The worldâ€™s best BMX athletes will be in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, on April 8th and 9th for the first of five rounds in the 2011 UCI BMX Supercross.
Over 100 Elite Men plus 38 Elite Women from 20 countries will line up for the first major confrontation of the season. The Supercross series provides an added dimension for BMX specialists this year as it allows them to gain qualification points for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Olympic finalist in Beijing and silver medallist in last yearâ€™s UCI BMX World Championships, the South African Sifiso Nhlapo will not be competing in front of his home crowd due to a knee injury.
â€śItâ€™s obviously very disappointing and itâ€™s sad to have to go through something as serious as this just a year before the Olympics,â€ť said Nhlapo. â€śI guess this comes with the sport though and itâ€™s just part of being a professional.â€ť
World Champion and winner of the 2010 BMX Supercross, Maris Strombergs (LAT), will also be absent but there will be no shortage of talent on the Alexandra Park track in Pietermaritzburg.
Marc Willers (NZL) will definitely be someone to keep an eye on. The flying Kiwi has gone from strength to strength since his second place at the 2010 BMX Supercross finals in FrĂ©jus, France. Sam Willoughby (AUS) is also a strong contender. Runner-up in the 2010 Supercross series, he is now on a new mission.
Also in contention are the large Dutch and French teams, which are getting stronger by the day. Look out for the return of #666 Dutchmen Ivo van der Putten.
The battle for supremacy amongst the Elite Women is going to be wide open this year. Last yearâ€™s overall World Cup winner Laetitia Le CorguillĂ© (France) and 2010 World Champion Shanaze Reade (GBR) are not competing in South Africa, so the battle will be down to other big names such as Sarah Walker (NZL), Alice Post (USA), Mariana Pajon (COL), Eva Ailloud (FRA), Caroline Buchanan (AUS), Arielle Martin (USA) or last yearâ€™s Juniors World Champion Merle van Benthem (NED) to name a few.
Permanent BMX track in Pietermaritzburg
The athletes will compete on a new world class BMX track at Pietermaritzburgâ€™s Alexandra Park. Situated next to a cricket oval and the cycling velodrome, the track will become a year-round base for BMX fans in the region.
â€śItâ€™s our plan to take the whole area around Alexandra Park and turn it into a sporting precinct,â€ť explained the cityâ€™s Mayor Mike Tarr. â€śThis BMX track forms a part of that greater plan.â€ť
Once the BMX Supercross event is over the track builders will reshape the course into a less challenging layout, better suited to local emerging and intermediate talent.
After Pietermaritzburg, the UCI BMX Supercross will continue in Papendal (NED) on May 27th and 28th, London (GBR) on August 19th and 20th, Sarasota (USA) on September 16th and 17th and Chula Vista (USA) on September 30th and October 1st.