The first two rounds of the 2020 UCI BMX Supercross World Cup will bring the BMX community to the Australian city of Shepparton, two hours north of Melbourne. It has been a long while since the series last stopped over in Australia – in Adelaide in 2008 - but come the weekend of 1-2 February, it will be time for the Australian BMX fans to see the fastest BMX racers in the world battle for Olympic qualifying points and 2020 UCI BMX Supercross World Cup honours. Action Down Under will continue a week later with Rounds 3 and 4 in Bathurst.
Every year the anticipation is high coming into the first gathering, but in an Olympic year it is especially interesting to see who has put the work in over the off-season. We caught up with Cycling Australia’s National BMX Technical Director and former athlete Wade Bootes to see what kind of impact the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup has on the sport Down Under.
What does it mean for the Australian BMX scene to have the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup come to your country this year?
Wade Bootes: For many years the Australian riders have been traveling overseas to compete at UCI World Cups and not all competitive domestic riders have had that chance. Having a home World Cup will allow these riders to mix it with the world’s best. We have a lot of fans of BMX in Australia and I expect we will see a lot of them cheering on the athletes from the sidelines.
Of your national team riders, who regularly rides at the Shepparton BMX track?
WB: As Australia is a big country, no-one on the Australian cycling team lives close to Shepparton. During the last two months we organised training camps and additional group sessions for the riders to get together but Anthony Dean has been flying in weekly during January to make the most of a home World Cup.
How does it feel to be able to race on home soil? What are the benefits?
WB: We are looking forward to hosting the UCI World Cups and welcoming all the international riders to Australia to experience the travel we do on a regular basis. We are all looking forward to the shorter trips and to racing in our own conditions. Having the home crowd behind the Australian riders will also boost their performances.
Australia has quite the selection of riders entering the first rounds of the UCI World Cup. Who are you expecting to do well?
WB: It is great to see the number of Australian riders competing at our home UCI World Cups and I am sure we will see some new names rise throughout the rounds. It will be great to see Anthony Dean get back on the podium at Shepparton and the comeback of Caroline Buchanan. Our other supported athletes you will see out there giving it their best shot will be Kai and Saya Sakakibara, Lauren Reynolds and Izaac Kennedy.
What does having a UCI World Cup in Australia mean for the younger racers?
WB: For the Junior riders who have registered, it gives them an opportunity to see where they are in the field of the fastest racers in the world. Racers who enter the national series race on Friday will have an opportunity to see the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup races at the weekend and be inspired by it.
When is the last time you were at the Shepparton track?
WB: The 2019 National Championships took place on that track, so that was the last time.
What makes the facility good in your eyes?
WB: The track is rather flat. The berms are big enough to handle the Elite Men. The jumps are not too big but challenging to handle. Because it’s a flat track this all matters. The facility ticks all the boxes as far as the surroundings like the clubhouse goes.
Is there anything in the city that visitors need to see?
WB: It’s a laid-back country town. There’s a good health centre facility, fitness facility with a modern gym and indoor and outdoor pools called Aquapark. The Shepparton Motor Museum is out there and, of course, the Greater Shepparton BMX track which, for us, is the main attraction.
Every BMX fan will have their favourite racer to win the opening rounds, but with the opening rounds in Australia, the home racers will certainly feel the crowd support.
If you can’t be at the Shepparton track 1-2 February for Rounds 1 and 2 or Bathurst 8-9 February for Rounds 3 and 4, check out the UCI BMX Supercross social media platforms to catch the live feed.