Five years since after France last hosted a round of the UCI BMX Racing World Cup – in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines – Sarrians, in the southeast of the country, welcomed the world’s best racers at the weekend.
Strong winds forced officials to call off Saturday’s Round 5 in the interests of rider safety, meaning all the action was concentrated on Round 6 the following day.
A total of 293 athletes competed at the Vaucluse Games Preparation Centre in the Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur. A strong home contingent of 105 French riders, faced plenty of competition from an international field that included 21 Dutch, 19 Swiss, 17 Belgians, 13 Germans and 11 Americans.
The Vaucluse has its eyes turned towards the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Selected as one of France’s Games Preparation Centres, the department carries the label “Terre de Jeux” The agenda for the coming months promises to be rich in events, building to the passing of the Olympic flame on June 19, 2024.
Women Under 23: double Dutch
The Women Under 23 final wasn’t meant to be for Veronika Sturiska (LAT) who, while aiming for third place on the second straight, came down along with Under 23 UCI World Champion Tessa Martinez (FRA). The French rider got back up to finish 6th and kept her UCI World Cup overall lead.
Up front, the Benelux athletes shared the top four spots with Indy Scheepers (NED) just missing out on a UCI World Cup podium (4th) and Belgium’s Aiko Gommers taking third behind Holland’s Renske van Santvoort and Michelle Wissing, who claimed the win.
Men Under 23: Stauffacher all the way
Kip Stauffacher had claimed the lane 1 start position and used that to his full advantage to dive into the first turn in front of three hungry French riders. The Swiss athlete held his composure and rhythm from start to finish, despite being hunted down by Matéo Colsenet, Mathis Jacquet and Robin Genestroni, who were fired on by the home crowd. The 165 UCI ranking points that went to Stauffacher for first place were just reward for his incredible race.
Women Elite: Sakakibara’s second of the season
When the gate dropped for the final, the favourite Bethany Shriever was missing. The Brit did not make it out of the semi-final in Sarrians, leaving things open for the finalists to grab a UCI World Cup win. The Dutch Smulders sisters didn’t have the best of starts but moved forward from the back finishing 5th (Laura) and 3rd (Merel), putting Alise Willoughby (USA) in the Smulders sandwich as she crossed the line in 4th.
The race for the win was between Saya Sakakibara (AUS) and Zoe Claessens (SUI), and although the Swiss rider tried to find a gap, she could never make a pass. Sakakibara scored her 2nd UCI World Cup win of 2023.
Men Elite: French 1-2-3
French riders are currently dominating the Men Elite category… so much so that the question being asked each round of the UCI World Cup is how many French athletes will make it to the final. In Sarrians, six of them lined up for the final race of the day, although missing from the line-up was UCI World Champion Romain Mahieu, who had been eliminated earlier. Only Cédric Butti (SUI) and Diego Arboleda (COL) were there with a view to upset a French party.
The Colombian had a great start, hitting 2nd position behind Joris Daudet coming out of the first turn. But both Jérémy Rencurel and Sylvain André passed Arboleda before the finish line was reached where Daudet gave the crowd what they wanted, a Men Elite win on home soil. The French podium was complete; Daudet first, André second and Rencurel third.
The final four rounds of the 2023 UCI BMX Racing World Cup will take place in Santiago del Estero, Argentina:
Rounds 7 and 8 on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 October, and Rounds 9 and 10 the following weekend (13 and 14 October).