Sports One of the best bike racers of all time jumped into an amateur race in Chicago and put on a clinic

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It's like Michael Jordan jumping into your local basketball game.

Two-time cyclocross world champion and Olympic cyclist Sven Nys awaiting the start of the Category 4/5 amateur race at Caldwell Woods, Chicago, part of the ChiCrossCup series, September 10, 2017. play

Two-time cyclocross world champion and Olympic cyclist Sven Nys awaiting the start of the Category 4/5 amateur race at Caldwell Woods, Chicago, part of the ChiCrossCup series, September 10, 2017.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)
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CHICAGO — One of the best bike racers of all time, Belgium's Sven Nys, lit up the local cycling scene here on Sunday when he jumped into a beginners' cyclocross race at Caldwell Woods and ripped around the 1.5-mile course for a few laps before pulling out and letting the local riders battle it out for the finish.

Nys rolled up to the back of the packed field of Category 4/5 riders, the entry level for racing bikes in the US. Nys had not announced he was racing the ChiCrossCup and surprised everyone when he lined up in race gear with number pinned for the last race of the day.

"This is like LeBron showing up to a 4th grade pickup game," Wall Street Journal sportswriter Jason Gay tweeted. "But it's awesome."

Nys put on a show, wowing spectators as he flew through 100 or so riders to the front of the field before the first of four laps had even ended. When he got up to the leader, he sat in behind the local, in second wheel, before a friendly back-and-forth rivalry ensued.

Along the way the two-time Olympian displayed the bike-handling skills that helped him win two world titles and some 140 races. A video on Twitter of Nys bunny-hopping a barrier and then riding up the side of a set of stairs, coming up just short, then repeating it successfully, went viral on cycling social media:

At one point he helped himself to a mid-race beer:

Nys was in Chicago with fellow Belgian 'cross star Sven Vanthourenhout to put on skills clinic hosted by local team xXx Racing to benefit the Pieter Ombregt Scholarship Fund. Nys, 41, retired last year from cyclocross, a sport he dominated for the better part of two decades.

"That was really fun," Nys told Business Insider postrace. "It's not all about racing. It's also about having fun and letting the people see what cyclocross is all about. I have the technique, and I can show them something in a race. You hear the noise of the people — that's what we need. Racing is fun."

In addition to his stellar cyclocross career, Nys raced mountain bikes and competed in the Olympics twice in that discipline. Along with Dutch star Marianne Vos, Nys is considered the best cyclocross rider of all time.

Here's Nys during his clinic showing locals how to bunny-hop a set of barriers.

And here he is dismounting his bike at speed and jumping a barrier:

Here he rides alongside local riders as they practice their starts:

Nys was scheduled to travel next to Iowa City for the Jingle Cross World Cup race, September 17, with his Telenet-Fidea cyclocross team, which he owns and manages. On September 25, Nys and Co. will be in Wisconsin for the Waterloo World Cup, hosted by Trek Bicycle. Nys is a Trek brand ambassador.

What's cyclocross?

Cyclocross combines elements of mountain biking and road cycling but is really its own sport. Riders pedal but also run as they hop on and off their bikes, jumping barriers and going up and down short climbs and off-camber sections, on technically challenging courses that can feature a mix of pavement, gravel, grass, sand, dirt, and mud.

Races are held rain or shine, with the season starting around September and finishing around January. The bikes look like road bikes but have knobby tires and other features that make them suitable for off-road riding. Courses are short, about a mile long, and riders complete several laps with the winner being the first person across the line. Amateurs typically race for up to 45 minutes with the pros going a full hour or even longer.

It's a demanding sport that requires a high level of fitness, power, and skill.

Cyclocross is most popular in Belgium and northern Europe and is the fastest-growing discipline in US cycling. Old than the Tour de France, cyclocross started as a way for road cyclists to keep fit in the winter, but it's now very much its own sport, and it has seen explosive growth in the past decade, especially in the US.

Some would like to see cyclocross become an Olympic sport.

See more photos from the race and clinic below.

Cyclocross has seen explosive growth in the US. The ChiCrossCup is an 11-race series.

Cyclocross has seen explosive growth in the US. The ChiCrossCup is an 11-race series. play

Cyclocross has seen explosive growth in the US. The ChiCrossCup is an 11-race series.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


Nys jumped into the beginners' race unexpectedly and under the radar.

Nys jumped into the beginners' race unexpectedly and under the radar. play

Nys jumped into the beginners' race unexpectedly and under the radar.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


Spectators went wild when they realized Nys was racing.

Spectators went wild when they realized Nys was racing. play

Spectators went wild when they realized Nys was racing.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


After the race, the Svens Clinic began with Nys showing his stretch routine.

After the race, the Svens Clinic began with Nys showing his stretch routine. play

After the race, the Svens Clinic began with Nys showing his stretch routine.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


The clinic was very much hands on with both Svens showing proper form and technique.

The clinic was very much hands on with both Svens showing proper form and technique. play

The clinic was very much hands on with both Svens showing proper form and technique.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


One of the things that makes cyclocross unique is that riders carry their bikes and run with them. Nys showed how to carry one's bike effectively.

One of the things that makes cyclocross unique is that riders carry their bikes and run with them. Nys showed how to carry one's bike effectively. play

One of the things that makes cyclocross unique is that riders carry their bikes and run with them. Nys showed how to carry one's bike effectively.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


Nys is an excellent instructor, showing and explaining all the basic skills.

Nys is an excellent instructor, showing and explaining all the basic skills. play

Nys is an excellent instructor, showing and explaining all the basic skills.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


Vanthourenhout, in Belgian kit, helped Nys teach the riders how to get started.

Vanthourenhout, in Belgian kit, helped Nys teach the riders how to get started. play

Vanthourenhout, in Belgian kit, helped Nys teach the riders how to get started.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


Nys also showed the local riders in Chicago how he bunny-hops barriers.

Nys also showed the local riders in Chicago how he bunny-hops barriers. play

Nys also showed the local riders in Chicago how he bunny-hops barriers.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


Master Nys was there to offer individual feedback on cyclocross technique.

Master Nys was there to offer individual feedback on cyclocross technique. play

Master Nys was there to offer individual feedback on cyclocross technique.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


Riders of all ages and abilities got to learn from one of the world's best cyclocross riders.

Riders of all ages and abilities got to learn from one of the world's best cyclocross riders. play

Riders of all ages and abilities got to learn from one of the world's best cyclocross riders.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


Running up and down short, steep climbs differentiates cyclocross from other disciplines.

Running up and down short, steep climbs differentiates cyclocross from other disciplines. play

Running up and down short, steep climbs differentiates cyclocross from other disciplines.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


Nys showed how to approach and hop over barriers.

Nys showed how to approach and hop over barriers. play

Nys showed how to approach and hop over barriers.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


Vanthourenhout got up close when showing how to ride off-camber sections.

Vanthourenhout got up close when showing how to ride off-camber sections. play

Vanthourenhout got up close when showing how to ride off-camber sections.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


The recently retired Nys is now a brand ambassador for Waterloo, Wisconsin-based Trek Bicycles Corp. He rides a Trek Boone cyclocross bike.

The recently retired Nys is now a brand ambassador for Waterloo, Wisconsin-based Trek Bicycles Corp. He rides a Trek Boone cyclocross bike. play

The recently retired Nys is now a brand ambassador for Waterloo, Wisconsin-based Trek Bicycles Corp. He rides a Trek Boone cyclocross bike.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


Nys' Boone has some custom touches.

Nys' Boone has some custom touches. play

Nys' Boone has some custom touches.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


Nys' employer is hosting the Waterloo World Cup race in its backyard this September.

Nys' employer is hosting the Waterloo World Cup race in its backyard this September. play

Nys' employer is hosting the Waterloo World Cup race in its backyard this September.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


Nys rides Shimano's electronic-shifting system, Dura-Ace Di2.

Nys rides Shimano's electronic-shifting system, Dura-Ace Di2. play

Nys rides Shimano's electronic-shifting system, Dura-Ace Di2.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


Nys rides Shimano SPD pedals.

Nys rides Shimano SPD pedals. play

Nys rides Shimano SPD pedals.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


These are Shimano disc brakes.

These are Shimano disc brakes. play

These are Shimano disc brakes.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


There's plenty of grippy tread and mud clearance through the fork and frame.

There's plenty of grippy tread and mud clearance through the fork and frame. play

There's plenty of grippy tread and mud clearance through the fork and frame.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


Nys rides a carbon stem from Bontrager, a Trek brand.

Nys rides a carbon stem from Bontrager, a Trek brand. play

Nys rides a carbon stem from Bontrager, a Trek brand.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


There's no confusion over who owns this Trek.

There's no confusion over who owns this Trek. play

There's no confusion over who owns this Trek.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


Vanthourenhout rode a Ridley CX bike. Note the wide knobby tires and disc brakes.

Vanthourenhout rode a Ridley CX bike. Note the wide knobby tires and disc brakes. play

Vanthourenhout rode a Ridley CX bike. Note the wide knobby tires and disc brakes.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


From what we could tell, the participants in the clinic learned a lot and were excited for their next race, having now learned valuable pro tips from the two Svens.

From what we could tell, the participants in the clinic learned a lot and were excited for their next race, having now learned valuable pro tips from the two Svens. play

From what we could tell, the participants in the clinic learned a lot and were excited for their next race, having now learned valuable pro tips from the two Svens.

(Daniel McMahon/Business Insider)


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(DirtWireTV/YouTube)