Much at stake as BMX Racing hopes chase World Championship success

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New Zealand BMX Racers, keen Challenge age-groupers and resolute elites, have grouped in South Carolina, USA for the UCI World Championships this week.

There are 68 New Zealand riders competing in the 2024 UCI BMX Racing World Championships, staged for the second time at the outstanding Rock Hill facility.

The Challenge (age group) competition competed earlier this week, while the 12 New Zealand elite riders compete at the weekend, which doubles as the world championships and the last qualifying event to count for the Paris Olympic Games.

The UCI BMX Racing World Championships follow the six-round World Cup which included two rounds in Rotorua, with the competition dominated by Australian riders, Saya Sakakibara and Izaac Kennedy who were crowned World Cup series champions.

Defending their World Championship titles will be Romain Mahieu (France) and Bethany Shriever (Great Britain), who also won the Tokyo Olympic Games gold medal. 

In the women’s field, all eyes will be on Australia’s Sakakibara, who is the woman to beat. Sakakibara, coached by kiwi Kurt Pickard, defended her overall World Cup title with a remarkable total of four World Cup wins and two second-place finishes.

In the men’s field UCI points leader Mahieu leads a strong French connection including second-place points holder Joris Daudet, who dominated racing in Rotorua, and appears to have recovered from an earlier collarbone injury.

Tokyo Olympic Games gold medallist Niek Kimmann (Netherlands) will also be a key contender.

New Zealand elite men comprise last year’s under-23 World Cup series winner, Rico Bearman and French-based professional Michael Bias, both from the North Harbour club.

New Zealand currently sits in ninth place in the men’s nation rankings, which would qualify one spot for the Paris Olympics. Both Bias and Bearman have scored virtually the same points this season, which will make performances in Rock Hill doubly important.

Rotorua’s Megan Williams, 21, and Cambridge’s Leila Walker, 19, are the New Zealand elite women’s entries in their first season in the elite class, with Walker, a multi-world champion in challenge racing, securing her first UCI World Cup Elite final recently.

Cambridge 20-year-old, Bennett Greenough will be chasing a podium in the under-23 class after an impressive World Cup campaign with a round win in Rotorua and 2nd place overall ranking, while younger brother Jack has also won a World Cup final this season.

There is official training on Friday (NZ time) with qualifying rounds, last chance round, and the one-eighth finals on Saturday (from 5.45am NZ time), with quarters, semifinals, and finals on Sunday (from 6am NZ time).

Male, Elite: Rico Bearman (North Harbour), Michael Bias (North Harbour); Junior: Finn Cogan (East City), Nicholas Cowie (Southland), Will Skipper (Rotorua); Under-23: Bennett Greenough (Cambridge), Jack Greenough (Cambridge).

Female, Elite: Leila Walker (Cambridge), Megan Williams (Rotorua); Junior: Lily Greenough (Cambridge), Hannah Mason (Tauranga); Under-23: Brooke Penny (Te Awamutu).

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