Just three weeks after winning gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, both Bethany Shriever (GBR) and Niek Kimmann (NED) continued their winning run, this time at the UCI BMX World Championships in Papendal, the Netherlands.
In the women’s race, there was further cause for home celebration as the Netherlands’ Judy Baauw and Laura Smulders took silver and bronze, respectively. In the men’s competition, France’s Sylvain André finished second with David Graf (SUI) in third. For the Swiss rider, it was a particularly poignant result, as he announced his retirement after the race.
The 2021 UCI BMX World Championships took place in a smaller format than normal due to the pandemic, which made it impossible for the local organisation to welcome the entire BMX community, including the thousands of ‘Challenge’ class racers. Still, the atmosphere was fantastic, a lively crowd packing out the grandstands. And they had much to entertain them on the perfectly smooth Papendal track.
The Junior Women’s title went to France with a rampant Mariane Beltrando crossing the line in a time of 36.23secs. The Junior Men’s finals were something else. Rico Bearmand (NZL) got the holeshot with Einar Lindberg (SWE) and Pierre Geisse (FRA) crashing out behind him in turn one. Bearmand then made his own mistake in turn two and crashed out, leaving the door open for France’s Louison Rousseau to take the lead and win the race. However, on the last turn, Italy's Marco Radaelli made the move of the day and ‘high-lowed’ to first place, giving Italy a UCI world title – something they’d been after for many years.
With Judy Baauw and Laura Smulders on the gate in the Elite Women’s final, the Dutch crowd had plenty to root for. Baauw enjoyed a good start on the inside but it was Bethany Shriever, the newly-crowned Olympic Champion, who came out swinging from lane eight, cutting into the first turn from the outside as sharp as a knife. Felicia Stancil and defending UCI World Champion Alise Willoughby (both USA) had UCI World Cycling Centre trainee Zoe Claessens (SUI) sandwiched and the three of them crashed out. This left Baauw, Smulders and Mariana Pajón (COL) to fight for the remaining podium spots as Shriever’s lead was unassailable, ensuring the rainbow jersey for Great Britain. Baauw edged out Smulders at the finish line for second, but the hugs shared afterwards demonstrated the sportsmanship among the fastest women in BMX.
The dark clouds that had been around all day didn’t open up to put a dampener on the Elite Men’s final. Once again, Niek Kimmann, part of the UCI World Cycling Centre’s training group, started from lane eight on the outside. With seven of the fastest athletes in the world on the inside, reaching the first turn first would be no easy task. But to the cheers of the home crowd and aboard his new bike, decorated with gold to represent his Olympic victory, he did it, with Sylvain André (FRA) sitting right behind him. As previous finals had shown, making a mistake in BMX is game over with the predators ready to consume you. But Kimmann didn’t give his competition a chance, despite a knee that wasn’t fully healed, and claimed his third UCI World Championship title at Papendal. In the last BMX race of his career, David Graf (SUI) scored a podium spot in third. As for André, he can claim the 'Vice-World Champion' title but was +0.163 short of the top spot.
As they say, 'another one in the books' with the 2021 BMX Racing UCI World titles going to France, Italy, Great Britain and the Netherlands.