Aussie BMX quintet ready to ramp up in Rio

Published 17 August 2016 (AEDT)

The non-stop cycling action at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games shifts straight from the velodrome to the dirt, with Australia ready to fire in the three-day BMX competition.

Australia enters the games currently ranked world number one, with Sam Willoughby, Bodi Turner, Anthony Dean, Caroline Buchanan and Lauren Reynolds providing the green and gold with a strong chance to claim Australia’s second Olympic medal in the event.

Willoughby, the 2012 silver medallist and the sixth ranked rider in the world, headlines the men’s contingent.  Despite missing the final at this year’s World Championships after two World Cup finals earlier in the year, he looms as a strong gold medal chance.

Dean and Turner are ready to rock in their first Olympic Games, with tenth-ranked Dean champing at the bit to get out on the track after watching from the sidelines as a reserve four years ago. An eager Turner is certainly not an unknown in the strong field, and will be a chance for a surprise podium appearance.

“That’s what you come to the Olympic Games for, to get a medal and represent your country as best you can,” Willoughby said when asked if he felt any pressure of being a favourite for gold.

“And I think as a nation we will be trying to do that again. There is no extra pressure, just excitement to try to get more medals for our country.

“I have come here with great preparation from our camp in San Diego. But training is one thing, racing is another; physically I think I am in as best shape as I can be, but we will see what happens on race day.

“The sport has stepped up for sure, it is harder and there is more depth. But having said that, it is still the same fundamental skills as what took me to silver.”

The push from the internationals will come from Latvia’s strongman Maris Strombergs who is gunning for a third straight gold, while Liam Phillips (GBR) and Connor Fields (USA) also considered major contenders.

Buchanan has arrived in Rio as one the favourites for the women’s gold, with the Canberran eager to better her fifth place finish in London 2012 where she also entered as a red hot favourite.

Since London, Buchanan has shone on the world stage including opening her Olympic year in spectacular fashion by winning World Cup events in Argentina and Manchester. In July, she claimed another time trial world crown and clinched silver in the final at the 2016 World Championships in July and is currently ranked number two in the world.

Reynolds has rich 2016 form highlighted by her first win on the US tour and eighth at the 2016 World Championships.

“The team is in really good form, we have done all the work, have had a really good preparation,” said Reynolds, the world number six. “Over the past two years, we have had some outstanding results so we have really high hopes for Rio “

Reigning Olympic and world champion Mariana Pajon (COL) will certainly feel all eyes on her back, with Laura Smulders (NED) and Alise Post (USA) are among the top contenders hoping to keep the Aussies off the podium.

The action will be on from the first gate drop, with Wednesday’s time trial seeding run a great chance for fans to see their favourites take to the challenging 400m course on their own.

The fastest riders from the seeding round will progress through to the next round, with three quarter-final and three semi-final runs (women will move straight to Friday’s semi-final round) allowing riders some breathing room in case of a crash or miscue in the 40-second race to the line

Then on Friday, eight finalists will line up for one last mad dash for Olympic glory.

The Rio 2016 Olympic Games BMX competition runs from August 17-19 at the Deodoro Olympic Centre.

Amy McCann

Olympics.com.au

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