One of my favorite ways to eat is to try a couple of bites of a bunch of different foods; like a Dim Sum or a Tapas bar. You still get full even though there was not a two pound steak on your plate. The last few weeks of racing have been like that. All of the races have been bite sized C1 events (except the Thai National Championships), but the riders are still getting full on points and paychecks. With Tokyo 2020 quickly approaching many countries are willing to send riders far and wide to score those crucial qualification points, or, in the case of Canada and Russia, just stack up a ton of domestic C1 events that nobody else is attending.
Three weeks ago, just one weekend after the Worlds, Sweden hosted the Nordic Championships (C1) where Denmark’s Simone Christensen is clawing her way up the rankings one win at a time.
Two weeks ago Thailand was the scene for all the racing action. While it was a no-brainer that Amanda Carr (Thailand) took the win at both C1 events and the National Championships, Switzerland’s Eloise Donzallaz scored the second step on the podium. While giving the Swiss a little boost in points, they are still a ways away from qualifying for the Olympics.
The men’s finals were a smorgasbord of riders from Germany (Webster, Stindl, and Jackel), Italy (Fantoni and Furlan), Czech Republic (Topinka), Denmark (Therkelsen), and even good old Elliot McGrath from the USA. Most of these countries, with the exception or the USA, are on the outside looking in at this point. The Airdrie BMX Canada Cup (C1) also went down and saw James Palmer win and all three top women on the podium (Mechielsen, Tuchscherer, and Hebert).
That brings us to this past weekend which was highlighted by the Qiansen Trophy race in China. It was big money that drew an international field rather than points, but all points are good points, too! Simon Marquart (Switzerland) took the win at round one (and a third in round two), pushing the Swiss past the U.S. men in the UCI Olympic Nations Rankings (as foreshadowed in previous reports).
The rest of the field was a mix of Dutch (Kimmann; round two winner; and van Gendt), French (Andre and Clerte; good job to Eddy, by the way), and Aussies (Boyton, Te Hiko, and Hughes).
Kimmann gets credit for the baddest back-of-the-pack charge win in recent memory, on one of the burliest tracks we’ve seen. Check it (Niek is third from left on the gate):
On the women’s side Simone Christensen took the win both days; reportedly earning a $10,000 payout ($5000/win). That’s not chump change!! The women’s field was rounded out by Felicia Stancil (USA), Judy Baauw and both Smulders sisters (Netherlands), Camille Maire and Axelle Etiene (France), and Saya Sakakibara (Australia). Of note, New Zealand’s superstar Junior, Jessie Smith, won both days, too. While the results for the women are showing on the UCI website, by my calculations, the points earned are not reflected in this week’s standings.
The weekend also saw two rounds of the Omsk Open in Russia and the Calgary Canada Cup.
The Russian races were dominated by Natalia Afremova, Yaroslava Bondarenko, and round one winner Varvara Ovchinnikova (new to me) on the women’s side and Evgeny Komarov, Evgeny Kleschnko, and another new name for me, Boris Ponomarev (winning round one). Meanwhile, up in Canada, James Palmer and Drew Mechielsen took the wins; bumping the Canadian women up one spot in the rankings. The Canadian women are locked in a back-and-forth ping pong points battle with Ecuador that sees both countries continuously swap spots depending on who raced on that given weekend. The big question is, “will Tory Nyhaug be healthy for a last-minute run-up to Tokyo?”, and, if so, who will Canada send, Nyhaug or Palmer.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the big grand opening of the Rockstar Energy Bike Park track in my hometown of Houston, Texas. This is the site of the 2020 UCI World Championships and an upcoming USA BMX national. At a whopping $25M spent, the 30-acre site includes the track, trails, pump track, and skatepark. With an incredible facility and guys like Donovan Long and Cody Smart associated with the track you know it will be a premier destination for BMX racing. They kicked things off right with a big pro-am that saw Australia’s Lauren Reynolds and the USA’s Zach Van Kammen take the wins and the lion’s share of the $7,500 prize purse.
This week we’ve got C1 race action in China and the national championships for the Russian Federation. Will China make a push to qualify for 2020? We haven’t seen them at the Games since they had host nation spots in 2008. For Russia, the women seem to be on track to have at least one rider in Japan, but the men are still looking for answers.