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BMX star Marc Willers is hoping the contentious track for next year’s London Olympics will play into his hands when the riders begin competition in the Supercross World Cup event tonight (NZ time).
Willers is joined by Sarah Walker, Kurt Pickard and Trent Woodcock as the BikeNZ riders in the third round of the Supercross World Cup but more importantly it is the official test event on the new track to be used for next year’s London Olympics.
The 450m track, coming off an 8m high start ramp, has a long first straight before the tight and testing new jumps including the 45 degree hip jumps and the standing box jump on to a platform. The track, situated at Olympic Park beside the velodrome, has challenging jumps and tight, steep corners.
It is similar to the track used for the last round of the Supercross at Papendal, Netherlands where the BikeNZ quartet has been training and where both Willers and Walker won decisively.
The New Zealand riders completed their first practice session on the new track this morning (NZ time) and Willers believes it will be a demanding test.
“It has a really long first straight and in some ways that plays into my hands,” Willers said.”I’ve been starting well and getting that jump on the others into that first corner.
“Like Papendal it has the hip jumps and the box jump and that will not really allow for passing. So if I can get to that point in front, it will be a matter of not making mistakes from that point.”
Willers said he has put his mistakes from the world championship final behind him but is determined to learn from the experience when he over-jumped the last jump on the second straight and was overtaken, eventually settling for the bronze medal.
“It won’t be on my mind when I am racing. It’s been important to get a good look at the track because it’s the last time we will race on it before the Olympics.
“But it’s also an important competition in its own right. So I am fully focussed on competing well. I have continued to train well and I am in good form. So it’s a matter of concentrating on the processes really.”
The track will throw up more challenges for the women with a 15m long tunnel and a box jump, for the first time.
While that may prove challenging, BikeNZ coach ken Cools believes it will suit star performer and world championship silver medallist, Sarah Walker.
“Sarah is probably among the top two riders in the world technically and she is really well equipped to handle the new challenges,” Cools said. “Sarah nailed it at Papendal. She is in great form and has trained well. And she has confidence after her form at the world championships.”
It is also an important weekend for Pickard in his return to the top level of the sport. The Tauranga rider will be looking to ride deep into the elimination rounds to gain important Olympic qualifying points and press his claims for a potential second spot in the men’s team for the Olympics. He qualified second behind Willers in the same moto at the world championships, and was surprising eliminated early.
He now has some competition in the form of Pukekohe teenager Trent Woodcock, who earned a start this weekend after dual silver medals in the elite junior class at the world championships.
The rangy young rider has been racing and working for the Redline professional team in the USA this year and attributes the competitive race scene and experience as the key for his rise.
All of the major contenders are in London including new world champions Joris Daudet (FRA) and Mariana Pajon (COL).
There is a further practice session in the morning (local time) ahead of the qualifying time trials with more than 130 men and 45 men competing. The top 64 men and 32 women will progress to Saturday’s racing while the top 16 will compete in a second lap for the Super Time Trial points.