11 April 2011
American Corben Sharrah rose to the occasion to win the grand final of the UCI BMX Supercross at Alexandra Park in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday, while young French rider Manon Valentino confirmed her status as the hottest property in female BMX racing by completing a rare double in the women’s division.
A quietly spoken 19-year-old from Tucson, Arizona, Sharrah timed his charge to perfection, shifting up a gear in the semi-final to dominate the Frenchman Joris Daudet, who had until that stage been the men’s pacesetter.
In the final, Sharrah got the hole-shot and as he led into the first berm he looked in total control.
While the pack jostled behind him, resulting in classy Kiwi Marc Willers going down, Sharrah never let his control of the race slip, flying home to win from Australian Khalen “Wild Child” Young, with timetrial superfinal winner Daudet in third.
Suited my style of riding’
“This track really suited my style of riding,” said Sharrah, as he was mobbed by well wishers from Team USA. “I had a really good gate and won the big battle to get into the first turn first.
“When I realised I was leading, it was all about staying calm and focused. That was the critical part for me.
“It feels fantastic to win the first World Cup of the season,” he added.
Dreadlocked French sensation Manon Valentino, aged 21, was ecstatic after completing a totally dominant win in the women’s main final. “This is totally amazing! What a comeback for me!” gushed the former junior world champion, whose first year as a senior was dogged by injury.
In truth, she had won the final by the time she had turned into the second straight.
From her quicksilver reaction off the start gate, to her athletic and fluid pace across the demanding 15-metre triple on the first straight, Valentino was without peer, and romped home to win by more than a second from Argentinean Gabriela Diaz, with Kiwi icon Sarah Walker earning the last spot on the podium.
Australian ace Sam Willoughby was the shock omission from the main final line-up. He was one of four riders to crash out of the semi-finals in a pileup on the first berm that also accounted for gutsy Canadian Tory Nyhaug, Dutchman Jelle van Gorkom and Joshua Meyers of the USA.
Two podium contenders fell by the wayside in a drama-laden second men’s quarter final, where on-form Frenchman Sylvain Andre and former world champion Donnie Robinson of the USA, who was being cheered on his comeback to the Supercross circuit, were both unseated in spills.
SA hopeful ousted
In the men’s qualifying rounds the last local hopeful left in the men’s draw Gavin Lubbe was squeezed out of qualifying for the quarter finals. Needing only to repeat the two fourth places from his first two heats, he was sluggish off the starting line and completed his final heat in seventh, and was eliminated.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating!” said Lubbe. “I was just late off the gate and was playing catch-up from then onwards.”
Earlier in the day South Africa’s solitary female challenger Teagan O’Keeffe was sidelined after failing to make the cut for the women’s semi finals, despite strong vocal support from the packed stands.
The regular pile-ups kept the on-site medical team busy throughout the afternoon, with four serious injuries requiring hospital attention, one for a broken ankle and three for broken collarbones.
The heady mix of on-track action and music under the blazing sun provided a compelling spectacle for the big crowd that packed into the new BMX venue at Alexandra Park, which will become a permanent BMX facility after the Supercross.
R E S U L T S
- Corben Sharrah (USA) 34.054
- Khalen Young (Aus) 34.815
- Joris Daudet (Fra) 35.095
- Raymon van der Biezen (Ned) 35.156
- Andres Jiminez Caicedo (Col) 35.620
- Robert de Wilde (Ned) 36.026
- David Herman (USA) 37.689
- Marc Williers (NZ) 1.13.216
- Manon Valentino (Fra) 33.714
- Maria Gabriela Diaz (Arg) 34.858
- Sarah Walker (NZ) 36.116
- Magalie Pottier (Fra) 43.085
- Caroline Buchanan (Aus) 43.726
- Vilma Rimsaite (Ltu) 49.473
- Stefany Hernandez (Ven) 1.04.473
- Lauren Reynolds (Aus) Did Not Finish
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