With six UCI BMX Supercross World Cup rounds behind us and four more scheduled for 2019 it is time to check out how the competitions stand ahead of Rounds 7 and 8 which take place this weekend in Rock Hill, South Carolina, USA. The red leaders’ plates will be on the bikes of the Dutch pair: Niek Kimmann and Laura Smulders, but will they stay there? Let’s find out the thoughts of the main protagonists in both competitions, starting with the Women.
Smulders on the women’s competition
Smulders’ lead is a mere 5 points over Alise Willoughby (USA). Knowing that the American has done – very – well on the ‘home’ (in the loosest sense) Rock Hill track in the past, the Elite Women class is certainly one to follow closely this weekend. We caught up with Smulders ahead of the South Carolina showdown…
Looking at the current UCI BMX SX World Cup standings, where do you see yourself at the end of the season?
Laura Smulders: If I’m right I’ve got a small lead of 5 points right now, so I’ll be riding with the red leader plate which is really cool of course! With that said, I’d really like to keep that plate to the end! It will be a good battle every single round, everything can still happen but my goal is to stay up there.
Going into Rock Hill, do you set yourself certain goals?
LS: Coming back from my last race in China, having a crash there and needing to take some time off to make sure my head and neck were fine, I didn’t have the most ideal preparation for Rock Hill, but last week I felt really good and fast on the bike. Transponder times don’t lie, and they were looking good again! So I just want to have fun, and ride fast and hopefully end up on the podium while doing that!
How did you feel on the track at Rock Hill during the 2017 UCI BMX World Championships?
LS: I felt good, it’s a pretty easy track, not really technical, it’s all about getting everything smooth and pedaling hard where you can. Usually you could make a difference on technical straights of other tracks but this one doesn’t really have that. So it’s very important to have a good gate and first straight here.
What section on Rock Hill do you like most?
LS: First straight, as the rest of the track is really flat for us girls.
Who will be your main competition this weekend?
LS: It will be good to see how fast everyone is going now after the UCI BMX Worlds, in Heusden-Zolder. Some had time off and some had an extra training block. But Alise will be racing as newly crowned World Champ. Never count Mariana Pajón out, [Caroline] Buchanan is coming back I heard. Simone Christensen was going well in China, Saya Sakakibara almost had the holeshot in 2016 World Cup here... I can go on, but I think it’s better to just watch Friday and Saturday night and see for yourself what will happen. A lot of girls are capable to be in the final, and anything can happen in that last lap!
The Men’s battle at Rock Hill
Athletes Sylvain André (FRA), David Graf (SUI) and Kai Sakakibara (AUS) each have favourite parts of the basic Rock Hill track. André likes the first jump on the second straight and is looking forward to skim the whoops down the third straight. Graf likes the second berm jump layout and the wide turn that follows it to play around on: he’s got the moves and we’ve seen him do an incredible second straight at Rock Hill before. Sakakibara is a fan of the third straight and we’ll have to wait and see who has got the most power left on the last stretch of the track. “The track is open and allows for a lot of passing and good racing,” said the Australian. “I’ve personally improved so much since then, so I’m excited to see what I can do this year.”
With Kye Whyte (GBR) and Joris Daudet (FRA) out for the race in Rock Hill some riders see opportunities to gain some spots in rounds 7 and 8. They include André: “With Joris and Kye out, I’m in fifth. Niek, aka the Giant Slayer, is way too far ahead. But Graf, [Alfredo] Campo and Jeremy [Rencurel] better watch out!”
“I am trying to defend my podium position. I think Niek Kimmann is gone and Joris Daudet is still out from the crash… but there is enough heat coming from behind.” - David Graf
One thing is for sure, the ranking will look different on the evening of September 15.
The three athletes have different expectations going into the race. André has no particular goals but wants to make it to the main final, visualise, calculate and send it. The Frenchman has proven he can do just that. Meanwhile, it is the first race this year that Graf knows he’s ready for it. “My recovery from the crash with Joris at the Worlds was a lot longer than expected. If I can keep making the finals I’m happy for this weekend.” Sakakibara’s aims for Rock Hill are realistic: “My goal is always to place as high as possible, and I’ll always be happy if I feel as if I’ve raced to my full capabilities.”
Follow the UCI BMX SX World Cup live feed on the UCI website and check the results after the race.