Toowoomba cyclist Jared Graves, 24, snared third place in today's second round of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup Series raced as a test event for the sport's debut at next year's Olympic Games in Beijing.
The win went to American Donny Robinson who has been in Beijing since mid August with Dutch rider Robert de Wilde outfoxing Graves on the second last straight to claim second place.
It was the first time Graves, who is better know for his world class performances in downhill and four cross mountain biking, had raced in the BMX Supercross and his placing today has signalled to selectors he is well suited to the Beijing course.
"I was looking forward to getting on the big hills because I like the high speed stuff and thought it might work in my favour and it did," said the reigning Australian MTB Downhill Champion who races with the Yeti Professional MTB Team. "The course is awesome especially after the few changes they made to make it better racing."
The eight metre high starting ramp remained but the officials worked overnight to lower the height of the first jump and shorten the second double jump.
"The races are really only forty seconds so it's really important to get out of the start gate fast and be really aggressive down the first straight," he said. "If anyone tries to throw some elbows in you have to throw them back and keep powering the whole way and not let anyone get in your space."
"My goal this week was to get things done pretty much so hopefully this will do me a lot of good for selection (and while) I'll do some MTB next year it will be all about the Olympics and that's what my preparation will be based around," said Graves who in two weeks time will line up for Australia at the MTB World Championships in Scotland where the weather will be radically different from what he has experienced here in Beijing.
"It was pretty tough today, a bit hotter than yesterday but no humidity," said Graves of the heat that today soared well over the 40 degree celsius mark at the bowl shaped Laoshan BMX venue. "It might have been a good thing or might have been a bad thing because the humidity yesterday sort of kept you cooler because you were dripping wet the whole time."
"Today it was more of a dry heat and I had a few issues," he explained. "I felt a little sick after the first few laps but they slowed down how quickly they were running the races because people weren't recovering in between on what is a really physical track and the heat played a pretty big part."
The BMX finals day schedule puts the men through three runs each per quarter final and semi final heat before a one race only final while the women raced a three run semi-final to qualify for their final.
"It's really full on and in every run you pedal out of the start and pedal out of the first straight but it's the things in between that really take it out of your body like pumping through the rhythm sections which is really hard on your whole body," said Graves. "You are absolutely gasping for air at the end of the lap and we had to do it seven times in three and half hours."
In the first ever running of a women's division in the BMX Supercross, Australian Champion, Tanya Bailey, 26, along with 2005 World Junior Champion, Nicole Callisto, 19, performed well with both making the final. Callisto finished seventh and Bailey eighth. Great Britain's reigning World Champion Shanaze Reade won ahead of French pair Anne-Caroline Chausson and Laetitia le Corguille.
“In the final I got held up in the first corner and lost my speed,” said Bailey. “I just loved the track (but) having that much speed down the start ramp meant we had to be careful not to overshoot the jumps.”
The track took its toll on many riders including three members of the Australian team. In Sunday's training session Kamakazi broke the radius bone close to his right elbow joint and Melissa Mankowski's crash resulted in a hairline fracture to her hip socket. World Championship silver medallist and Supercross series leader going into the Beijing round, Khalen Young, crashed in the first time trial of the qualifying round yesterday leaving him with badly bruised lungs and ribs.
In the men's racing today Luke Madill was hit with severe cramping in his second of three semi-final runs putting him out of contention for a finals berth while in yesterday's qualifying Australians Billy Jolliffe and Michael Robinson. missed the cut off of 32 to go through placing 33rd and 34th respectively.
UCI BMX Supercross Round 2 Beijing
Men’s Final 1 ROBINSON Donny USA 36.949 2 de WILDE Robert NED 37.134 +0.185 3 GRAVES Jared AUS 37.371 +0.422 4 van der BIEZEN Raymon NED 37.580 +0.631 5 GUTIERREZ Pablo FRA 37.621 +0.672 6 SCHERPEN Martijn NED 37.629 +0.680 7 van den WILDENBERG Rob NED 52.391 +15.442 8 MATISONS Arturs LAT DNF
Women’s Final 1 READE Shanaze GBR 36.923 2 CHAUSSON Anne-Caroline FRA 38.043 +1.120 3 le CORGUILLE Laetitia FRA 38.203 +1.280 4 DIAZ Gabriela Maria ARG 38.329 +1.406 5 KINTNER Jill USA 39.507 +2.584 6 WALKER Sarah NZL 40.063 +3.140 7 CALLISTO Nicole AUS 40.345 +3.422 8 BAILEY Tanya AUS 40.702 +3.779