Reade picks herself up to climb back into Olympic contention
Britain's great hope for BMX gold at London 2012 is on track again at the World Championships after crashing last weekend
Sunday 27 May 2012
Sometimes you must suffer for your art and last week Shanaze Reade found out why. Riding at the BMX track in Manchester she lost control of her bike, spun to the floor and crashed. The end result was a trip to hospital, severe concussion and, probably, a little bruised pride.
Yesterday she did what any aspiring Olympian would do in the circumstances: she got back on her bike, gave it a spin and made it tough for the competition. For the 4,000 crowd at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, she was the star turn and she did her best to show it was business as usual.
There were the usual thrills and even another spill, but this time it wasn't Reade carted off on a stretcher. Instead it was Britain's other leading Olympic hopeful, Liam Phillips, who crashed out of the World Championships in the men's super cross after winning silver in the time trials. Yesterday's accident cost him the chance of the overall world title.
Reade, the 23-year-old rider from Crewe, should be one of the faces of this year's games. She's already won the BMX World Championships and World Cup three times, but knows not to count on anything. Four years ago, as the only female member of the British team, she was favourite for gold in Beijing. But after making it to the finals, she crashed on the final berm trying to overtake the gold medal winner Anne-Caroline Chausson and she failed to finish the race.
Reade has long learned to cope with the ups and downs of the sport. Now Phillips is also learning the hard way. The 19-year-old from Brompton-on-Sea in Somerset competed in the 2008 Games aged just 19. Last year he switched to cycling in the track team but missed his BMX bike so much he went back. Yesterday, he probably wished he hadn't.
At least he had the memory of Friday's silver medal in the time trial. "This was a race that I've been looking forward to for some time," said Phillips. "I can take a lot of confidence, but at the same time I'm looking to build on this going forward."
The World Championships are the last big competition prior to the Olympics and thousands of screaming fans came to support the British riders. "It's fantastic preparation because you've got all the British people," said Reade, who flashed around the course stopping the clock at 29.40 seconds in the time trial final. "It's going to be similar to the Olympics. It's a great stepping stone on the way."
Last weekend even more fans turned out to see her at Alexandra Palace. An incredible 20,000 watched one of the biggest freestyle BMX competitions, Empire of Dirt. The huge event, backed by Red Bull, saw 3,500 tonnes of sand piled on to the grounds of the north London venue so that 36 of the best riders from around the world could compete on a course that featured a jump the size of two double decker buses.
The competition, won this year by Britain's Ben Wallace, was the brainchild of Devonshire-born pro rider Kye Forte. Six years ago Kye doodled his dream course on the back of a napkin only to have it stolen by Red Bull and turned into a reality.
"I always dreamed of it being this big, of putting BMXing on the mega stage and having it shown in the way I think it should be," explains Kye. "I didn't think this would actually happen though.
"Everyone was solely at Empire of Dirt to watch BMXing. There was no bands, no motorcross or fast cars. Twenty thousand people came to watch BMXing and that's mega."
Kye has become a huge force in the BMX world and not just for his riding skills. He's even had input into BMX's appearance at this summer's Olympics and he's confident we're hosting it well despite early controversy over the track's design.
After the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup meet last August, which was the first test event to take place on the Olympic track, many of the riders were demanding tweaks should be made to the course after the exposed straight sections of the track left riders fighting against strong winds. The London 2012 organising committee along with the UCI have now made changes to the course that was designed to push the sport to its limits.
"BMX course design is really hard especially in typical British weather," claims Kye. "When I went to the course I thought it looked awesome.
"It is pretty mad that Holland and America can build replicas of our Olympic course and we're not allowed to freely practice on the real thing. But I'm just psyched that BMXing is in the Olympics in some form."
The UCI rankings on Monday will also determine how many riders Britain are allowed to take to London 2012. The top five nations will be able to take five men and the top four will be able to take two females.
BMX: A beginner's guide
BMX began in the 1970s in California, after kids took inspiration from motocross stars. These days the sport comes in two main disciplines – racing and freestyle.
Track racing Usually involves around eight or fewer competitors, racing around a specially-designed dirt course. The bikes are longer and lighter than other BMXs, to make them faster and more stable. Racing BMX made its Olympic debut at Beijing in 2008.
Freestyle Broad term used to describe the five BMX disciplines focused on stunt riding. These consist of street, park, vert, trails and flatland. There are no specific rules in freestyle. The emphasis is on style, creativity and skill.
Pumping Riding fast comes down to two main principles: pumping and pedalling. Pumping is the action of using the body, arms and legs to get as much speed as possible from going over a roller or a jump.
Berm An embankment on a track built up on the outside of a turn, to create a banked curve.
Table Top A jump on a track that is completely level or flat all the way across, from the lip to the landing.
Roller An obstacle on a track that is rolled over rather than jumped.
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