyclist of the Year was announced on November 29; we’ll be rolling out various other award winners throughout the month of December.

North American Cyclocross Man of the Year: Jeremy Powers

There was a time when Jeremy Powers was one of the younger guys, relegated to riding in the shadows of multiple-time national cyclocross champions like Tim Johnson and Ryan Trebon. Those days, as we’ve seen, are long gone.

Powers (Rapha-Focus) pedaled into a slick national champion’s kit of his own in 2012, on the heels of winning the 2011 USGP series for the second year running, winning five of eight races. It marked his arrival as America’s top cyclocross rider, a mantle he’s successfully defended so far this season. At press time, he’d gone five-for-six at this year’s USGP series, as well as taking the win under the lights at Cross Vegas; he also placed a career-best seventh at a World Cup, in Pilsen, Czech Republic, in October.

The 29-year-old Connecticut native is an effervescent personality in bike racing. He’ll talk candidly, and for a while, and is always ready with a smile. He’s also always ready with a smooth burst of power mid race, a hurdle-clearing bunny hop, or a vision-blurring effort to grab the hole-shot. He’s also the best hope for an elite men’s medal at this year’s world cyclocross championship, to be held in Louisville, Kentucky.

“While it’s a hardman’s sport, it’s short and it suits me well. And I have had a lot of fun riding bikes. I feel really lucky, and I take the role very seriously. I’ve followed my dream, and I’ve worked hard at it … it’s about me. It’s about sport. It’s about pushing myself,” Powers told Velo. “Not everyone has the opportunity to do this. Not everyone has the chance. Because I have it, I feel like it’s not only my desire, but my duty to do this.”

Now, it’s Powers who is casting the long shadows.

International Cyclocross Man of the Year: Sven Nys

Seven times Sven Nys has won the Belgian national cyclocross title and the overall title in the Superprestige — the discipline’s top series aside from the World Cup — in the same season. The “Cannibal from Baal” did it in 2012 and, while he once again fell short in a world championship race, Nys has bounced back for yet another go at the top honors in ’cross this season.

By press time, Nys had won six times during the 2012-13 campaign, including victories on storied tracks like Hamme-Zogge and Koppenberg; he led the Superprestige series after three rounds.

Cyclocross is a young man’s game. Riders like Pauwels and Niels Albert, the 2012 world champion, are a decade younger than the 36-year-old, but Nys keeps on going. What he lacks in top-end speed, 13 years after his first Belgian elite title, he more than makes up for in finesse. No one in cyclocross handles a bike better than Nys. Watching him tear apart the treacherous Koppenberg circuit in November, it was clear that the patron of elite cyclocross was still on top — after outclassing everyone save for Albert on the slick mud, Nys dropped the world champion with the burst of a rider years his junior on the climb to the finish.

If he is at the front of a race, in the mud, in the closing laps, Sven Nys is as near a lock as there is in men’s cyclocross. He is, as much as ever, the International Cyclocross Man of the Year.