The best BMX riders from cross the Tasman are coming to test the New Zealanders at the Oceania Championships in Rotorua at the weekend.
The Australians, starting their push to the Paris Olympics, will bring a powerful contingent of 35 riders to contest the one-day event on Sunday at the world-class Te Papa o Te Kauri BMX track at Whakawerawera.
Most of New Zealand’s best will be competing in the event which carries important ranking points to the upcoming world championships and ultimately the major aim of Paris next year.
The Australians are led by the outstanding Saya Sakakibara, making her way back to the sharp-end of the sport after a long recovery following a serious crash in the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
Sakakibara is a former junior elite medallist and Oceania Champion, who was at the top of the sport including victory in the Tokyo test event. The on-going effects of the head injury suffered in the Tokyo crash have taken significant time to heal but now the brilliant riders is getting back to her best.
Current Australian men’s national champion, Bodi Turner is also a confirmed starter with the 28-year-old, a regular world cup finalist, a rare older-head in the sport at the highest level.
He is joined by his younger brother Wade and other leading Australians including Max Cairns and Matt Krasivskis, who were on the podium at the 2022 Australian championships.
New Zealand champion Rico Bearman and 2022 champion Michael Bias are both already competing in Europe ahead of the UCI BMX World Cup opener in Turkey next month.
The men’s team is led by national podium placegetter Cole McOnie (Te Awamutu) who will be better suited to the challenges of the 8m start ramp at Rotorua, along with Cameron Jago (Mountain Raiders) and Liam Goodwin (North Canterbury).
Rotorua hopeful, Megan Williams, on her home track, has opted to move up to the elite division to take on Sakakibara, while the under-23 competition is led by the Te Awamutu club pair of Baylee Luttrell and Amber Robson.
There is plenty of interest in the junior competition with Cambridge rider Leila Walker, who won the UCI World Cup junior elite finale in South America last year, joined by Te Awamutu’s Brooke Penny, to take on the best of the Australians.
The men’s junior field has eight Australians throwing out their challenge to the kiwi contingent headed by Cambridge club rider Jack Greenough.
There is also a heathy field of Challenge (age group) riders taking part, with their competition starting at 11am on Sunday followed by the elite competition from 12.30pm.
The event will be streamed live: https://www.youtube.com/@bmxnewzealand\