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Nys and Vervecken hit the boards

Sven Nys and Erwin Vervecken provided the opening entertainment for the first night of the Lotto six day in Hasselt on Thursday. The two cyclo-cross champions faced off in an unlikely venue - the smooth, mud and obstacle-free velodrome - for an exhibition three kilometre pursuit. UCI 'cross leader Nys bested World Champion Vervecken in the pursuit by just over a second.

For racers familiar with going flat out for an hour, less than four minutes of racing should be easy, right? "The track experience was simply painful", Nys told Sporza. "It's as if you ride continuously against wind. My legs are in pain at this moment. I feel that seriously." But Nys doesn't count this 'win' among his victories for the season. "No, I wouldn't say that. I had no back number," he laughed.

Following the exhibition, the serious racing was underway for the final six day of the season. Defending champion Iljo Keisse, still waiting for his usual partner Matthew Gilmore to recover from a broken leg suffered last fall, sits in second place with partner Marco Villa behind the Swiss team Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli. Robert Slippens, who made his comeback just in time for this last race and his partner Danny Stam were in sixth place, two laps behind the leaders after the first night.