Comprising the spectacular BMX Freestyle Park and BMX Freestyle Flatland, this year’s UCI Urban Cycling World Championships, in Montpellier (France) from 4 to 8 June, saw the four rainbow jerseys up for grabs awarded to athletes from four different nations.
It had been a while since the international BMX Freestyle community had come together for a major competition, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With the cancellation of numerous events, riders were challenged to keep training, not knowing exactly when the next competition would be.
The confirmation of the 2021 UCI Urban Cycling World Championships gave the riders something to look forward to. The runs had to be fine-tuned and newly learned tricks needed to be mastered, all to be contained within 60 seconds for the Park riders, 3 minutes for the Flatland men 2½ minutes for the Flatland women.
Even without any public in the 14,000-capacity stands – due to Covid-19 related restrictions, pressure on the riders remained high, their motivation was palpable and the performances were dazzling.
Flatland: Dandois from silver to gold, history repeats for Sadovnik
In the Men Elite competition, Matthias Dandois (FRA) qualified first out of the opening qualification round, followed by countryman and good friend Alexandre Jumelin who received the best score from the UCI judges during the semi-final.
Things heated up during the final with Japan’s Moto Sasaki pulling off an incredible run to take the lead with only Matthias and Alex left to ride their runs. But after a clear two months of focus on the UCI World Championships, Dandois unleashed a perfect run to take the lead from Sasaki. The pressure was on Jumelin to do the same, but a few small mistakes left him in third, with the bronze medal.
Dandois, silver medallist in 2019, commented: “I didn’t know where I was at because there’s been a long time without competition, but after winning the European Championships last week I felt confident and now here I am!”
History repeated itself in the Women Elite Flatland competition with Irina Sadovnik of Austria once again winning the UCI world title. Sadovnik said: “It’s really amazing, I can’t believe it, it’s like a dream. You want to prove yourself again and you want to keep those stripes. I can’t believe I did a perfect run.”
Silver went to Julia Preuss (GER) and bronze to Céline Vaes (FRA).
BMX Freestyle Park: Martin and Roberts confirm their form ahead of Tokyo
For the BMX Park athletes, it was the last chance to score points for the Olympic qualifying ranking, which decides the athlete quotas for each nation.
In the men’s Park category, it came down to a battle between the USA and Australia. The two nations were tied on points at the top of the Olympic qualifying rankings and this event would decide which country would claim two quota spots for the win, or head to Tokyo with just the one. The women’s Park was more open with 2000 points on the line.
Both the USA and Australia had their main players in the final. Next to the top-spot battle, the national rankings would also determine who will get to represent their country at the Olympic Games this summer. The pressure was on and everyone felt it. With the best run out of two counting toward the final score, it took several riders before a first pulled run happened. But as ever, the level of the tricks continues to rise. The 18-month competition hiatus was used to learn new moves, get in shape and go higher than ever.
Brandon Loupos (AUS) was well on his way to a good score in his first run but twisted his knee and had to pull out. He was carried off on a stretcher but came back for run two. It turned out to be in vain, piling the pressure on Logan Martin to collect the points for Team Australia. Logan delivered, not only in his first run, but run two as well, where he scored 93.30. That would have given him the UCI Park world title as it was the second highest score of the day. His 94.70 for run one was even better, showing everyone who was the boss. Martin said after the race: “I came out here wanting to take the win. I never slowed down during a year-and-a-half of work leading up to this event. It paid off and it’s amazing to win for the second time.”
Team USA’s consistency saw them deliver three riders in the top five. It gave them the lead in the Olympic qualifying ranking and the two quota spots that they were after going into the 2021 UCI Urban Cycling World Championships. Croatia’s Marin Rantes was the only rider not from Australia or the USA to break the top six and found himself on the podium in third place.
The favourite for the 2021 Women’s Park title, Hannah Roberts (USA), had to dig deep after seeing Switzerland’s Nikita Ducarroz put a 90.30 score on the board early on in the finals. Charlotte Worthington’s riding has improved a lot, the Briton executing the big tricks such as front flips, tailwhips, flairs, 360s and backflips all in one run for 88.90 from the judges. With such high scores already on the board, extra pressure was put on Hannah. But she showed she can handle it and delivered a run worth 91.90 points straight off the bat, giving her the opportunity for a victory run with a smile on her face to wrap it all up. Afterwards, Roberts said: “I wanted to come out and put on a solid run and I’m glad that I did that. I’m glad that it got me the rainbow jersey back.”
2021 UCI Urban Cycling World Championships final results.