With the new calendar year comes a clean slate for Australia’s best BMX athletes, and in two days time the national BMX season will roar into life with the first round of the Chambikx/Probikx UCI…
With the new calendar year comes a clean slate for Australia’s best BMX athletes, and in two days time the national BMX season will roar into life with the first round of the Chambikx/Probikx UCI as well as the inaugural round of the Grands Assault National Series at Nerang BMX Club, Queensland.
For some riders this season will be about improving on their 2016 performances, making amends for missed chances, or simply continuing to show winning form for another year.
Rewind the clock 12 months and Nerang dished up an exciting first round of the National Series.
The elite men’s event came alive in the final of round one when first time elite competitor Brandon Te Hiko (Geelong BMX Club) claimed the win from under the nose of Bodi Turner (Eastfield BMX Club), who crashed out in the final corner after tangling with the hulking veteran Matt Juster (Jingili BMX Club).
Turner returned the next day to blitz the field and win the second round of the National Series, which was his first major scalp of the year en route to selection into the Australian Olympic team for the 2016 Rio Games.
Both Turner and Tehiko return for 2017, but there are a number of riders waiting in the wings also aspiring to make their mark on the year with a strong start. Among them will be Kai Sakakibara (Southlake/Illawarra BMX Club), who had a pair of second place finishes at Nerang last year, former Australian champion Corey Frieswyk (Walkerstone BMX Club) and Turner’s younger brother Wade, who stormed to a sensational second place at the 2016 National Championships in Bathurst.
In contrast to the men’s class, the defending race winner from last year’s elite women’s event will not return in 2017. After dominating the 2016 opener, Mackay’s Melinda McLeod produced a strong 2016 that saw her race to eighth at the UCI BMX World Championships, and subsequently be named as a reserve for the Australian Olympic team. However in recent months she announced her retirement from the sport.
With McLeod out of the picture, the focus for 2017 shifts to Southlake/Illawarra BMX Club rider Leanna Curtis who departed Nerang 12 months ago with a pair of second places. Curtis went on to win both the elite women’s National Series and National Championship in 2016, and will be the rider to beat this week.
In the junior elite women’s racing fellow Southlake/Illawarra rider Saya Sakakibara will be looking to emulate her 2016 Nerang dominance. Challenging her claim to the number one plate will from the get go will be riders such as Sara Jones (Caboolture BMX Club) and Jenna Williams (Suncoast Hinterland BMX Club) who both claimed podium positions at Nerang in 2016.
The picture in the men’s junior elite class is less clear than the women’s, with 16-year-old world number two, and prolific age-group winner Nathaniel Rodway (Lake Macquarie BMX Club) joining the fold. Fellow promising riders Kye Affoo (Pine Rivers BMX Club) and Ronan Weber (Cairns BMX Club Inc) join Rodway in the move up to the junior elite class.
All three, and others advancing into the class will need to adapt to a tougher style of racing, negotiating riders such as Joshua Boyton (Centenary Plains BMX Club), who has already spent a year riding as a junior elite. Boyton also rode onto the podium at Nerang last year.
New Zealand rider Cailen Calkin will make a return to Aussie shores and reignite a Trans-Tasman assault on the 16-years boy’s event in 2017. Last year the flying Kiwi was dual victor in Nerang as a 15-year-old and will be hoping for more of the same in his final year of Chambikx competition.
In the 16-years girl’s event, a battle between Lorsyn Affoo (Pine Rivers BMX Club) and Molly McGill (Ashmore BMX Club) is a good chance of eventuating. The pair split the spoils throughout 2016 as 15-year-olds, with Affoo winning the National Series, McGill the National Championship.
Other riders who displayed sizzling form last year were Kai Angel (Nerang BMX Club) and Des’ree Barnes (Beenleigh BMX Club) who both rode to straight victories in the 14-years male and female events respectively in Nerang. Both were the riders to catch throughout 2016, and step into the 15-years category focused on more wins in 2017.
The first day of racing for the Chambikx/Probikx UCI will also see a handful of competitors race in the 14-years category for the first time. Keep an eye on Buddha Baum (Beenleigh BMX Club) in the boy’s class after he finished as the 13-years National Champion in 2016, while Paige Harding (Castle Hill BMX Club) makes the step up after a second place in the corresponding 13-years girl’s event.