An improved New Zealand BMX team showing did not translate into finals at a weather-affected UCI BMX World Championship in Belgium today.
Officials brought the finals day forward to early morning, reverted to the smaller five metre start ramp and considerably shortened the programme to beat the worst of the weather, as riders battled rain and cool winds in Zolder.
Time trial medallist Sarah Walker, Canterbury’s Trent Jones and Te Awamutu junior elites Cole McOnie and Rebecca Petch were all edged out in the semifinals.
Best of the Kiwis was junior elite Codi Merito (Te Awamutu) who was fifth in the final on a challenging day.
Both Jones and fellow Cantabrian Daniel Franks lost out when they slipped out of their pedals in the start gate while both Walker and US-based Marc Willers had their campaign thwarted by crashed riders.
BMX head coach Ryan Hollows said it proved a frustrating day and their improved form did not translate into glory.
“It was a crazy day and while we had expected a long day of delayed racing, it was a rushed early morning start and just five minute practice to beat the worst of the weather,” Hollows said.
“All riders were in good form and riding well, and we could easily have had two more riders in finals but those things happen in BMX coupled with the conditions.
“Their form was pleasing even it if did not translate into results. Trent was one of the quickest riders all day and Sarah rode awesomely. I’m happy that the hard work she has put in has resulted in her being competitive on the world stage again.”
Walker, in her return to racing after a nine month layoff with injury, won her qualifying moto and the quarter final impressively. She was in third place comfortably in the semifinal before being held up by crashed riders and while she got back on her bike, fifth was the best she could manage.
“I was on the outside and travelling well but got tangled up in the crash on the inside,” Walker said. “I got back and went as hard as I could as I was unsure how many were caught up in the crash but missed out by one place on the final.
“I got some good Olympic points, I am still in one piece and I head to the next World Cup knowing that I can perform with the best in the world.”
In the elite men, Willers was the only victim in the qualifying motos, brought down from behind, and while he recovered he could only manage fifth, while Franks went out in the eighth final when he slipped his pedal.
Jones had been up with the fastest riders throughout, winning his qualifying moto, placed second in the eighth final and third in the quarter. However his foot unclipped out of his pedal at the start gate in the semifinal, pushing him to the back of the pack and ultimately finishing sixth, with the top four riders to the final.
“I was firing well on the bike but a technical error coming out of the gate cost me. It’s heart-breaking considering all the hours I put in to that one lap,” Jones said.
“It was my mistake but with all the wet weather and muddy conditions sometimes the pedal releases in those situations. Now I have to focus on the World Cup in two weeks and the chance to redeem myself with a result.”
Te Awamutu clubmates Merito and McOnie drew each other in qualifying but both progressed before McOnie was edged out in the eighth final. Merito fought on strongly to place third in the quarterfinal, and fourth in a photo finish in the semifinal. He drew the outside lane for the final and fought on strongly for fifth place in his first elite championship final.
Petch, who qualifies for the junior elite class again next year, showed promise in finishing fifth in her semifinal, pipped for a place in the final by 0.2s.
The squad remain in Europe for the next round of the UCI Supercross in Sweden in two weeks.
Junior Women: Axelle Etienne (FRA) 1, Svetlana Admakina (RUS) 2, Kelsey van Ogle (USA) 3.
Junior men: Exequiel Torres (ARG) 1, Colin Hudson (USA) 2, Romain Racine (FRA) 3. Also: Codi Merito (NZL) 5.
Elite women, Final: Stefany Hernandez (VEN) 1, Caroline Buchanan (AUS) 2, Simone Christensen (DEN) 3.
Semifinal 1: Buchanan 1, Crooke Craig (USA) 2, Hernandez 3.
Semifinal 2: Alise Post (USA) 1, Felecia Stancil (USA) 2, Aneta Hladikova (CZE) 3. Sarah Walker (NZL) 5. Quarterfinal 3: Walker 1, Crain 2, Hladikova 3.
Elite men, final: Niek Kimmann (NED) 1, Jelle van Gorkom (NED) 2, David Graf (SUI) 3.
Semifinal 1: Liam Phillips (GBR) 1, Anthony Dean (AUS) 2, Carlos Zabala (COL) 3.
Semifinal 2: Kimmann 1, Sam Willoughby (AUS) 2, Graf 3. Trent Jones (NZL) 6. Quarterfinal3: Connor Fields (USA) 1, Zabala 2, Jones 3.