Liam Phillips became the latest success story in British Cycling’s bid for global domination when he was crowned BMX world champion in Auckland on Sunday.
After a disappointing 2012 which saw the rider from Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset break his collarbone at last year’s World Championships before crashing in the Olympic final and eventually finishing eighth, a dominant ride saw him lead New Zealand’s Marc Willers and Germany’s Luis Brethauer over the line in a time of 23.280 seconds.
The 24-year-old had won every race on his the way to the final as defending champion Sam Willoughby and two-time Olympic champion Maris Strombergs from Latvia were both eliminated before the semis.
“It feels amazing, the reward for the hours spent training, we dedicate our lives to this,” said Phillips. “A huge amount of credit needs to go the guys at British Cycling from Grant White to everyone else I work with. What you see here is the end product of so much hard work. It’s been a fantastic race, incredible.
“Apart from 2011, I’ve been to every worlds since 1996 when I was a kid. It’s the first time I’ve won. I just wanted to keep the mistakes to a minimum and I managed that.”
White, an Australian who took over as coach in 2008 under performance director Sir Dave Brailsford, added: “He’d done the work to be successful and that’s over a long period of time. That’s not over the last few months that’s over the last couple of years. He knew he’d had a great preparation over the last 12 months and he delivered. It’s a culmination of everything, we knew he was in the best shape of his life and he came here and delivered, it’s unbelievable, fantastic.”
Phillips becomes the first British rider to win a world title since Shanaze Reade claimed the women’s title in 2010, and the first British man since Dale Holmes in 2001. Reade went into last year’s Olympic Games as one of the favourites but ended up sixth in the final, having missed out in Beijing four years earlier.
She was not in Auckland as Australian Caroline Buchanan won the elite women’s title ahead of compatriot Lauren Reynolds.