BMX Racing Olympic Champion Bethany Shriever made a firm statement at the opening of the 2023 UCI BMX Racing World Cup season in Sakarya, Turkey, claiming victory in Round 1 on Saturday (3 June) and Round 2 the following day. Double victories also went to France’s Tessa Martinez (Under 23 Women) and New Zealand’s Rico Bearman (Under 23 Men).
After claiming Men Elite victory on Saturday, Romain Mahieu had to make do with second the following day in a race dominated by fellow Frenchman Joris Daudet.
Saturday started off rainy but cleared up for fast racing on Sakarya’s renovated BMX Racing track, which provided a solid, clean, smooth and grippy riding surface. A total of 250 athletes were entered for the season-opener.
Women Elite: Olympic Champion confirms form
None of the final eight riders lining up for the last race of the day have arrived there by luck. The Round 1 Women Elite final was suitably stacked, and the first advantage is the gate pick: reigning Olympic Champion and 2021 UCI World Champion Bethany Shriever claimed the inside lane which helped her dive into the 180 degree left hand turn in front of the pack. Alise Willoughby (USA) got out of turn 1 in second place with Zoé Claessens (SUI), Molly Simpson (CAN) and Mariana Pajón (COL) in tow. Claessens managed to pass Willoughby on the last straight for 2nd while 27-time UCI BMX Racing World Cup winner Laura Smulders could not move up in the field and finished in 6th place.
In Round 2 the following day, Australian Saya Sakakibara claimed the inside spot on the Pro Gate at the start of the final, but could not generate enough speed out of the gate to get in front. Again, it was Shriever taking the holeshot, with Willoughby close behind. The British rider’s track speed did not allow Willoughby to even think of making a move on her and she settled for second at the finish line. This time Laura Smulders managed to move from 5th to 3rd, beating Molly Simpson on the line.
Men Elite: Two French winners
Saturday’s Men Elite final was also won from Lane 1. As Romain Mahieu had not lost a race up until the finals he got to pick the favourite inside line – and even though he didn’t actually get the best snap out of the gate he pushed through on the first straight with Diego Arboleda (COL) and Niek Kimmann (NED) looking for that holeshot. With the first corner reached, Mahieu’s inside position gave him the advantage over the Colombian and the Dutchman who tried to find ways to pass. On the third straight Joris Daudet showed his track speed and skills to pass the Olympic gold medalist Kimmann for 3rd place. Up front it was Mahieu who stayed out of trouble to claim the first Men Elite UCI World Cup victory of 2023.
Four French riders were amongst the eight finalists in Sunday’s Round 2. Joris Daudet repeated Romain Mahieu’s move from the previous day, pushing through on the first straight to use the inside advantage going into the first turn, and he stayed in front. With Mahieu in second the French domination was sealed. Australia’s Izaac Kennedy claimed third place.
Under 23: Two wins each for Martinez and Bearman
After staying out of trouble to claim Round 1 victory in the Women Under 23 competition, France’s Tessa Martinez took a second win the following day.
Her double victory was mirrored by Rico Bearman (NZL) who took a clean sweep of the Men Under 23 racing.
The next venue for the 2023 UCI BMX Racing World Cup is Papendal, the Netherlands, for Rounds 3 and 4 on 24 and 25 June.