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Nys back in the saddle at single speed 'world championships' - Gallery

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Sven Nys and Adam Craig in the finishing straight following SSCXWC 2016.

Sven Nys and Adam Craig in the finishing straight following SSCXWC 2016.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Crowds gathered whenever Nys slowed down enough to chat.

Crowds gathered whenever Nys slowed down enough to chat.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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A glimpse of the mayhem on course at SSCXWC 2016 in Portland.

A glimpse of the mayhem on course at SSCXWC 2016 in Portland.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Adam Craig revels in his fifth consecutive SSCXWC title

Adam Craig revels in his fifth consecutive SSCXWC title
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Fans follow Sven Nys in action at the SSCXWC 2016 in Portland.

Fans follow Sven Nys in action at the SSCXWC 2016 in Portland.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Spectators have a birds-eye view of Nys as he chases Adam Craig.

Spectators have a birds-eye view of Nys as he chases Adam Craig.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Riders try to make their way through the pit of yoga balls while spectators take aim.

Riders try to make their way through the pit of yoga balls while spectators take aim.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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A drum corps beat out a rhythm for the day's races at SSCXWC 2016 in Portland

A drum corps beat out a rhythm for the day's races at SSCXWC 2016 in Portland
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Former winner Sue Butler was back on her 'cross bike for SSCXWC 2016 in Portland

Former winner Sue Butler was back on her 'cross bike for SSCXWC 2016 in Portland
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Riders had the option of jumping into the giant puddle of standing water on the course.

Riders had the option of jumping into the giant puddle of standing water on the course.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Portland fans take the opportunity to snap a shot of Nys.

Portland fans take the opportunity to snap a shot of Nys.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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A week of heavy rains saturated the Krugers Farm venue in Portland for SSCXWC 2016

A week of heavy rains saturated the Krugers Farm venue in Portland for SSCXWC 2016
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Sven Nys led the race briefly before Adam Craig took his fifth title.

Sven Nys led the race briefly before Adam Craig took his fifth title.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Sven Nys takes a corner on one of the hard-packed sections of the course.

Sven Nys takes a corner on one of the hard-packed sections of the course.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Sven Nys in action during the first lap of SSCXWC 2016

Sven Nys in action during the first lap of SSCXWC 2016
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Catching air into the standing water.

Catching air into the standing water.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Riders had the option of jumping into the giant puddle of standing water on the course.

Riders had the option of jumping into the giant puddle of standing water on the course.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Adam Craig on his way to winning SSCXWC 2016

Adam Craig on his way to winning SSCXWC 2016
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Sven Nys and Adam Craig took the top two spots Sunday at the SSCXWC 2016 in Portland. Craig won his fifth consecutive title.

Sven Nys and Adam Craig took the top two spots Sunday at the SSCXWC 2016 in Portland. Craig won his fifth consecutive title.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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It was a muddy day in Portland for the SSCXWC 2016

It was a muddy day in Portland for the SSCXWC 2016
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Sven Nys led during the middle of the race, but Adam Craig clawed his way back to take SSCXWC 2016.

Sven Nys led during the middle of the race, but Adam Craig clawed his way back to take SSCXWC 2016.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Adam Craig and

Adam Craig and
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Costumes were standard fair at the 10th Single speed cyclo-cross world championships in Portland.

Costumes were standard fair at the 10th Single speed cyclo-cross world championships in Portland.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Sven Nys gets started at the SSCXWC 2016 in Portland

Sven Nys gets started at the SSCXWC 2016 in Portland
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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What happens when a costume party and a bike race mix?

What happens when a costume party and a bike race mix?
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Nys never had to deal with this in Belgian races.

Nys never had to deal with this in Belgian races.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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A muddy yoga ball takes flight at SSCXWC 2016.

A muddy yoga ball takes flight at SSCXWC 2016.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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A riders makes his way through the pumpkin patch at SSCXWC 2016.

A riders makes his way through the pumpkin patch at SSCXWC 2016.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Finding a shortcut at SSCXWC 2016

Finding a shortcut at SSCXWC 2016
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Krugers Farm on Sauvie Island in Portland provided the venue for SSCXWC 2016.

Krugers Farm on Sauvie Island in Portland provided the venue for SSCXWC 2016.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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That's one way to keep the head warm at SSCXWC 2016

That's one way to keep the head warm at SSCXWC 2016
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Cotton candy hand-ups helped riders push through the muddy condictions.

Cotton candy hand-ups helped riders push through the muddy condictions.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Riders are relatively mud free on the first lap of the women's race.

Riders are relatively mud free on the first lap of the women's race.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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One of the women's riders fights through the mud at SSCXWC 2016.

One of the women's riders fights through the mud at SSCXWC 2016.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Sven Nys pops out of the corn field near the start of SSCXWC 2016

Sven Nys pops out of the corn field near the start of SSCXWC 2016
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Riders run for their bikes as the wooden structure on fire int he background signals the start of the men's race.

Riders run for their bikes as the wooden structure on fire int he background signals the start of the men's race.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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The yoga ball pit was especially challenging

The yoga ball pit was especially challenging
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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Former winner Sue Butler was back on her 'cross bike for SSCXWC 2016 in Portland

Former winner Sue Butler was back on her 'cross bike for SSCXWC 2016 in Portland
(Image credit: Pat Malach)
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No detail left unattended to at SSCXWC 2016.

No detail left unattended to at SSCXWC 2016.
(Image credit: Pat Malach)

Sven Nys will be leaving Portland, Oregon, without the tattoo that the winners of Sunday's Single Speed Cyclo-cross World Championship are required to get, but watching the thrilled spectators who lined up to see, talk to and take selfies with the recently retired Belgian 'cross legend you'd never guess he didn't win the race.

Nys' last-minute appearance at the 10th annual Single Speed Cyclo-cross World Championships – an unsanctioned and highly irreverent three-day event that is probably best described as Burning Man meets bike racing – was a surprise that had been planned for some time. Although rumours had been running through Portland's 'cross-crazy cycling scene, it wasn't until Nys showed up for the packet pick-up on Friday evening that most people learned the two-time world champion was in town to compete for the 10th SSCXWC title.

"The Single Speed Cyclo-cross World Championships has been a pretty big event for years, and we thought it would be pretty cool to bring a big name here just to experience the event and see what's happening," said Scott Daubert of Trek, the bike company Nys represents as a brand ambassador. "He's really here just to participate in a historic event, a grassroots cyclo-cross thing."

Over the last decade, the SSCXWC has been as much about performance art and conspicuous consumption of alcohol as it has been about racing. Organisers have sent riders through bubble machines, a 'Thunderdome' and at least one tub of hygienically questionable mystery liquid. Costumes are common, if not the rule, and the rules, such as they are, are openly flouted.

Champions – who win a "golden speedo" and are required to get a SSCXWC tattoo to immortalise the win – have over the years included Barry Wicks, Chris Jones, Sue Butler, Julie Krasniak, Mical Dyck and Mo Bruno Roy. But the undisputed king of SSCXWC is Adam Craig, the Bend, Oregon, rider who beat Nys on Sunday and now has five consecutive titles going back to 2012.

'I don't think I'm going to see this often'

Nys got his first taste of the craziness on Saturday during the one-lap qualifying races. On Sunday morning, he told Cyclingnews he was looking forward to the 50-minute championship race later that afternoon.

"I'm looking forward because it's something special," Nys said. "I don't think I'm going to see this often, what I am doing today."

He's almost certainly right about that. Riders on Sunday had to navigate a rotten pumpkin patch and vodka-swilling human barriers, a pit of yoga balls, a large slingshot firing water balloons, and various other unmentionable distractions on the far side of the course. Nys acknowledged the carnival atmosphere was unlike any cyclo-cross race he'd been to before, but he said the antics in Portland had a place in the sport.

"That's what cyclo-cross is," he told Cyclingnews. "It's something special and everyone can do it. It's a lot of fun. If you see what they are doing and what event this is, it's amazing."

The SSCXWC got its start in Oregon in 2007 and stayed in Portland for two more years, moving on to Seattle in 2010. The race headed south to San Francisco in 2011 and continued the trend the next year, moving farther south to Los Angeles. The race left the West Coast for the first time when Philadelphia hosted it in 2013. Louisville, Kentucky, site of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships the year before, hosted the 2014 SSCXWC. The event moved back to the Pacific Northwest in 2015 when Victoria, British Columbia hosted.

The race moved back to Portland this year to celebrate the 10-year anniversary on a commercial farm nestled nicely on an agriculturally active island along the Willamette River, about 16km from downtown Portland. Heavy rain during the week leading up to the three-day weekend soaked the venue well, giving Nys a proper taste of Portland mud.

"It's a little bit similar like we have in Belgium," Nys said. "So I'm used to it."

Daubert said Trek spoke with the SSCXWC organisers about bringing Nys to the event long before Sunday, and both parties agreed to keep it a secret. That explains the surprise among many when the Trek crew showed up with Nys Friday night for the packet pick-up. A long line of selfie requests followed for Nys, who graciously acquiesced to his American fans.

"Now there is time to have some fun on the bike," Nys said about is appearance in Portland. "It's not so professional anymore. I'm here to promote the brand, to promote Trek, and to promote cyclo-cross. Single speed is one of those things that's growing, and I want to be involved in that."

For many of the registered participants, the packet pick-up led to a late night Portland pub crawl. Saturday's menu offered a full day of qualifying rounds that featured "food and coffee and beer and high fives and a super fat pig that we’re not gonna kill and eat because it’s one of those cute ones that’s smarter than we were in 3rd grade," according to the event website.

One spot shy of the required tattoo

Sunday's single speed racing started with the "Non Qualifier Lifestyle Parade Race" at noon. The women's 50-minute championship followed, with Seattle's Jessica Cutler taking the crown.

In the men's race, Nys knew Craig was the rider to beat, even with one of the all-time best in the field.

"I don't know the level of riders in this peloton, so we will see," Nys said Sunday before his race. "Adam Craig is a guy who has won a lot of these kinds of races, and he's a rider I raced with during the World Cups mountain bike, so he has experience. We'll see if it's possible to beat him."

Things didn't go well for Nys in the le Mans-style start from a large cornfield on the farm, however. Craig had a big advantage in the early going, but Nys was able to reel him in and get his own gap. In the end, whether it was second thoughts about the required winner's tattoo or simply signs of a successful retirement, Nys was unable to hold off Craig, who took his fifth straight title and capped it with a tallboy beer in the finishing straight.

Nys, meanwhile, held court among the photographers and fans who pressed in for a quick glimpse, a handshake or a selfie to be posted later.

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