There’s plenty at stake for budding BMX riders of all ages at the national championships in Cambridge over Easter.
The New Zealand championships have attracted more than 1000 event entries, with national honours on the line as well as final selection for riders to make the New Zealand team for July’s UCI World Championships in Auckland.
Leading the way is world champion Rico Bearman (Waitakere) who will race in the boys’ 10 years division, world number two, Rebecca Petch (Te Awamutu - 15 years) and world number three Ryan Martin (Cambridge - 11 years).
BMX is definitely a family sport for the ages with seven riders in the four years and under division up to BMX New Zealand life member, Tony Rika, a septuagenarian who is believed to be the oldest competitive rider in the world.
As host nation New Zealand can have up to 32 riders in each of the age group divisions. With nearly 60 riders entered in some age groups in Cambridge, and older age groups limited to 17 years plus for women and 30 years plus for masters, there will be real rivalry to secure a much-sought after place in the team for the world championships.
That will result in some strong competition at the weekend to finalise selection for the world championships, which will be staged in New Zealand for the first time, set for 24-28 July in Vector Arena.
While final selection for the elite categories is not solely at stake this weekend, it will have a factor in the team choices with only five places available in the elite men, two in the elite women, six in the junior men and one spot in junior women.
London Olympian Marc Willers has already been assured of his place based on world ranking, additional to the five spots for elite men. The Californian-based rider won’t be back this weekend, racing inside in USA as is Pukekohe’s Trent Woodcock.
London silver medallist Sarah Walker is also not racing, as she recovers from shoulder surgery, this week given a clearance to begin training back on the bike.
Olympian Kurt Pickard (Tauranga) will be heavily favoured to win the men’s elite competition with plenty of competition for the other placings among the likes of local rider Kurt James and talented high performance riders Nick Fox (Gisborne), Matt Cameron (New Plymouth) and Daniel Franks (Christchurch), who has recently moved to the Waikato.
With Walker sidelined, there will be a battle for the women’s honours between Monique Smith (Gisborne) and the Taranaki trio of Hannah Sarten, Victoria Hill and Hayley Gedye, who is making a return to the sport.
The Te Awamutu pair of Ryan Lewis and Cody Hobbs along with Whangarei’s Donald Ross will be favourites in the junior men’s division.
Friday will see the selection racing to select the best 11 year olds for this year’s Mighty 11s Test series against Australia and the BMX NZ Summer Series.