‘Cyclo-cross can’t exist with just three riders’ - Sven Nys on CX appearance fee disparity

Some CX riders reportedly forced to race for free due to large appearance fees handed to Tom Pidcock, Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert

Wout van Aert
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sven Nys, the Belgian cyclo-cross legend and two-time World Champion, has said that  a more equal balance is needed in cyclo-cross appearance fees handed out to riders by race organisers.

The fees paid to the star riders on the European cyclo-cross circuit have attracted criticism in recent weeks, with other riders claiming they have had to race for free due to organisers spending all their budget on attracting Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Tom Pidcock.

Speaking to Cycling Weekly, Nys said he believes urgent conversations are needed with all cyclo-cross stakeholders to ensure a healthier future for the discipline.

“We want to keep all riders involved in our sport, so we need to to think more about others and less about Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Tom Pidcock,” Nys said. “It’s important, cyclo-cross can not exist with just three riders.”

Nys said  that the only way to reach a resolution to the issue is to get all parties involved around a table with the aim of achieving an equal balance to create a level financial playing field.

“We can’t compare cyclo-cross with road racing. Most of the riders have their own expenses from travelling to Benidorm or places like Dublin. If they aren’t able to get a fee at that moment to come to some races, they’re going to decide to race in Belgium because it costs less money,” Nys said.

“I think we need to talk with everyone involved in cyclo-cross. Race organisers, the UCI, athletes and teams, then we can not solely bring money to the biggest riders, but make a good balanced budget so that others are able to afford things like their travel costs,” he added. “It’s really not in a good balance right now.”

“The big guys only race 10-15 races a season. Although we need to think beyond those three riders because we have up to 40 races in a CX season. If we only think about those 10-15 races with Wout, Mathieu and Tom Pidcock what will we then do with all the other riders?

“The World Cup starts in October, we need to think about those riders that start those races then and not only about the big guys who join in December.”


Cameron Mason

(Image credit: SW Pix)

Meanwhile, recently crowned British national champion Cameron Mason told Cycling Weekly that the trio of big hitters receive large amounts of money for a reason.

“It’s no secret that when Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Tom [Pidcock] turn up at races the crowds are then bigger,” Mason said. “As a kind of financial thing, it 100% adds up. Organisers are getting more people through the door when the big guys turn up. I’ve raced in races where those guys weren’t there and yeah, I think the difference is really noticeable so I think it’s just part of it.”

Away from his work with the Baloise Trek Lions team, Nys has recently collaborated with former pro Mitch Docker and GCN on a new film which sees Docker try his hand at cyclo-cross. Titled “There will be Mud”, the film sees Nys and current pros Shirin van Anrooij and Puck Pieterse work with Docker as he heads to Belgium to tackle his first race.

Nys told Cycling Weekly that Docker was a fast-learner and that the Australian adapted to his new surroundings really quickly.

“We know that Mitch is an athlete. He knows how he needs to win races and how to prepare himself for road cycling. But bringing him into cyclocross and talking about all the details, when to jump on and off the bike, the tactics, the acceleration, shifting on the right moment, were all things that were so new to him,” Nys said.

“It’s really exciting that he loved it, also that he made improvements really quickly after we talked about all those things. Then when he went to a race and was involved, he enjoyed the atmosphere around the course which was really nice to see.”

There Will Be Mud is available exclusively on GCN+ and can be watched via the GCN+ App, all web browsers, and smart TVs. A subscription includes access to more than 150 original and exclusive full-length documentaries, as well as live and on demand racing coverage, analysis and highlights.

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Tom Thewlis

Tom is a News and Features Writer at Cycling Weekly, and previously worked in communications at Oxford Brookes University. He has reported from a wide range of races and events including the Tour de France and World Championships.