BMX Racing at the Paris 2024 Olympics: a taste of what’s in store

A spectator’s heaven

Nearly 70 riders descended on the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines BMX Stadium in France from 4 to 7 April to get a taste of the track they will encounter in four months’ time at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Host of the (then called) UCI BMX Supercross World Cup in 2018 and 2019, the track in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines has recently been rebuilt, including changes to all the straights. Technical and tight, it allows for fast, bunched racing.

Last weekend’s event, the Paris 2024 Operational Test, was closed to the public and media, but, as 2023 European Championships silver medalist Malene Kejlstrup (DEN) pointed out, the tension was still there: “It’s really nice but I have to admit, it’s also stressful because everyone is here for a reason.”

The event and the track got a major thumbs up from the participants.

Great Britain’s Ross Cullen won the Men Elite test event in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines but is not getting carried away by his success: “The goal is still to qualify to get there [to the Games]. Obviously nothing is confirmed, so we’ll kinda tick the boxes up to that first. Let’s try and get on the start line and we’ll worry about the rest as it comes but for sure it’s some good confidence and experience. I love the track, it’s a great facility in my eyes.”

Here are some observations from other Olympic contenders who were at the Paris 2024 Operational Test event:

2022 UCI World Champion Simon Marquart (SUI): “The tension’s rising. It’s getting closer. I’m really excited and enjoying being here. Every day is a bit more like the Olympics, which is really cool. It’s all about experiencing and also being able to set a tone and show yourself that you’re going well on that track”.

Olympic bronze medalist in Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, Carlos Ramírez (COL): “It’s a different track compared to the other Olympics we’ve been in. It’s a little more tight, I would say a little bit technical. I can’t wait to be here, can’t wait to represent my country and obviously fight for those medals.”

European Champion Zoé Claessens (SUI): “The track is really good, it’s really technical. I really like it. For me it (this test event) is super important. It’s a race on the Olympic track so we can get some more experience on this track… it’s nice to come here once before the Olympics and get a feel for the place.”

New competition format

The Paris 2024 Operational Test was also an opportunity for the organisers to test their preparations and for everyone to become familiar with the new competition format. This format moves away from the three fixed heats in the quarter- and semifinal - where the same riders compete together over three runs - to a format where riders are reseeded into their heats after each run.

Another new and exciting addition to the competition format is the Last Chance Race (LCR) on the first day of competition. After the three quarterfinal runs, only the top 12 qualify directly into the semifinals. The next eight riders compete in a single-run Last Chance Race that decides the remaining four riders who progress to the semifinals on day two of the competition.

As UCI BMX Racing Consultant Norm McCann explains: “This new format, while holding some of the BMX Racing traditions from the previous Olympic format, provides more action. Each day culminates with a one-run ‘final’ to keep both the riders and the spectators on their toes. The competition is not over until the last race on each day.”

A spectator’s heaven

In the open-sided but roofed BMX Stadium, spectators will be seated along the first and last straights, with a fantastic view of the whole track from start to finish. As a first, there will be a spectator standing area along the first straight where fans will feel they are almost on the track as the riders take the first straight into the first corner.

New lighting will provide a near daylight experience, despite racing starting at 8pm and concluding at 10pm on 1 and 2 August. An electric atmosphere is guaranteed when the riders take to the start ramp in front of the packed stadium.

The BMX Stadium is part of the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines Velodrome complex and just a five-minute walk from the velodrome that will host the Olympic track cycling competitions from 5 to 11 August. Meanwhile the mountain bike racing is in nearby Elancourt Hill on 28 and 29 July. Over the space of two weeks, the town of St-Quentin-en-Yvelines will be a major cycling hub of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Meanwhile the BMX Freestyle and road competition will be centred in central Paris.