To make it to the very top of your field is not an easy feat – and that’s certainly true in BMX. It takes lots of determination, skill, training, luck and support to become a UCI BMX World Champion. The 2019 rainbow jersey holders are known, but where do they come from?
UCI Junior Men World Champion Tatyan Lui-Hin-Tsan hails from the French Réunion Island but lives in Saint-Etienne and has been on the BMX circuit for many years. The talented rider from the BGI-Pure BMX team has a full complement of co-sponsors because they could all see the promise in the Junior Men rider and it came to fruition at the 2019 UCI World Championships in Zolder. Tatyan Lui-Hin-Tsan: Junior 2019 World Champion!
“No words can describe this feeling... I still don’t realise what’s happening ... A dream that finally became real. I am proud to represent the colours of my country at the highest level. But even more to bring back home that rainbow jersey. Now I’m looking forward to wearing the rainbow jersey. A big thanks to all the French staff who allowed me to be in the best condition to win this title! Now the holidays are starting, see you soon on track.”
It was no surprise that New Zealand's Jessie Smith picked up the UCI Junior Women World Champion title. The girl from Gisborne had been competing in European races earlier in the year as part of the Netherlands-based TVE-Sport team. The experience gained from being team-mates with the Smulders sisters and Sarah Walker helped Jessie hit a ranking of 14th in the UCI BMX SX World Cup after six rounds before heading to Belgium for the World Championships. Her best World Cup result had been a fourth place at Round 6 in Saint-Quentin-en Yvelines, France, demonstrating that her BMX learning curve is going up and up. In Heusden-Zolder Smith raced the Junior class for the second and last time. After placing ninth in Baku last year she got her moment rolling in Belgium to win the Junior Women title and is still buzzing about it.
UCI Men Elite World Champion Twan van Gendt has had a rocky road to the top. For many years the rider from Velddriel, The Netherlands, received support from the National BMX Federation but made the change to the TVE-Oegema team at the very end of 2018. It was not an easy decision to make after spending eight years racing for the national BMX team and having been through many ups and downs together. Upon winning the UCI BMX SX World Cup in 2012 in Abbotsford, Canada and the Red Bull Revolution race in Berlin in 2013 it seemed like the new star was born – but it was another five years before Van Gendt won a second World Cup, this time on the track in Zolder.
The many injuries that Van Gendt had suffered were behind him. The new personal training program with Martijn Jaspers started off by trying many different set-ups for his Meybo bike until together they found the perfect fit. The focus for the Red Bull rider was back and the ultimate goal became the 2020 Olympic Games. When Twan feels good, he can do wonders, but when something bothers him, it is easy for the Dutchman to make a little mistake – but for 2019 he was more motivated than ever before. A camera team had followed Van Gendt around during the 2019 UCI BMX SX World Cup races where he had enjoyed little success.
For the race in Heusden-Zolder he made many trips to the track to put in extra training. He invited 22 friends from his hometown to watch the race, organising transport and tickets for them. Van Gendt was starting to feel good and the competition saw this during the racing on Saturday 27 July. In the final he grabbed the holeshot and, despite almost throwing away his lead on the second straight he survived and, after turn 2, he was out of reach for everyone else. Following a 75th place in Baku in 2018, Van Gendt scored his first UCI BMX World Champion title in 2019 – a transformation in the space of only one year.
2019 saw the second Elite Women title for Alise Willoughby from Saint-Cloud, Minnesota (USA) in three years, but this one did not come easy. The GW athlete had to deal with strong competition, not least from last year’s World Champion Laura Smulders who wanted another title every bit as much as Willoughby did. After a first moto crash the American did not make many more mistakes during the day, and the outcome was claiming the UCI BMX Elite Women World Championship title in the end. It was a welcome result for Team USA as well as all her fans and the rainbow jersey will look good on her for the next 12 months before she gets to defend her title in Houston, USA in 2020.
From their varied origins and with their different routes to the top of their sport, this year’s World Champions share an ethos: take the opportunities and never give up. Congratulations to them all!