Stormy UCI BMX Freestyle World Cup Park in Brussels. BMX Freestyle is amazing in many ways and if the platform is provided to the riders to perform at their very best, it becomes an incredible show time after time. The location at the 2023 Urban Sessions with the sloping hill is unique, but works in many ways. It creates a festival style vibe with the crowd hanging out overlooking the BMX Freestyle Park and other activities provided by the local organizer. With the UCI BMX Freestyle Park World Cup being the main attraction, the event started on Thursday with an 11-hour non-stop practice session followed by 11 hours of BMX Freestyle riding on the FOP on Friday for the qualification phase. Brussels has become the second largest UCI BMX Freestyle Park World Cup of the series (after Montpellier) which shows the riders and federations embrace the event.
With hot days during training and qualification, a surprising hail storm appeared on Saturday right after Women Park warm-up calling off the semi-final for the women. The sun came out again afterwards on Saturday which made completing the Semi Final for the men a possibility. The cut from 80 (qualification) to 24 (semi-final) to 12 (final) is a tough one especially when all of the riders show a run that they had in mind and leave the decision with the judges. In the end 2 Americans made it in (Marcus Christopher and Justin Dowell), three Brits (Kieran Reilly, Declan Brooks, Shaun Gornall), UCI World Champ Rim Nakamura (Japan), Olympic gold medalist Logan Martin (AUS), former UCI World Cup winner Anthony Jeanjean from France, crowd favorite Kevin Peraza (MEX), Jose Torres from Argentina, Tom
van den Bogaard (NED) and Gustavo Batista de Oliviera representing Brazil. Four continents were represented in the final in Brussels.
With another big storm on the horizon to arrive on Sunday afternoon, the decision was made to have a 24-Women final on Sunday morning followed by the 12-Men final right after that trying to beat the incoming storm. It turned out to be a race against the clock. With 5 riders from China in the top 8 in the Women Park final results it’s fair to say that their domination in this category is real. Their work ethic has brought them where they are, leaving others to catch up with their progression. Taking home the points for 8th , 6th , 5th , 3rd and 1st was unheard of only 2 years ago but team China, who had been staying in Europe since the last UCI BMX Freestyle World Cup in Montpellier, made that a reality in Belgium. Xia Honglin’s 87,90 got her on the podium right behind UCI World Champ Hannah Roberts (USA) and Zhou Huimin whose 91,40 got her the gold at Urban Sessions 2023. With double truckdrivers, double barspins, flairs, flips, nothings to barspin, and tailwhips becoming regular tricks it sure gets more interesting by the event. Making it to the next round during competition is not a given any longer, you sure need to deliver at all times. Between the Chinese delegation Switzerland’s Nikita Ducarroz got 4 th after qualifying in first and Natalya Diehm, back from injury, settled for place 7. America’s Chelsea Wolfe and Colombia’s Queen Villegas Serna completed the top 10.
With the Men final still on the program the storm was nearing Brussels rapidly. After a 30- minute warm-up for the 12 finalists there was no time to waste to get the final done before the rain arrived. Luckily everyone understood that and the joint effort was made to deliver a good final for the crowd that made it to Parc Josaphat on Sunday morning. When the introduction to the riders was made, a tribute to Pat Casey (RIP) followed before the first heat of 6 riders made it on top of the ramps to drop in for their final runs of the weekend.
Tom van den Bogaard was first up and set the bar high. It was now up to the others to go over or stay under. With runs not going the way he planned it, Marcus Christopher finished on spot 12. If he’d pulled what he had in mind It would not have been a surprise to see him on the podium for Brussels. We might see what he is capable off at the UCI Cycling World Championships in Glasgow which is just a few weeks away. With two runs of 60 seconds in the final the worst of the two scores gets dropped. Kevin Peraza’s first run was the keeper and even though he had a little crash in run 2, he still put on a show for the crowd. That’s why the BMX community loves him. When we enter the top 5 we find first place qualifier Justin Dowell on spot 5 with his own tricks and plenty more. Kieran Reilly has won a comp or two in 2023 but just missed out on the podium. Australia’s Logan Martin’s 89.41 second run score was good for 3 rd in Schaerbeek. Nakamura opened the throttle in run one to get in the ‘90s range with a 91.56 but like in 2022, it was Anthony Jeanjean who left the competition in awe with two amazing runs that would both have won the competition. After the worst score was taken away the 92.56 remained. Another UCI BMX Park World Cup win for the Frenchman and well deserved. Just moments after the prize giving, rain started to drop. Timing is key.
Pictures by Bart de Jong / @fatbmx