Friday started off with Women Qualification followed by Men Semi-Final. 22 female park riders gave it their all to make it to the top 12 for the final round of the Diriyah Urban Festival event. Simply cruising to the next round isn’t the case anymore. Laury Perez (FRA) for instance pulled backflips, tailwhips and 360s and saw herself back in 16 th place. Agustina Roth (ARG) carved the door and has full bike control doing her tricks but an early exit on run 1 meant she got stuck on position 19. Others not making the cut were Americans Chelsea Wolfe (14th) and Angie Marino (21st) as well as Olympian Lara Lessmann from Germany (15th).
Qualifying in first was 2022 UCI World Champion Hannah Roberts (USA) who had Asians Nene Naito (JPN) and Jiaqi Sun (CHN) on her tail in 2nd and 3rd. Germany’s Kim Lea Müller used her time in Australia wisely to learn new tricks to qualify for the finals in 4 th place with backflips, 360s over the spine and tailwhips in her repertoire.
Place 13 – 24 finishers in the Men Semi finals would make up for a great final at any BMX Freestyle Park event. Imagine a final with Olympian Daniel Dhers (VEN), Jaie Toohey (AUS), Tokyo 2020 bronze medalist Declan Brooks (GBR), British champ Jude Jones, Shaun Gornall (GBR), Costa Rica Park champion Kenneth Tencio, UCI World Cup winner Anthony Jeanjean (FRA), the fast and loose Paul Thoelen (GER), Japan’s talent Joji Mizogaki, Latvian’s #1 Ernest
Zebolds, Bryce Tryon (USA) and Croatian national champion Marin Rantes and you would be in for an amazing final event. But they missed out on a top 12 spot in Diriyah for different reasons and it wasn’t that they were riding badly. The BMX Park top level pool of riders keeps getting bigger and the final list that made the top twelve consisted of the real stars in Saudi Arabia.
It is clear that in order to shoot for a podium, the riders have to put together their best possible run in the final. This causes riders to take more risk than usual which can lead to mistakes. It happened in the women final where the throw-away run was used by many. With all the best tricks packed into one run it was Hannah Roberts (USA) who claimed first with backflip variations, double whips, a 360 barspin (truckdriver) and flairs. Hannah knows how to spin the bars also and used the final run of the day to claim the win in Diriyah. With a 2nd , a 4th and 5th place in the final the predicted Chinese dominance in Women Park is continuing, or at least they’re on their way to get there. Jiaqi Sun completed two solid runs with double whips, flip variations, 450s and many tricks all over the course with her second run score of 87.00 giving her second place. Perris Benegas (USA) completed the Women Park podium in 3rd.
In the 12-rider Men Park final it was also an all or nothing game which did not work out for Rimu Nakamura, Daniel Sandoval, Justin Dowell, Kieran Reilly, Kaden Stone, and Kevin Peraza who each made tiny mistakes to be able to claim a perfect run. Irek Rizaev’s solid runs gave him 6 th. 5th was for Istvan Caillet (FRA) who was already happy making his first UCI BMX Freestyle World Cup final. The south American riders in the crowd were cheering for Jose Torres Gil (ARG) who once again was flying at a height that only a few could match all weekend. After a crash in run 1 American Brian Fox put the hammer down in run 2 and kept pulling his bangers until the very end which included a.o. 1080’s and double backflip transfers. He was stoked to make his first World Cup podium. America had another rider on the podium (4 in total this weekend including the Women comp) in the name of Marcus Christopher. His 360 quad downside whip in his run was nothing short of amazing and the crowd loved it. Marcus kept it going at full speed till the very end but a mistake in run two meant he did not beat Logan Martin’s first run score of 93,50. The Australian worked hard in the off season to be back on top and is now leading the 2023 UCI BMX Freestyle World Cup Park class with the next stop in Montpellier, France happening in May.
Pictures by Bart de Jong / FATBMX