Thrills and spills as BMX begins with a bang at the Olympic Velopark

 

The Olympic Park BMX track

Triple world champion Shanaze Reade heads into tomorrow's BMX final with a morale-boosting top-five place in the seeding round, while the Team GB men's entry Liam Phillips placed 12th in his seeding race.

Reade, the winner of the London Prepares test event here, turned in a steady, controlled performance yesterday on the course's series of jumps, 180-degree corners and even a small tunnel, and for a time was at the top of the classification table. In the end she was some 0.9sec down in fifth on the fastest time, by the Australian Caroline Buchanan.

After an injury-plagued first half of the season, Reade said: "It felt quite good out there – the first race is always going to be bit rusty. I have been sitting around and watching Olympic titles being won and have just wanted to get out there and compete myself."

If she was "feathering the throttle" – as Sir Chris Hoy had put it when en route to his keirin gold, won just a stone's throw away in the Velodrome the previous night – it would have been understandable given the 23-year-old's previous Olympic experience, crashing out in the Beijing final in 2008, and again this year in the world championships in Birmingham.

Phillips, meanwhile, was happy to soak up the atmosphere. "This is where I belong," he said. "Whatever happens in terms of results, I'm here to enjoy it. To have 6,000 people that have paid to come and watch a sport that I've done since I was five years old is mind-blowing."

The racing was done and dusted in little more than an hour yesterday, but other two-wheeled entertainers kept the capacity crowd watching from the gravity-defying spectator stands for far longer. The biggest gasp came when one performer managed to "high-jump" his bike over a bar a good six metres above the ground.

To judge by the number of parents and children in the crowd, BMX has a definite cross-generational entertainment appeal with its folksy, low-fi and warm-hearted feel – the whole affair was strongly reminiscent of the Nascar motor-racing circuits in the United States. The music certainly helped roll back the years, too, with the DJ clearly a fan of late 1970s New Wave, playing both The Undertones' Teenage Kicks and Plastic Bertrand's Ca Plane Pour Moi in quick succession

Musical blasts from the past apart, though, in the very near future – tomorrow – Reade will battle for what would be Britain's 13th cycling medal of the 2012 Games. Each rider has three runs around the 440m track in the semi-finals, with the four fastest progressing to the one-run final.

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