UCI World Cups Round 7 & 8 Race Report Bogota, Colombia

U23 Women

R7:  In the last two rounds, Veronika Sturiska (LAT) seems to have made this class her own.  R7 saw no change, Sturiska won her 1st round, quarter and semi, each round setting the fastest time. In the final, Sturiska got the snap and didn’t look back, another win today securing the overall title.  Behind her, Sharid Fayad (COL) found herself in second place, cheered on by the crowd, but she was coming under pressure down the third straight from Leila Walker (NZL), who made the pass into the last turn.  Further back, McKenzie Gayheart (USA) had exited turn one back in sixth place, but had made her way through the pack, coming out of the last turn in fourth place and right behind Fayad. Jumping the step up, Gayheart got the momentum to reel in Fayad and make the pass as they came off the final roller to make her third podium in Bogota.

R8:  In R8, the first round action saw McKenzie Gayheart setting the fastest time.  Leila Walker took the win over Sturiska in their semi, giving her lane 1 in the main, Sturiska in lane 2.  When the gate dropped, Walker would make that inside lane count, taking the lead round the first turn, Sturiska right behind her. World Pump Track Champion, Aiko Gommers (BEL) was sitting in third, McKenzie Gayheart saving a nosedive over the first jump putting her towards the back of the pack, before diving inside into the first turn to get herself up into fourth.  Walker was clear in first as they headed down the final straight, Sturiska gaining but unable to stop Walker from taking the win.  Gayheart was able to pass Gommers down the third straight to take the final podium spot.  On the podium, you can’t help noticing Gayheart is a lot smaller than Walker and Sturiska, but she’s clearly come from the same mould as Alisa Willoughby; Lots of heart, blistering track speed, a great racing head, and will jump anything!  She’s going to be exciting to watch at future World Cups.  And while Veronika Sturiska may look like she has made this class her own over the past two weekends, let’s not forget that Leila Walker dominated her Challenge Classes, winning the World Championship from 2013-2018.  With no shortage of talent, this class promises to have some great battles next year!

U23 Men

R7:  After a disappointing 7th in the main at R6, World Champion Leo Garoyan (FAR) had no problems in R7, setting the fastest times in each of his qualifying rounds as he headed into the final. Even a place in today’s final wouldn’t be enough to secure the overall for Garoyan.  Any of the top four in the standings could still take the title, and they also made today’s main;  Dylan Gobert (FRA) in lane 6, Rico Bearman (NZL) in lane 4, Tatyan Lui Hin Tsan (FRA) in lane 2, with Garoyan in lane 1.  When the gate dropped it was Garoyan who would lead into turn one, Asuma Nakai (JPN) in second, Lui Hin Tsan in third, and Bearman in fourth. There was no change in placings for the rest of the lap, nobody able to close the gap on Garoyan who took the win to secure the overall title.

R8:  With the overall title decided, the remaining podium spots were yet to be decided. First of the challengers to go in today’s action was Dylan Gobert, who exited in the quarters, meaning he would be pushed off the podium in the overall standings. In the first semi final, Garoyan had the inside gate, but got swallowed up by the pack, finding himself back in fifth place down the second straight.  Unable to make up ground, the Series Champ was out.  Taking an impressive win was Nakai, with Cristhian Castro (ECU) second, Hugo Marszalek (FRA) third, and Santiago Linares (COL) going through in fourth.  The second semi final saw Lui Hin Tsan go down in turn one whilst sitting third as Curtis Krey (CAN) dived inside.  Drew Polk (USA) would also take advantage and slip into fourth.  Mauricio Molina (CHI) comfortable in second, the top four were well clear as they booked their places in the final.  When the gate dropped in the final it was Bearman from lane 1 who took an early lead over Molina in lane 2, Nakai tucking in behind them.   Polk sitting in fourth found himself overtaken by Krey down the third straight, but nobody was catching Bearman who hadn’t dropped a lap all day, and looked to be back on top form.  New Zealand claiming the win in both U23 categories at Round 8.  Today’s win would move Bearman up from fourth to second in the overall standings, Lui Hin Tsan in third.

Elite Women

R7: All Laura Smulders (NED) had to do to wrap up the overall title was to make the main.  But, with 26 World Cup wins to her name, simply making the main isn’t what Laura Smulders is about. Yes, she made the main. She then went on to win it from the gate, making it 27 World Cup wins and wrapping up the 2022 title in the process. Mariana Pajon (COL) looked to be in great form, just edged out the podium places by Alise Willoughby (USA) and Zoe Claessens (SUI).  Molly Simpson (CAN) made her maiden Elite final in R7, another reminder to the established Elite women that they can’t afford to get complacent.

R8:  In Colombia, there is no bigger BMX Racing superstar than the Queen Bee herself, Mariana Pajon.  Today, Pajon gave the Colombian fans exactly what they wanted, not dropping a lap on her way to a place in the main.  When the gate dropped in the main she streaked away to take the win by nearly a second over Merel Smulders (NED) and Zoe Claessens.  Overall series winner Laura Smulders missing her only podium of the series, taking fourth.

The overall standings ended with Smulders, Claessens and Bethany Shriever (GBR) taking the top three positions, with Pajon in fouth.  After a lacklustre (by her standards) start to the series, some may have wondered if, or when, Pajon may consider retiring from competitive riding.  This weekend, Pajon reminded everyone she’s lost none of the speed and skill which took her to two Olympic titles, and Paris 2024 must surely now be the target. There are more than a handful of other Elite women who will also have their sights set on an Olympic medal in Paris, but this weekend the Queen Bee sent a message, She’s not done yet!

Elite Men

R7:  Coming into R7, Sylvain Andre (FRA) was 465 points clear of Cameron Wood (USA) in the overall standings.  Mathematically, any of the top 6 could take the overall title, so it was all to play for.  Lying bottom of those 6 title chasers was European Champion Kye Whyte (GBR), a rider known for his blistering track speed, but whose gates have been a bit hit and miss this season.  Adding to the interest was Joris Daudet, looking good in the last two rounds.  There were no dramas for the top six making it through earlier rounds into the semis, but that’s where things started to heat up.  In the first semi, Daudet had lane 1 and used it to full advantage, getting a clean gate and taking the lead into turn one, Carlos Ramirez (COL) on his tail, Cameron Wood in third, series leader Andre in fourth as they headed down the second straight.  The top three would keep those positions until the line, but right behind Andre was Kye Whyte who, at the last corner, moved out wide before swooping inside for a drag race with Andre for that fourth qualifying spot.  Andre looked to have it, but at the last second Whyte pushed his front wheel ahead to take it on the line. Whyte into the final, series leader Andre out.  In the second semi Diego Arboleda (COL) had the home fans cheering as he took the lead ahead of Izaac Kennedy (AUS) as they opened out a sizeable gap over the chasing pack of riders.  Jeremy Rencurel (FRA) lying third overall in the standings, found himself swallowed up down the third straight with three riders passing him, putting Rencurel out.  Alfredo Campo (ECU) and Juan Ramirez(COL) would be the two other riders going through to the final.  The final had plenty for the home fans to cheer for, with three Colombian riders looking to take the win.  Joris Daudet, however, had other plans.  The final was a Daudet masterclass, pulling away down the first straight, with Campo chasing, nobody was getting near Daudet as he streaked away to take the win.  Whyte was battling with Kennedy for third as they headed along the second straight.  Down the third straight Whyte turned on the turbos and overhauled Kennedy and Campo to bag second.  Campo in third, Kennedy fourth.  The three Colombians finished fifth, sixth and seventh, with Cameron Wood in eighth.  But this final was all about Joris Daudet.

R8:  Joris Daudet started the last round where he left off, taking the win in all his early qualifying rounds.  By the time we reached the semi finals, Team GB fans had four riders to cheer on!  In the first semi Quillan Isidore, Paddy Sharrock and Ross Cullen were in action and, out the gate, all three looked to have a real chance of making it through to the final.  Daudet got the holeshot, but Cullen  got a great gate from lane 8, and was all set to tuck in behind Daudet going round turn one.  Cedric Butti (SUI) was on the inside and looked to be carrying too much speed going into the turn, pushing him right up the berm, into Cullen, and sending both of them flying over the berm in a heap.  Daudet had checked out, with Isidore chasing in second.  Sharrock back in sixth as they headed down the third straight, had to dive for the inside at the last turn, in a desperate bid to get up into fourth, but it wasn’t to be.  Gonzalo Molina (ARG) and Juan Diaz (COL) would join Daudet and Isidore in the final.  In the second semi, Jeremy Rencurel got the snap and would lead into turn one, Izaac Kennedy on his outside. Behind them Whyte was on the inside but ran into the back of Carlos Ramirez (COL) and landed on the tarmac, ending his day.  Rencurel couldn’t make his lead stick, and was fourth down the second straight, as Cameron Wood took over the lead ahead of Kennedy and Andre.  As they approached the last corner Carlos Ramirez was looking for a way to get himself into fourth. Taking the inside line into the corner and going out wide, he forced Rencurel off the track to take that fourth spot in the final.

In the final, after Mariana Pajon’s stunning victory in Elite Women, the home fans wondered if Juan Diaz or  Carlos Ramirez could give them another reason to celebrate. When the gate dropped, there was immediate drama as Ramirez and Andre crashed out over the first jump, Andre looking like he wished he’d packed a parachute!   Daudet got the snap from lane 1 and set about repeating yesterday’s performance, with Kennedy trying to chase him down.  Isidore saw a chance to get up into third into turn one when Wood came unclipped, but Wood quickly recovered and pushed Isidore wide as they exited turn one.  Diaz hoped to get past Wood and take over third spot as they headed down the second straight but Wood had the inside line into turn two and consolidated his position.  Daudet was well on his way to another win, Kennedy safely in second, Wood holding onto third for his third podium in Bogota and securing second place in the overall standings, Izaac Kennedy jumping from fifth to third overall, Kye Whyte dropping to fourth.

From some great personal performances, exciting racing, plus the action and drama which you only get from BMX Racing, the final four rounds of the UCI BMX Racing World Cup in Bogota did not disappoint.  Healing vibes to everyone who took a knock these past two weekends, congrats to those who made the podium, and thank you to all the riders for providing some fantastic BMX racing action, which is sure to help many of us get motivated for some off-season training.

Words – Kenny Hunter

Photos – Craig Dutton

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