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The penultimate round of the 2024 UCI BMX World Cup has just wrapped up, and like many other BMX lovers around the world, I was glued to my TV to watch the action unfold. Here are 11 observations from today’s racing: 

1 - USA! USA! USA! 

It is fantastic to see a World Cup back in the US. The last one held was in 2019 in Rock Hill, and before that was back in 2016. This is only the 2nd World Cup event held in the states in the last 8 years! In the early days of the UCI World Cup, a stop in the States was an every-year thing. UCI held a round of the World Cup stateside every year between 2005-2016. It is great to see the renewed commitment to international racing here stateside with the new facility in Tulsa, as well as the hiring of longtime Colombia head coach German Medina in 2022. Yes, it is great not to have to travel for the Elites but the biggest winners are the American U23 riders who gain valuable experience here at home. More on them later. 

Speaking of countries….

2 - Hold the Croissants 

How nice is it if you are part of the French BMX team staff right now? Real nice. They are so far ahead in men’s country rankings and so sure of their current form that they didn’t feel the need to come to the US for the final round of the World Cup. They said we will catch you guys in a couple of weeks in Rock Hill for the Worlds! The French men have never won an Olympic medal (shocking, right?), and they are certainly ALL IN to change that on home turf this summer in Paris. France went 1-2 for the women at the 2008 Beijing Olympics…. could it be a French 1-2 this summer for the men? It’s possible for sure. 

Okay, let’s get into some of the race action.

3 - Dad power – Niek Kimman – 1st place

The internet was abuzz last week with the news of Niek Kimmann announcing he will be a father soon! Congrats Niek! Apparently, he needs to start stacking some diaper money because he came to play today. At this stage in his career (year 10 of Elite) and after all the success he has had, I can say that it is very likely more of a mental shift than something physical. I highly doubt Niek found some new gear ratio, tweaked his gate form, or tried a new rep count in the gym to find this form. He has such a base and so much experience. I truly believe he made some sort of mental shift and just rode at his 100% best today and got it all out on the track. A confident Niek is a dangerous Niek, and his timing couldn’t be better. In his post-race interview he mentioned he was reading some comments saying he couldn’t win from lane 1. If I were in his camp, I would be making fake accounts telling him he got lucky today and can’t back it up. That seems to get his fire lit! 

4 - Aussie Aussie Aussie  - Izaac Kennedy – 2nd place

Oh, what could have been. Izaac had a ripper of a start in the final from lane 2, his fastest of the day, and was clearly ahead of Niek. He did not move over on Niek, though, and the tall Dutchman was able to sneak through, and Izaac was left in second. He sniffed at a possible drive in the third straight, but Niek is no rookie, so that wasn’t going to happen today. Australia has their next great Aussie to root for. After a full knee tear in 2023, Izaac is back and has looked better at every round of the World Cup this year. He has clearly been working on his weaknesses (starts), and he has turned them into a strength. He has an outside shot at the title tomorrow but will need lots of help.

Speaking of title…

5 - Clutch. – Cedric Butti – 3rd place

I am so impressed with Cedric’s composure today. Winning a season-long series title is much different than winning a single-day title. Cedric has a junior elite World Championship to his name, but that is just winning one race on one day. It is very hard to do, but the math is simple. Win, and its yours. With a season-long points chase (such as the World Cup series), math gets involved. Cedric didn’t need to win this weekend. He just had to do “okay”. Well, he did that and more. He had a few times throughout the day where he could have mentally “broke,” but he stayed strong. Being in between Wood and Larsen in the semi is no joke. Larsen had the quickest hill time of the day, and Wood the 8th quickest. Both are known for being great starters; both are at home, and he stayed focused on himself and got out clean. Then, he was in 4th on the bubble the entire semi and stayed calm. That one race might have sealed the deal on his first World Cup title if….he can repeat the process tomorrow. 

Shameless plug here, but it looks like a Chase Bicycle will win this title either way with Izaac or Cedric, so as usual, #WinWithChase.

6 - The race within the race 

Before we switch gears into some of the other classes, let’s talk about the race within the race (race-ception) for the 5th spot in men’s country ranking. 5th is very important because that is the cut-off line for who gets 2 spots, and everyone below gets 1. Great Britain, The Netherlands, and the USA are all in the battle here. Remember, points are the total of your top 3 points earners. For the Americans, we had one in the quarter (Jeremy Smith), one in the semi (Kam Larsen), and one in the final for 6th (Cam Wood). Decent point day. Our rival GBR had a terrible day, with no men even making the semifinal, and Dave Vanderburg (NED) had some bad luck in his quarter, failing to advance to the semifinals. Unfortunately for GBR and the USA, the guy who won the whole thing and got this biggest points haul was wearing orange. With only 2 races remaining, Round 6 and the World Championships, every position for each of these countries matters and could be the difference between qualifying 1 or 2 men. 

7 - It’s tea time – GBR

Kye Whyte, Quillan Isidore, and Ross Cullen are all fantastic riders. Kye won round 4 of the World Cup, Ross has a single-digit world finalist plate, and Quillan found himself in more finals last year than not…..but they did not perform well today. This was as bad of a performance as the Brits have had on US soil since 1776. The GBR team will be looking to bounce back tomorrow, and I expect they will. 

8 - Saya keeps slaying 

Saya Sakakibara has been on a tear for the last few years. She has wrapped up yet another UCI BMX World Cup title. Her riding is phenomenal and she has to be one of, if not the favorite, as we head into Paris. I have the utmost respect for her building herself back up after what her family had to go through and her own head injury in Tokyo. Tip of the cap to Saya. She came onto American soil and spoiled the Cinderella story of a home country win for one of the American ladies, at least for today. Tomorrow is another day.

9 - Ageless Ladies

Alise Willoughby found herself in her…wait for it…checks notes…. 59th World Cup final and on her…checks notes again…. 37th World Cup Podium. Those numbers are straight up Bananaland! Also in the women’s final were Mariana Pajon (64th final) and Lauren Reynolds (38th final) and they are all the same age. They are all UCI, age 33 years old. Older than many of the riders racing Vet Pro. These 3 are all looking to be part of the first group of BMX racers to say they have competed at 4 Olympic games. Absolutely incredible ladies. 

10 - Jordan Callum is the real deal

Jordan first caught my attention in Rock Hill this year, but after today, I am fully sold. He is the real deal. I was impressed with his riding, track smarts, and overall composure. It was great to see him put his CF grips (another shameless plug) onto the top step of the podium. Jordan, if you’re reading this, you get grips for life. Special nod to Izaac and Rico’s training buddy Tasman, who ripped an amazing holeshot. I look forward to watching these 2 battle again tomorrow. 

11 - Living up to the hype 

Up until 2022, the U23 class was not at the World Cups. You basically had 2 options: race the big dogs or don’t race. The U23 class is a great step to bridge the gap from Amateur / Challenge classes to the Elite level. One of the most highly anticipated amateurs in recent years stepped up onto the World Cup stage, and he delivered. 17-year-old Sean Day found himself in the main event in his first World Cup try. Yes, it is the same track as he has raced before, but UCI World Cups are a different ballgame and format from USA BMX Pro races and even more different from USA BMX amateur races. Sean lived up to the hype and rode fantastically. Another rider living up to the hype or creating some new hype is Josh Jolly. He made the podium today as a Junior Elite. A few other riders come to mind when it comes to Junior Elites reaching success at the World Cup level, and remember, these are from the days before U23 existed. Sam Willoughby won the title as a second-year junior in 2009. I podiumed as a first-year junior in 2009. Niek made it to the semifinal as a junior elite. Not a bad conversation to be in for Josh and Sean. 

That’s it for today. I can’t wait to watch some more racing tomorrow! 

-Connor Fields 

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