LONDON (AFP) –
Beijing Olympic champion Maris Strombergs of Latvia admitted defending his BMX title against the latest batch of “young kids” is not going to be easy in London.
On the first day of competition the 32-strong men’s field and 16 women starters completed one lap of the course in a timed seeding run that decides seedings and gate selection for the next rounds.
Strombergs finished 11th fastest as Dutchman Raymon van der Biezen topped the times ahead of French medal hope Joris Daudet.
The 25-year-old Latvian said he doesn’t expect to get an easy ride until Friday when the men’s and women’s finals will be held.
“I think 60 percent of the guys from Beijing are not here, and it’s just four years,” said Strombergs.
“A lot of young kids have stepped up and made it to the Olympic Games. And they are very good right now, on top of the game.”
For some, coming to London was like racing at home — the Dutch and Americans built replica training tracks of the Olympic Park circuit, a luxury not enjoyed by the British riders.
“The Americans did, the Dutch did, yet we are not allowed on the actual track,” Liam Phillips, who along with Shanaze Reade leads Britain’s hopes for more cycling gold, said after finishing in 12th place.
“Unfortunately it is not a home track, we have not had any additional access.”
Reade, who crashed on the last bend of the Beijing final, clocked the fifth best time from the 16 women starters to go into a tricky semi-final heat Friday.
It includes Australian Caroline Buchanan, who topped the women’s times ahead of New Zealand’s Sarah Walker, Beijing silver medallist Laetitia Le Corguille of France and another Australian, Lauren Reynolds.
“It felt good. The first time you go out you’re always going to be a bit rusty but it was great to compete in front of the home crowd,” said three-time world champion Reade.
“She (Reade) was behind me, right? We’ll see I guess, she was very good in the first straight but she doesn’t finish well,” said Le Corguille, who clocked the fourth fastest time.
The competition resumes Thursday with eight men split into four heats.
After three races the top two go into the semis while another two races for the third and fourth-placed riders will determine the rest of the semi-final line-up.
Racing in a pack over a course riddled with bumps and jumps makes for a totally different story altogether, said van der Biezen.
“I’m confident, but with eight on the (starting) ramp tomorrow, that’s a completely different story,” said the Dutchman.
“In this session you can choose your own line and no one interferes, so a little mistake is not fatal.
“Tomorrow a bad start and being at the back from the ramp, means it’s going to be really difficult.”