Kiwi Olympian Kurt Pickard enjoyed a breakthrough victory on the first day of the USA BMX Nationals series in Pittsburgh today.
The 22 year old from Tauranga scored his first Grand Finals win in the US against some of the major competition that he will face in this month’s UCI BMX World Championships in Auckland, including two-time Olympic champion Maris Strombergs.
Pickard was unbeaten in his qualifying motos and elimination rounds, winning the Grand Final ahead of world championship-bound Americans Corben Sharrah and David Herman, while Strombergs from Latvia, crashed while leading in his semifinal.
The win was a boost for the Tauranga rider, who crashed in the quarterfinals at the London Olympics and carried a niggling injury into his preparations in the USA.
“The win means relief, a monkey off my back and it feels good,” Pickard said. “Now I have some racing under my belt I am starting to feel more comfortable.
“Looking at the results it paints a picture than I am on target for the worlds. I’ve grown a lot and learned a lot since I have been over here and I think that’s more important than the result itself so I am looking forward to Auckland.”
BikeNZ BMX Coach Ryan Hollows said the result was a fillip for Pickard and the team.
“Kurt has been slowly improving, getting better and better and mentally stronger. Today was the day he finally broke through. He was untouchable and everyone trackside was picking him for favourite,” Hollows said.
“It was a stronger field than at Rockford two weeks ago with the world champion Sam Willoughby the only big name missing from the big hitters while Maris (Strombergs) has been an addition.”
“This is the ideal track for our last competition in the USA because it starts to progression the riders back on to bigger tracks. We have our last racing tomorrow before flying home later this week and then next week we head to Brisbane where we will do our final preparations on the Supercross track there.”
The team will take part in a public fun day at Sylvia Park net Saturday before flying to Brisbane, arriving back in time for the UCI BMX World Championships which run from July 24-28 at Vector Arena.