Full of Surrender: Nys Goes All In.
What happens when you take a seasoned Belgian bike racer out of the cold, rain, and mud of Europe and bring him to the arid, sunny dessert of Nevada? Amazing things unfold, indeed.
So, let’s back it up… for three consecutive years, we have had the pleasure of working with Renaat Schotte (Belgian cycling television commentator) and Brook Watts (U.S. event promoter) to produce feature programs on the “European invasion” of the CrossVegas cyclocross race for Sporza television. This past autumn, the reigning Cyclocross World Champion, Sven Nys, swooped across the pond to take the honors in a hot and dusty battle against the likes of home-turf lads, Ryan Trebon and Jeremy Powers, and Canadian, Geoff Kabush. But that’s not the only story here. Or even the real story.
One of the most spectacular elements of our work is that we get to shoot with so many different individuals, all types of personalities and temperaments. For us, character is king on-camera and I was anxious about filming with Nys. We hadn’t heard much about him off the course – all we knew was what kind of bike racer he was.
From an outside perspective, he appeared solitary; perhaps even guarded. In my mind, he had a kind of remote focus before each race while some of his peers might be joking, laughing, and generally goofing around just minutes before the start. Although powerful and intimidating in a competitive arena, this stoic persona might not play well on-screen. And so, we went into day one of filming in Las Vegas with uncertainty and refrain. Boy, we could not have been more wrong.
Our first shots with the Belgian entourage – Sven Nys, Sven Vanthourenhout, and sportif manager, Jan Verstraeten – set the stage. We rode out to Red Rock Canyon where midday heat and temperatures were outright oppressive and had the guys do uphill efforts for the cameras. Normally we might expect some attitude in this scenario or at least a bit of resistance. But from the instant we began, Sven and Sven were easy going, amenable, completely professional, and even playful. I remember seeing that first big smile cracking on Nys’ face as he rode inches behind our minivan, realizing we’d just met the real Sven Nys.
The following days included a course recon, numerous on-camera interviews, endless autograph signings, a bit of a walk-about on the Interbike Expo showfloor, sponsor meet-and-greets, and a VIP Black Jack session inside the Monte Carlo Casino (made amazingly possible by Randy Boynton). In every instance, we found both Nys and Vanthourenhout to be exceptional company, soaking in each and every morsel of their Vegas experience with enthusiasm and true enjoyment.
We rented a mustang convertible with the idea of having a good old-fashioned cruise down the Vegas Strip. Nys, or Sven One as we coined him during our three-day shoot with the Two Svens, was near giddiness hot-rodding the car out of the hotel parking lot, revving into tire-skidding laps in the valet drive of the Monte Carlo, and blasting American pop on the radio down the Strip.
Back in the cool dark of the casino, the guys took turns wearing “poker faces” at the Black Jack table and cracking themselves up. There was a free energy on that shoot in Vegas that we had never seen back in the frigid tundra of a typical European cyclocross race. It made us love the polarity between the two sides of Sven Nys all the more.
On the day of the CrossVegas race, Nys played the part perfectly. While staying focused on his preparation, he still managed to hold a serious one-on-one with Renaat for Sporza and tease his compatriot, Bart Wellens, a bit. He met fans and did a recon lap with Sven Two. And then he put on his game face. That face we had been so familiar with before we met the Vegas-version of Sven. And in typical CX prowess, he won the race.
The Sporza program, “Nys All In,” was aired not long after and was watched by over 300,000 viewers. In a country of only 11 million inhabitants, that’s almost a 30% market share. In Belgium, Nys is big nieuws.
After the race, Nys did the rounds of interviews, posing for pictures, and generally being a good sport. His last day in Vegas involved mingling at the CLIFbar foosball party and ribbing Tom Boonen between press junkets.
In Nys’ own words “The atmosphere was wonderful. Let’s hope we can bring cyclocross to another dimension in the USA. The spectators are great, crazy and full of surrender. Also with this crowd, you can feel the support and appreciation to the riders, what is great. Vegas Strip was something we will never forget.”
Renaat recounted with the following “The Vegas adventure of the cyclocross world champion was special to me because of the great cooperation we got from Jan, Sven & Sven. Both were a dream to work with. I’ll never forget those nightly (5 am) editing sessions [with Jim and Iri], and I’ve edited some stuff in my life…one for my Memory Lane! The wizard behind CrossVegas, Brook Watts, also put in an effort to subtitle the report in English, which created a relaunch on Sporza.be and even made it to Behind-The-Barriers. I’d say from a reporter’s point of view to get the broadest possible audience: Jackpot!”
In our words, Vegas is Nys, Baby.