Over the past few months, rumors have been spreading about what was brewing up in Papendal, Holland for the upcoming UCI Supercross race this season. Teaser videos floated around, and finally the track was revealed, which was rumored to be a replica of the 2012 Olympic Games track. Only in the last few weeks have full laps been confirmed. Prior to that, it was just dialing in sections. With a lap time around 41 seconds, the race would add about eight seconds, or 25% to a lap at the Olympic Training Facility in Chula Vista, Calif., signaling a much longer track and a different kind of race. And that's just what happened.
After winning the main event, New Zealander Sarah Walker (ABD) said "All those girls riding out there have done awesome, this is a BIG track," and there is no doubting it. The bar has been raised year after year, and track after track for the women, and they keep evolving with it and coming back for more. Behind Walker, Romana Labounkov, who won the 'Superfinal' on Friday, would setting for second. Caroline Buchanan (Australia) rode into third while last stops winner, Mariana Pajon had to setting for fifth this weekend.
"I felt really good and with these winds, you just pedal hard and hope", said Walker. "I enjoy these kinds of technical tracks, after all riding BMX is about jumps."
When it comes to main events at the Supercross races, it's eight of the best riders in the world bumping bars down the first straight. It may not always be THE top 8, but typically it's riders who are always in the mix. When the gate dropped for the final in Papendal, it was no surprise to see New Zealand's Marc Willers (Speed/Swatch) and Australia's Sam Willougby (Redline) duking it out. Willers had the holeshot, and unfortunately for Willoughby, the first turn was a bit slick and he washed out, leaving the win wide open for Willers who rode the rest of the track uncontested, only battling fatigue. The race for second however was on. Jelle Van Gorkom, Friday's Superfinal winner and the home town hero at Papendal, took some wild line down the second straight that only someone who helped design the track would figure out, and set himself up for a solid second place in front of French rider Joris Daudet. In fourth was Canadian Tory Nyhaug, who in his first main event appearance at a Supercross race did a stand up job worth mentioning.
"This track is really brutal", said Willers about the conditions. "Without the wind this track is workable though. It's good for the fast riders and the technical riders. But I was hurting! It's longer than we are used to and if you make one mistake you just arrive physically drained."
Most of the US contingency went down in balls of fire. GT's Corben Sharrah blew up in the weird hip/S turn section of the track while battling with Sam Willoughby. Haro's Nic Long washed out under Corben in the slick first turn during quarters. Donny Robinson went down in the last turn during the semi while trying to squeeze his little bike into a qualifying spot. Josh Meyers couldn't catch a break all day long, blowing up in two of his motos and getting balled up in the third. Not going down in a ball of fire was GT/Red Bull's Mike Day, who raced his first Supercross race since his back surgery last spring. Mike rode solid all day, but in the semi main event, he finished a few tenths of a second slower than the fourth place rider, not qualifying.
As with every race, there are things worth noting that wouldn't fit in while praising the winners. For example, 40 out of the 133 men who were registered to race didn't show up for their time trials. A few you can write off for injuries, but when nearly one third of the riders sit it out, you have to think, are the tracks pushing the limits a little to much? The box jump seemed to be a limiting factor, with one line going up it, not once were riders seen hitting it side by side. For time trials, the track was awesome, but when it came to watching it eight riders wide, I think most people would like to see a little tamer of a track that is actually being ridden eight riders wide instead of a single file, NASCAR-esque race, but we'll see what happens at the next stop in London in August.
The next stop of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup Series will be in London (UK), August 19-20 after the UCI BMX World Championships 2011 in Copenhagen, July 27-31.