UCI BMX World Championships: stage is set at former F1 circuit in Zolder, Belgium.
The 2015 UCI BMX World Championships get under way on Friday, returning to an outdoor venue for the first time since 2011 when they were held in Copenhagen, Denmark. The fairly new BMX facility at the former F1 circuit in Zolder is large and fast, and has already hosted some exciting races earlier this year.
The track’s bends are named after three world class racers who will all be participating this weekend in Zolder. The first turn is called the 'Buchanan bend' named after 2012 and 2013 UCI World Champion Caroline Buchanan (AUS). Turn number two, 'Pajon Peralte' is named after reigning Olympic and World Champion Mariana Pajon, from Colombia. Meanwhile Post Corner is named after another hot favourite, last year’s silver medallist Alise Post (USA). However these three women will be up against stiff competition, not least the freshly crowned European Champion Elke Vanhoof, from Belgium, who will be looking to perform well in front of her home crowd.
Time trials: Smulders and Fields looking for repeat wins
The UCI BMX Time Trials World Championships will take place on Friday afternoon. Current TT World Champion Laura Smulders, of the Netherlands, has missed part of the pre-season due to injury but her third place at the UEC European Championships shows she's back up to speed again. Her main competition in the one-lap race is likely to come from Buchanan, Pajon and Post.
The Elite Men Time Trials event will be Connor Fields' race to lose. The current TT World Champion from the USA already demonstrated his speed on the Zolder track at an earlier UEC race in April when team USA made a trip to Belgium to get used to the track. Fields won that race in front of Amidou Mir (FRA) and Twan van Gendt (NED) who will be more of a threat in the main race on Saturday. Joris Daudet (FRA), Liam Phillips (GBR) and Sam Willoughby (AUS) are three time trials specialists and Fields will have his hands full trying to beat their times.
Good start essential
The 8-metre high starting ramp with big jumps on the first straight will be a deciding factor once the Elite Men shoot out of the Pro-Gate on Saturday. With the world’s strongest riders competing in Belgium, it will be necessary to reach the first turn up front and ride smart in order to make the final eight. The pro section on the second straight will have the riders take to the air three times before they reach the Pajon Peralte. The rollers on the last two straights leave little room for passing, but in BMX the race isn't over until the finish line is crossed. Anything can happen. Sam Willoughby will not be happy with any other place than first. The current World Champion will want to continue to ride in the rainbow jersey when he leaves Belgium. But he is not the only one with eyes on the prestigious jersey. Can Niek Kimmann (NED) pull it off? The Junior World Champion has made a strong impression ever since he entered the Elite ranks. He won the UEC Elite race in Zolder in April and also grabbed a UCI BMX Supercross World Cup win in his rookie year. Will he make history by going from Junior to Elite World Champion?
Talent shines in the Junior classes. Riders from all over the world will come down to Zolder to line up on the gate with riders they normally don't race against. Local rider Mathijs Verhoeven will use his home advantage to do well. He recently won the European Championships in Erp, the Netherlands, but this time he can expect competition from all corners of the world. Same goes for Axelle Etienne (FRA) who will use her jumping skills to the fullest to get out in front in every race. Racing will be streamed live on the UCI website.