The USA’s riders picked up the last two gold medals on offer as the 2018 UCI Urban Cycling World Championships reached their conclusion in Chengdu (CHN) on Sunday, with Perris Benegas winning the Women’s Elite BMX Freestyle crown and the 18-year-old Justin Dowell collecting the Men’s.
The national anthem of the USA sounded twice on Sunday afternoon at Xinhua Park, Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in central west China. The Star Spangled Banner rounded off five days of exciting Mountain Bike, Cross-country Eliminator (XCE), Trials and BMX Freestyle action in the best possible way for the USA. Their riders topped the last two podiums of the championships, completing a clean sweep of the medals in the women’s competition.
The day’s BMX Freestyle action began with the Women’s final, with the USA’s Hannah Roberts starting out as favourite to retain her world title after winning her second consecutive World Cup crown. Providing four of the 11 finalists (Australia’s Caroline Buchanan pulled out after suffering an injury in the warm-up), the American riders quickly took control of proceedings. Riding in the third heat, Perris Benegas scored a solid 86.20 points to take the lead, ahead of her compatriots Hannah Roberts (85.20) and Angie Marino (83.20).
The field gave it their all in their second runs, with five riders breaking the 80-point barrier. Marino scored 87.80 and Roberts 86.30 to heap the pressure on Perris, who responded with a series of barspins, flairs, whips and a 360 to rack up 93 points and fulfil her dream of becoming a UCI world champion. “I didn’t expect to win the semis at all,” said the American pocket rocket after capping a hotly contested final with a stunning display.
“I wasn’t happy with my first run today, and I had to do better in the second. I was the last to go and it was special to have that sense of expectation. It’s great to have an all-American podium too.” A bronze medallist last year, Marino took the silver, with 2017 champion Roberts completing the USA 1-2-3.
The USA was equally well represented in the Men’s final, with another four of their riders lining up. Leading the way was young gun Justin Dowell, who got the better of Americans Daniel Sandoval, Jeremy Malott and Nick Bruce, all of them seasoned circuit regulars. The 18-year-old produced a perfect first run in heat two to score 92.20 points and take the competition lead. Try as they might, the third-heat favourites were unable to dislodge Dowell.
Costa Rica’s Kenneth Tencio Esquivel earned 88.90 points and Australia’s Brandon Loupos – who qualified second from the semis – totalled 88.72, which left them needing to take risks on their second run. It was the ideal scenario for Dowell, who rode within himself on his second run, while Esquivel took a tumble and Loupos’ chances ended when he put both feet on the ground. “It’s crazy to come and win here,” said an elated Dowell.
“I just did what I’ve been doing in training. I’ve been travelling the whole year, spending most of the season in Europe, and it’s paid off. I was flat out in the first run and it put pressure on my opponents. With Perris winning too, the USA are dominating the discipline, which means we can go to Tokyo in two years with hopes high.”
Twelve years after BMX Racing’s Olympic debut in Beijing, BMX Freestyle will make its first appearance on the programme at Tokyo 2020.
France finished on top of the medal table of the UCI Urban Cycling World Championships after the trials, cross-country Eliminator and BMX Freestyle competitions. France won eight medals in total, ahead of Germany (six) and Spain (five). A total of nine countries from three Confederations (Europe, the Americas and Oceania) shared the 30 medals awarded.
The 2019 UCI Urban Cycling World Championships will also be held in Chengdu.