The wait has been long, but the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup is ready to kick start back into action after a year when nearly all rounds were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Verona, the Italian “city of love”, provides the stage of the first two rounds of the 2021 series on 8-9 May.
As the official Italian and European BMX racing training centre, the BMX Olympic Arena in Verona provides a perfect venue for an event of such importance: the first two UCI World Cup rounds in over a year are also part of the Olympic qualifying process. Riders from all over the world will be in Verona to score the points they need in order to make their Olympic dream a possibility.
With very little racing in the past 12 months, the BMX world is eager to see who comes best prepared to Verona. Have the (home) gym sessions paid off? Did the turbo trainer give the right indication? Who can get up the most speed off the start hill?
Cordiano Dagnoni, President of the Federazione Ciclistica Italiana, is delighted that the world’s fastest BMX athletes will be testing their post-confinement form in Verona: “Hosting the UCI BMX World Cup in Italy is an event of great importance, not only for this spectacular discipline, but for the entire national cycling world. It is a high-level showcase, destined to bring the image of Verona and Italy to the world, testifying and certifying the commitment of our Federation and the many enthusiasts who animate BMX in making this sport grow. The BMX Olympic Arena in Verona thus becomes an international stage. A facility that has obtained the recognition of the Italian Federal Centre for BMX and, at the same time, the UEC European BMX. A recognition that only one other venue in Europe can boast.”
What’s new for 2021?
For the first time the UCI BMX World Cup sees the Under 23 category for both Men and Women. The UCI, in consultation with its BMX Commission, has introduced the Under 23 categories on a trial basis for 2021 with a view to fully integrating the categories to the series from 2022. The new category provides an opportunity for riders to join the series and enjoy an introduction to the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup, without immediately racing against the sport’s Elite riders.
The racing format for the Under 23s will be the same as for the Elite categories: after the first round, riders who did not qualify will then ride in a “Last Chance” round in their bid to make it to the finals. The riders then move through to the ¼ finals , ½ finals, then the final for the eight fastest. The new category means there will be more opportunities for the riders to reach the final, more opportunities for podium positions and more opportunities to win prize money. UCI World Cup standings will be calculated for the Under 23s, however no UCI Ranking points will be awarded for the 2021 series.
Who will be the Romeo and Juliet of the season opener?
Verona is the setting of Shakespeare’s world-famous “Romeo and Juliet” and fans will be eager to see which BMXers can also make a name for themselves in the Italian city.
In the women's racing, many fans are looking forward to seeing Zoe Claessens (SUI) battle with the fastest BMX ladies out there. The Swiss rider, who trains at the UCI World Cycling Centre in Aigle (Switzerland) is making good progress under the supervision of coach and former UCI World Champion Liam Phillips. But the road to a spot in the final is long, and making it to the podium is even harder when you have athletes on the starting gate such as 2018 UCI World Champion Laura Smulders (NED), Smulders’ compatriot and bronze medallist in 2018 Judy Baauw, Shanayah Howell (ARU), Natalia Afremova (RUS), and the fast French riders of Axelle Etienne and Manon Valentino, both with UCI World Championships medals to their name.
Who will dominate the men's competition? Could one of the men win both rounds? Just being able to race again should feel like a win for all those who are entering: it’s the start of a long season ahead and there’s a special sense of a new beginning. ‘Romeo’ will need to be sharp all-round to take the win – or maybe even two wins – in Verona as the competitions is tough, not least with 2015 UCI World Champion Niek Kimmann (NED) who now trains at the UCI World Cycling Centre, Switzerland’s David Graf (third behind Kimmann in 2015), 2018 UCI World Champion Sylvain André (FRA)… to name a few.