South Africa’s BMX World Cup thriller

24 August 2009

Australian double-junior world champion Sam Willoughby continued his impressive rise to the top of the BMX world when he won round two of the 2009 UCI BMX Supercross World Cup in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on Saturday.

The USA’s current elite men’s world champion and world number one, Donny Robinson, placed second, with Rob van den Wildenberg of The Netherlands rounding out the podium positions.

The 18-year-old Willoughby, who last month became the first rider ever to win back-to-back junior world titles, was in superb form throughout the event, winning every one of his heats, the quarterfinal, and the semifinal.

Final

In the final, Willoughby started in the favoured inside lane, with Robinson on his left in lane two. Willoughby’s powerful start gave the young Australian the edge and this secured the all-important holeshot into the first turn.

With a bike-length gap opened up, Robinson had to hope Willoughby made an error on the highly technical third straight if he had any shot at grabbing the lead. But the Australian was smooth and in control, throwing up his arm in elation as he won his first Supercross World Cup event.

“I’m really excited with this win! It’s the right end to a perfect day, I guess,” said the charismatic Willoughby.

“I had lane two in my first heat, but won that and held land one for the rest of the day, which proved decisive.”

Praise

Robinson was full of praise for Willoughby, but felt that the inside lane was undoubtedly a factor in the final result.

“Sam is improving all the time. He’s a real talent and so consistent. I would have loved to have had lane one for the final, but he made the most of it and he never made a single mistake. I planned to run at him in the third straight, but he was flawless through there.”

Van den Wildenberg was thrilled with third place.

“This is my first ever podium in a World Cup, so I’m very happy,” smiled the Dutchman. “I over-jumped the first jump, which threw my rhythm out a bit, and from there I just followed Donny’s line and held my position.”

Women

Current women’s world champion, Sarah Walker of New Zealand, left her best performance for last when she recorded a dominant victory ahead of Argentina’s Gabriela Diaz and Frenchwoman Eva Ailloud, the current world number one.

After a crash in practice and less-than-perfect semi-final runs, the 21-year-old Walker charged into the lead at the first jump in the final, and had powered her into a two-bike-length lead by the second turn. She kept it smooth through the critical third straight, giving her rivals no opportunities to challenge her.

“I took it a bit easy in the semi-final motos because I didn’t want to risk doing something silly and not making the final. But in the final I let it all out and I had a really good race,” smiled Walker.

‘It feels really good’

“It feels really good to get a World Cup win so soon after winning the World Championships. I have definitely developed a lot of confidence lately and it’s showing in my results.”

For Diaz, it was a rewarding return after a long layoff from the sport.

“I’ve been riding again for just seven weeks, so this is a good way to return. I took a year off after the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Deciding to return to racing has obviously been the correct decision.”

An enthusiastic crowd of over 1 000 spectators watched the event, which was the first of its kind in Africa.

Next year, Pietermaritzburg will host a far bigger event when the UCI UCI BMX World Championships take place in the city in July.

RESULTS

Men’s final

    1. Sam Willoughby (AUS)
    2. Donny Robinson (USA)
    3. Rob van den Wildenberg (NED)
    4. Quentin Caleyron (FRA)
    5. Raymon van der Biezen (NED)
    6. Nicholas Long (USA)
    7. Ramiro Marino (ARG)
    8. Martijn Scherpen (NED)

Women’s final

    1. Sarah Walker (NZL)
    2. Gabriela Diaz (ARG)
    3. Eva Ailloud (FRA)
    4. Magalie Pottier (FRA)
    5. Merle van Benthem (NED)
    6. Rachel Bracken (AUS)
    7. Alise Post (USA)
    8. Jana Horakova (CZE)

SAinfo reporter

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