The Aussie assault on the 2023 BMX Racing World Championships and 2024 Olympic Games begins in earnest this weekend, when the opening rounds of the 2023 UCI World Cup kick off in Turkey.
Australia’s top-ranked riders will compete in Sakarya; world no. 4 Izaac Kennedy and Bodi Turner (#24) line up in the Elite Men, while world no. 7 Lauren Reynolds, Saya Sakakibara (#41), and Erin Lockwood (#52) will ride for Australia in the Elite Women’s field.
World no. 25 and Australia’s top-ranked Under 23 Men’s rider Oli Moran completes the Aussie contingent competing in Turkey.
National BMX Race Coach Performance Sam Willoughby explained the event marks an important steppingstone in building towards the 2023 UCI World Championships and qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
“With the magnitude of these events, it's a really good rehearsal for everyone across all disciplines to practice both physical and mental preparation going into Glasgow,” Willoughby said.
“These World Cups also line up very similarly to how next year will run with the World Cups, and then imagining Glasgow as Paris. So, it’s a bit of a rehearsal/qualification period.
“We kicked off [Olympic] points in Colombia last year, but now we're really getting into the thick of it with a bunch of World Cups coming up in 2023 and a World Championships that will count towards Olympic qualification.”
With only a three-week break between Turkey and the next World Cup event in Papendal, The Netherlands, Willoughby also revealed how the focus of the team had narrowed on performance outcomes.
“We can really get into the nitty gritty of coaching from a competition standpoint. Physical stuff is somewhat on maintenance mode a little bit through this month of June, and then we'll have about six or eight weeks to touch up on a couple of areas leading into Glasgow.
“I think it's always important to acknowledge that every race, everyone makes mistakes. And it's really a key focus for us right now with someone like Izaac and even Lauren and Saya – they're so good, but it's about not letting one mistake turn into two.
“It's been eight months since the last World Cup for BMX Race, so you'd expect potentially a little bit of rust for everyone at the first one. And maybe even if it's not rust, just some reminders and learning curves to have some conversation about before Papendal.”
Glasgow and Paris are also clearly on the mind of athletes. Speaking with AusCycling, Australia’s top-ranked female rider Lauren Reynolds revealed how she plans to peak for the tent-pole events.
“The plan was to build momentum as the year went on, with a slower start to the year in comps after enjoying my wedding celebration in January. I’ve now done the last three stops on the USA series and grabbed some top 3’s at each. So far, we are on track and looking to continue the momentum,” Reynolds said.
“My plan is to secure a couple more scores and put myself and Australia in a good position for 2024. I love embracing the challenge at the big events like World Cups and World Champs, and seeing what we can put together.”
This weekend, Reynolds feels the Sakarya track may benefit technical riders who can carry their speed throughout, and while she said she prefers “a wide-open track, [with] lots of pedalling and big jumps,” the West Australian reflected on how her experience enables her to remain competitive regardless of the conditions.
“Learning to adapt quickly and knowing your strengths and weaknesses are really important to me. I always try to focus on myself and my inputs and outputs, and let natural race instinct do the rest.”
Men Under 23
Rounds 3 and 4 of the UCI BMX Racing World Cup will take place in Papendal, The Netherlands, on 24-25 June.
Main Image: Nico van Dartel