BMX qualifications: Pajon and Daudet set fastest times.
The countdown is finally over. On Wednesday evening, the contenders for the BMX Olympic title took to the track for the qualification seeding runs.
In sunny conditions and on a fabulous track, Nadja Pries (GER) had the honour of setting the first time on the clock. Her time of 37.152 set a reference time for the other women to beat. The best time soon reached the 35 second mark as laps were perfected and more power was put on the pedals.
Things got serious when Simone Christensen (DEN) put 35.251 on the clock. Next up was 2015 UCI World Champion Stefany Hernandez (VEN) with a fast lap of 35.202 seconds which ended up being the fourth fastest time. The only two women to break the 35 second barrier jumped the triple jump going into the first turn. Laura Smulders (NED) did not, but proved to be fast on the track to set the third fastest time. The Rio replica track in Papendal,the Netherlands, could well have helped her find the fastest lines.
Caroline Buchanan (AUS) took her golden bike to second place in the Seeding Run. She looked blazingly fast and was the first lady to dive under the 35 second mark with 34.752. With one more athlete left on top of the 8 metre hill, the excitement was raised. Could Mariana Pajon (COL) pull it off? Mariana's jumping skills are on another level. With the many jumps on the Rio track she has an advantage. Perfectly smooth landings lead to a time of 34.508 for the current Elite World Champion.
Following the Women's time trial, 32 Men tackled their seeding runs. Although their track is slightly longer and has bigger jumps, the 35 second mark also proved to be the time to beat to end up in the top 10. Although doing a single lap all by himself isn't Maris Stromberg's specialty, the Latvian, Olympic Champion in Beijing and London, crossed the line in 34.953 which was good for 7th place. He beat current UCI BMX Time Trial World Champion Niek Kimmann (NED) by one spot and finished just behind the Netherlands' Twan van Gendt (6th) who set a fast lap early on.
Overshooting a landing, losing control on a manual, or having a hang-up, it's the little details that make the difference when everyone is on top level. Corben Sharrah (USA) is known to be smooth. He might not look the fastest, but he does not make any mistakes. The 29-year-old clocked a time of 34.893 for fifth just behind fellow countryman Connor Fields who proved he is back in shape after being injured for most of the season leading up to the Olympic Games. The top three results were for Joris Daudet (FRA), a surprisingly fast David Graf (SUI) and Sam Willoughby (AUS) in that order. Time differences were minimal but making it to the top three on day one must feel good going into the racing that will start on Thursday with the quarter finals.
With eight athlètes starting together, it will be an entirely different story on the Olympic track. The elbows will come out, riders will get cut off, crashes could happen, and mental games will come into play. It's racing at its best and anyone's game.
1. Mariana Pajon (COL)
2. Caroline Buchanan (AUS)
3. Laura Smulders (NED)
1. Joris Daudet (FRA)
2. David Graf (SUI)
3. Sam Willoughby (AUS)