Australia’s top BMX racers will take on world’s best when one of the feature events of the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships kicks off at the Glasgow BMX Racing Centre this weekend.
11 riders will represent Australia across all categories in the BMX Racing Championship: five junior riders, three under 23s, and three elite athletes.
While Australia’s stocks in the elite category took a blow last month when Izaac Kennedy ruptured his ACL, the form lines of our other riders should not be understated.
With two of the top 15 riders in the world, Australia’s charge will be led by our elite women.
World number 13 Saya Sakakibara is possibly in the best form of her career, having broken through with a debut win in the USA BMX Pro Series in May, followed by two podiums at the World Cup in Papendal, including her first ever World Cup win.
Sakakibara also took out the elite women Oceania Championship in April, and after missing the last two world champs, the 23-year-old is obviously excited to be in Glasgow, a track where she scored a World Cup podium in 2022.
“Going through the first two World Cups and coming out on the other side uninjured and being healthy, I'm just super grateful that I have the opportunity to come here and compete for that rainbow jersey. I've been dreaming of that since I was a little girl,” Sakakibara told AusCycling.
“I have a great team around me. I'm healthy. I'm the healthiest that I've ever been, the fastest and the strongest I've ever been. So, I think I'm in a really good spot.”
The Southlake-Illawarra rider also revealed she’s overcome mental health battles that may have contributed to her crashing at Papendal in early 2022, leading to an extended layoff as she dealt with lingering symptoms of concussion.
“I just had really tough battles last year with my mental health. Just race day kind of stresses, anxiety. It really, really took over my performance last year, and that kind of ultimately ended with me crashing, I think.
“So, I really did work hard on that mental stuff, and I feel like I'm in a really, really good spot and really excited also.”
Alongside Sakakibara in the elite women will be world number 11 and three-time Olympian Lauren Reynolds.
One of Australia’s most decorated BMX riders, Reynolds is entering her 13th elite world championships, and despite a recent injury setback, also brings good form into the event.
The West Australian placed second at the Carolina Nationals USA BMX Pro series event in April, followed by a top 8 finish at the World Cup in Turkey, and the Bunbury BMX rider is again looking forward to the pressure of the big stage.
“World Champs are always an exciting race of the year! The depth of the field is very strong, and everyone is hunting for the rainbow jersey. This year’s worlds bring plenty of excitement and added pressure with Olympics next year,” Reynolds said.
“This year has been a little up and down for me, but I feel 90% recovered from my last injury and in fighting shape, excited to line up and give it my all.”
Bodi Turner will roll out for the green-and-gold in the elite men competition, having won the Oceania Championship and elite men’s national championship in the lead up to the event.
The world number 37 also scored a podium at the Carolina Nationals in April, and like Sakakibara, has experience at this venue having made both semi-finals of the World Cup here in 2022.
After overcoming injury at the start of the season, the 29-year-old from Maroondah BMX Club is now feeling good and looking forward to racing at this level again.
“We've had some good solid weeks training and feeling pretty confident that, so long as the body's right and the bike’s right, everything should come together,” Turner said.
“I'm spewing Izaac can't be here this year, but to be the only elite male here, I sure feel Australia is behind me and I’m just ready to do what I've always done.
“I've been riding bikes forever and I've been at this level. In 2017, I made the final and I was sixth, so look, I know it was some time ago, but nothing's changed in my mind. I'm ready to go.”
Sienna Pal (world number 36), Teya Rufus (49), Joshua Jolly (21), Noah Elton (46), and Tommy Tucker (55) will represent Australia in the junior categories, with Jesse Asmus (world number 35), Oliver Moran (44), and Matthew Tidswell (82) featuring in the under 23 class.
Men Under 23
Main Image: Aaron Gillions-Cycling NZ