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World’s best ride in KZN

It’s showtime at the Royal Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday as the UCI BMX World Championships explode into action with a large South African contingent eager to satisfy the huge expectations of their local fans.

More than 1000 riders from 37 nations have entered the competition, racing on a brand new track that sees an elite track alongside the cruiser class track, and spanning an endurance-testing 385 metres from start to finish.

South African Beijing 2008 Olympic hero Sfiso Nhlapo has been mobbed by fans since his arrival in Pietermaritzburg, and has tried to balance his obligations to his supporters, and staying focused on his preparations for a world senior title in the elite racing on Saturday afternoon. Nhlapo, or “Skizo” as he is known to his followers, heads up a South African entry of 300 riders, eager to make an impression on the UCI Challenge, Cruiser and World Championship races, win medals and earn the prized “world number” rankings.

The action starts with two days of competition in the Challenge classes, in classes ranging from the Under-13 age groups to master classes, with the elite riders getting their turn to practice on the unique layout later in each afternoon.

The attention turns to the elite riders on Saturday, when the Royal Showgrounds main arena will become a cauldron of excitement as the best elite riders in the world start working their way through the heats (or “motos” as they are known in the trade) through to quarter and semi-finals until the line-up for the Main Finals is settled.

Adding extra pressure to the elite riders is the added onus of critical Olympic qualification points that will be awarded at this years world championships for the first time. “There’s no doubt there will be more pressure on the riders, as this event carried the most points in the whole Olympic qualification process,” said the UCI’s head of gravity disciplines Johan Lindstrom.

The elite field has been reshaped by a spate of accidents in training. South African pacesetter Dean Holdstock’s dreams of making the men’s elite main final evaporated into the dust of Alrode in Gauteng when he injured vertebrae in a crash at the final leg of the SA champs. A frustrated Holdstock is on the mend now though, and will be in the stands to show his support to the South African team taking part in the competition.

There will be a new name on the world championship trophy, following confirming that US ace Donny “DR” Robinson was ruled out of flying to South Africa to defend his title after falling badly in training and re-injuring his lungs and ribs.

That same crash at the US High performance training base at Chula Vista saw his US teammate Kyle Bennett rushed to hospital after suffering two fractures to his left collar bone, an AC joint separation on his right shoulder, three fractured ribs, a bruised lung, a broken cheek bone and a laceration to his liver in the crash on the final straight.

The Latvian juggernaut Maris “Bombis” Strombergs has been the global pacesetter in the elite men since winning the coveted Olympic gold in Beijing, and has regularly won Supercross and international titles while riding the wave of his Olympic fame in 2008.

However the BMX world is talking up the chances of Australian ace Sam Willoughby. Since ruling the world as a junior the speedster from Adelaide has taken the step up to senior elite racing with ease, and the 19-year-old comes into the World Champs with the UCI Number One ranking, following a stellar season.

In the elite women’s field, expect to see the Tricolore flag flying in the stadium when La├½titia le Corguill├® appears at the top of the massive eight-mete high elite start ramp.

She will be put under pressure by Australian ace Caroline Buchanan, Colombia’s Mariana Pajon, US champ Alise Post and top Kiwi racer Sarah Walker, as the increasingly competitive women’s classes gradually progress through to the main final.

The junior men’s class is sizing up to be a highly competitive struggle between classy riders like the Americans Connor Fields and Corben Sharra, and Canada’s Tory Nyhaug (CAN), while the girls 2010 world title holder could come from Dutch star Merle Van Benthem or American Brooke Crain.

The weather forecast for the weekend is excellent, with just a small chance of drizzle on the opening day.

The event will enjoy massive global exposure, as the TV coverage is screened to a record number of global networks, including SuperSport in South Africa. Entry to the showgrounds is R35 per day

The UCI BMX World Championships takes place at the Royal Showgrounds in Pietermaritzburg from 29 July to 1 August. More information can be found at


Thursday 29 July

9am UCI BMX World Challenge 13 and Under to Main Finals

2.30pm UCI BMX World Challenge 13 and Under Medal ceremony

3pm Elite Women and junior women practice

4pm Junior men practice

5pm Elite Men practice

Friday 30 July

9am UCI BMX World Challenge 14 and over, master classes to Main Finals

12 noon Autograph signing session

2pm UCI BMX World Challenge 14 and over, master classes medal ceremony

2.30pm Elite women, junior women practice

3pm Junior men practice

3.30pm Elite men practice

4pm Junior men, junior women time trials

Saturday 31 July

9am Elite riders warm-up

10am Elite men and Elite women time trials

12.35pm Junior men warm up

1.30pm UCI BMX World Championships – junior women, junior men, elite women, elite menÔÇ¿ motos to main finals

5.10pm UCI BMX World Championships – junior women, junior men, elite women, elite men medal ceremony

Sunday 1 August

9am World Challenge Cruiser 12, 13-14,15-16,17-29,30-34,35-39,40-44,45+ motos to main Finals

2.30pm World Challenge Cruiser 12, 13-14,15-16,17-29,30-34,35-39,40-44,45+ medal ceremony

3pm World Championship Cruiser Junior Women, junior, elite women, elite motos to main Finals

6pm World Championship Cruiser Junior Women, junior, elite women, elite medal ceremony

6.15pm Closing ceremony