After a successful training day on Friday things took a different turn on Saturday. A strong wind had picked up and a difficult decision had to be made to call off Round 5. “It’s been a really tough decision for us here, the weather is looking fantastic but unfortunately the wind conditions are such that we can’t continue for the safety of the riders to take on the competition today” said UCI BMX Racing Coordinator Mr. Norm McCann. Current UCI Elite Men World Champion Romain Mahieu backed up the call: “I think it was the right call, we knew it was going to be a windy day, we just weren’t sure about the
direction of the wind which is the main problem. If it would be a head wind or a tail wind it would be fine but the wind was a bit of a cross wind with heavy gusts. It is always hard to cancel a race especially with all the people that came to watch us but it was the right call for the safety of all the riders.”
From this moment on all focus was on Sunday’s UCI World Cup race at the Vaucluse area which was dubbed; Land of Games! recently. The Vaucluse has its eyes turned towards the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. With the “Terre de jeux” label, carried by the Department, four sites have been selected as Games Preparation Centers. The agenda for the coming months promises to be rich in events, with the highlights including the 2023 UCI BMX Racing World Cup and the passing of the Olympic flame on June 19, 2024.
Instead of racing two days the 45 women in the U23 class, 131 Men in U23 and the Elite racers (36 Women, 81 Men) shifted focus to Sunday when the wind had settled enough to go racing. With the Mont Ventoux summit lurking in the background the gate started dropping taking the athletes through the several rounds of BMX racing to get to the final races of the day.
The U23 Women final wasn’t meant to be for Veronika Sturiska (LAT) who, while aiming for third place on the second straight got taken out by UCI U23 World Champion Tessa Martinez (FRA) when she made an abrupt move to the inside to defend her position. Tessa got back up to finish 6 th and kept her UCI World Cup lead. Up front the Benelux athletes divided the top 4 spots with Indy Scheepers (NED) just missing out on a World Cup podium (4th) while Belgium’s Aiko Gommers got third behind Holland’s Renske van Santvoort and Michelle Wissing who claimed the win.
Switzerland’s Kip Stauffacher had claimed the lane 1 start position and used that to his full advantage to dive into the first turn in front of three hungry French riders. Kip held his composure and rhythm from start to finish which isn’t an easy task being hunted down by Matéo Colsenet, Mathis Jacquet and Robin Genestroni who were fired on by the home crowd. The 165 UCI ranking points for first place in U23 did go to Kip as a reward for his incredible race.
When the gate dropped of the Elite Women final top favourite Bethany Shriever was missing. The Brit did not make it out of the semi-final in Sarrians leaving things open for the finalists to grab a UCI World Cup win. The Smulders sisters did not have the best of starts but moved from the back to the front finishing 5th (Laura) and 3rd (Merel) putting Alise Willoughby (USA) in the Smulders sandwich by crossing the line in 4th. The racing for the win was between Saya Sakakibara (AUS) and Zoe Claessens (SUI) and although Zoe tried to find a gap, she could never make a pass. This way Saya scored her 2nd UCI World Cup win in 2023.
It’s fair to say that France is dominating the Elite Men class. Each time the question is how many French Elite Men athletes make it to the final. In Sarrians 6 of them lined up for the final race of the day and missing in this line-up was UCI World Champion Romain Mahieu who was eliminated earlier on. Only Cédric Butti (SUI) and Diego Arboleda (COL) were able to destroy a French party. Diego had a great start and was in 2 nd position behind Joris Daudet coming out of the first turn and could smell a podium spot in France. But it wasn’t just Jeremy Rencurel but also Sylvain André who passed the Colombian before the finish line was reached where Joris Daudet gave the crowd what they wanted, an Elite Men win on home soil. The French podium was complete; Daudet-1, André-2 and Rencurel-3.
Pictures by Craig Dutton / www.craigdutton.com