UCI BMX Racing World Cup: a star-studded line-up

On the eve of the first round of the 2023 UCI BMX Racing World Cup, we take a look at the favourites: Olympic Champions, UCI World Champions and newcomers will all contribute to a season of intense racing.

The 2023 UCI BMX Racing World Cup starts this weekend, a little later in the year than usual. Sakarya (Turkey) will host the first two rounds with Papendal, Netherlands, welcoming the fastest BMX Racing athletes on the last weekend of June. After the summer break the UCI World Cup season will continue at a new venue in Sarrians (France) in September followed by the double header which brings UCI World Cup racing back to Santiago del Estero (Argentina) in October.

Men Elite: French against the rest of the world

In the Men Elite, athletes such as Joris Daudet (32), Sylvain André (31), Jérémy Rencurel (28) and Arthur Pilard (27) – all from France – may not be amongst the youngest to line up on the gate but all four highly experienced riders are currently in the top 10 of the UCI Individual Ranking. Leaving the French riders out of a prediction of podium spots on any UCI World Cup race is brave as there are likely to be more podium pictures with French riders on it than not, and that expectation can only increase when the series hits Sarrians on 23-24 September.

Kye Whyte’s track speed is unmatched. If there is one rider the others don’t want behind them in a race it’s Kye: the Briton will find the slightest gap to pass. The Tokyo 2020 silver medalist is getting faster and come Paris 2024 he’s likely to be a big threat for all.

Izaac Kennedy (AUS) is always up there and is setting his sights on the overall top three at the end of the year. At the age of 23, 2023 might just be his year.

One person who is disappointed with 2nd place is Cameron Wood. The 22-year-old isthe USA’s prodigy now that Connor Fields has decided to call it quits after a long and successful career. Being trained by Australian former double UCI World Champion (2012 and 2014) Sam Willoughby has certainly helped Cameron as he currently lies in 3rd place in the UCI Individual Ranking, putting himself in the title hunt.

The late start of the UCI World Cup season has benefitted Olympic Champion Niek Kimmann (NED) as he has been dealing with injuries and needed a break to refresh after a hectic post-Olympic period.

With 86 entrants in the Men Elite competition, it will be an interesting race to look forward to on Sakarya’s newly-surfaced track.

Women Elite: will Laura Smulders keep picking up wins?

Laura Smulders (TVE Sport) has been collecting UCI BMX Racing World Cup wins for many years but 2023 will be an interesting one as the competition has picked up the pace. For a direct competitor, don’t look past Zoé Claessens (SUI). Currently second in the UCI Individual Ranking, she has the strength and skills to be on the podium on a regular basis, quite possibly on the highest step.

A surprise in Women Elite racing this year could come from Denmark. After dominating in the Under 23 category, Malene Kejlstrup Sørensen has stepped up to the Elite and has already found herself on the top spot in many races in 2023. The 2022 Under 23 Danish, European and UCI World Champion is already showing her talent against the discipline’s Elite.

Can the “The Queen of BMX” Mariana Pajón still do it? This year the double Olympic Champion (2012 and 2016) and multiple UCI World Champion has won the USA BMX Gator Nationals, the Coupe de France and Round 4 of the UEC European Cup so the answer is an emphatic yes!

Although she’s not racing much in Europe it is clear that American Alise Willoughby (UCI World Champion in 2017 and 2019) is in good form, with recent wins in USA BMX races.

Reigning UCI World Champion Felicia Stancil (USA) is feeling the pressure of the rainbow jersey on her shoulders but at the same time the jersey shows she can beat all of the women on the starting gate. Add Olympic Gold medalist Bethany Shriever (GBR) to the mix and we’re ready for an exciting season.

Under 23: showcasing the future stars

Last year’s Under 23 racing turned out to be great entertainment, as well as providing an important stepping stone to the Elite classes. Going by the number and quality of entries Under 23 races have become popular for both Men and Women.

Thibaut Stoffels (BEL), Rico Bearman (NZL), Julian Bijsterbosch (NED), Drew Polk (USA) and Hugo Marszalek (FRA) are only a few of the riders to look out for in Under 23 Men. And before they step up to the Women Elite class, athletes like Mckenzie “Skittles” Gayheart (USA), Aiko Gommers (BEL) and Veronika Sturiska (LAT) will also have a chance to score some Under 23 podiums in 2023.

2023 UCI World Cup BMX Racing calendar

  • 3-4 June, Rounds 1 & 2: Sakarya, Turkey.

  • 24-25 June, Rounds 3 & 4: Papendal, Netherlands.

  • 23-24 September, Rounds 5 & 6: Sarrians, France.

  • 7-8 October, Rounds 7 & 8: Santiago del Estero, Argentina

  • 13-14 October, Rounds 9 & 10: Santiago del Estero, Argentina.