The Elite Women final as well as the others were stacked. The first advantage is the gate pick. Bethany Shriever had claimed the inside lane and that helped her dive into the 180 left hand turn in front of the pack. Alise Willoughby (USA) got out of turn 1 in second place with Zoe Claessens (SUI), Molly Simpson (CAN) and Mariana Pajon (COL) in tow. Claessens managed
to pass Willoughby on the last straight for 2 nd while 27-time UCI World Cup winner Laura Smulders could not move up in the field and finished in 6 th place on Saturday.
Saturday’s Elite Men final was won from Lane 1 also. Romain Mahieu had not lost a race up until the finals so he could pick the favorite place on the inside. Romain actually did not get the best snap out of the gate but pushed through on the first straight with Diego Arboleda (COL) and Niek Kimmann (NED) looking for that holeshot. When the first corner was reached, Mahieu’s inside position gave him the advantage over Diego and Niek who tried to find ways to pass the Frenchman in front. On the third straight Joris Daudet (FRA) showed his track speed and skills and passed the Olympic Gold medalist from The Netherlands for 3rd place. Up front it was Mahieu who stayed out of trouble to claim the first UCI Elite Men World Cup of 2023.
Some last turn carnage changed things up at the finish line in U23 Women with Tessa Martinez being the lucky one. Rico Bearman (NZL) will be the man to beat in the U23 Men class this season. He has always been fast but now that some of the athletes have moved up to the Elite class, it’s Rico’s chance to grab that title.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; anything can happen in BMX racing. Saturday’s success isn’t a guarantee for Sunday’s result. An injury could take you out quickly, especially with 7 other racers on the gate all looking for the smallest gap to make a pass. Staying on the bike is a skill also but as everyone would agree, it’s not enough.
Gate Pick 1 isn’t an automatic ride to first place. Saya Sakakibara (AUS) had claimed the inside spot on the Pro Gate in the Elite Women final but could not generate enough speed out of the gate to get in front. Again, it was Bethany Shriever with the holeshot with Alise Willoughby close behind. Bethany’s track speed did not allow Alise to even think of making a move on her and she settled for second at the finish line, still a great result. This time Laura Smulders managed to move from 5 th to 3 rd beating Molly Simpson (CAN) on the line. The Elite Men final once again was filled up with 4 French riders (out of 8 finalists) which does show which nation is ruling BMX in the Elite Men class right now. Joris Daudet did what Romain Mahieu did the previous day and pushed through on the first straight to use the inside advantage going into the blue turn 1. With Mahieu in second the French domination was real. New Zealand’s Izaac Kennedy had some energy left to get third behind Joris (1st) and Romain (2 nd ).
Maximum points in Sakarya were scored in the U23 classes by Rico Bearman and Tessa Martinez. Two wins in one weekend to start off the 2023 UCI BMX Racing World Cup season is a dream, but it actually happened in Turkey.
Next venue will be Papendal, Netherlands for the next two Rounds. One full race on Saturday for Round 3 followed by Sunday’s Round 4. Will the new leaders be able to continue like they started?
Pictures by Craig Dutton / www.CraigDutton.com