Aussies scorch in BMX seeding run

Published 18 August 2016 (AEDT)

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 17: Sam Willoughby of Australia competes in the Cycling - BMX Men's Seeding Run on day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at The Olympic BMX Centre on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. © 2016 Getty Images

CYCLING - BMX: In scorching temperatures, Australia’s BMXers have posted times to match, with Sam Willoughby and Caroline Buchanan laying down top three times in Wednesday’s seeding runs.

Day one of the three-day BMX competition opened with the time trial seeding runs – an all-out 35 second dash to the finish line of the 400m course at the Olympic BMX Centre in Deodoro.

The prize – the all-important lane choice for your next round of racing and a healthy heat line up.

The second last of 16 riders to fly down the start ramp, the reigning time trial world champion Buchanan bolted around the 400m course to post the fastest time of the day (34.752).

In the very next ride, reigning Olympic and world champion Mariana Pajon (COL) eclipsed the Australian’s time to finish in 34.752.

"It was good to get the first one out of the way ... brush off the nerves a little bit,” Buchanan, who took silver behind Pajon at the 2016 World Championships in July, said.

"It's been very challenging here with the heat, with the wind conditions, a few elements to deal with.

"I have a few mistakes that happened in that run, so there are some good things to clean up.”

"Mainly in the second straight, I washed off a lot of my speed ... I have a lot of time in the bag, which is a positive coming into the finals.”

With Pajon and Buchanan – considered major favourites for gold – seeded one and two, they will race in opposite semi-final runs on Friday, which sets up a mouth-watering race in the final.

"I'm happy to come away in that second position.,” Buchanan said. “I will have first lane pick for my semi-final and it actually means I won't meet up with Mariana until the final.”

Lauren Reynolds posted the tenth fastest time of the day with 35.66secs and has been seeded with Buchanan for Friday’s second semi-final – which riders will complete three times.

“It was pretty smooth and got around the track but obviously always room for improvements," Reynolds said.

"But Friday is the big day, with the racing, so that’s what I look forward to and that is certainly my stronger point.

“So happy to get today done with, happy and healthy and on to the next one.”

In the men’s run Willoughby, the London 2012 silver medallist, posted the third fastest time of the day with 34.714secs.

Debutant Bodi Turner posted the thirteenth best time of the day (35.333) on his first hit out in the green and gold.

“Just having some fun,” Turner said. “Obviously I would love to have on today, but I had to play it safe, it wasn’t a medal event today.”

After today’s seeding run, riders are placed into one of four men’s quarterfinals and will choose their lane for each race. Turner will have to wait his turn to make a lane choice, but he isn’t letting that affect his preparation for Friday.

“Inside lane is pretty important, so the winners today are going to have first pick... but I go better on the outside as I don’t feel the pressure of being squished, so I would have been happy if I had finished last today,” Turner said.

“From here, I think it is all about trusting in your own ability. It is fast speeds, there are eight people on a six metre wide track. You just need to trust your ability and be aggressive the guy who looks and feels most confident is going to come out on top.”

Anthony Dean, who sat on the sidelines as a reserve at the London Games, was disappointed with his 20th pace (35.445), but is ready to hit the track again for Wednesday’s motos.

“Pretty average lap for me, made a few mistakes but it will do,” Dean said.

“Came a bit sideways down the gate and ruined my rhythm for the first straight and for the second I was little too far over the front which slowed me down.

“But I have never been a time trial rider, I have always been in the top 15, but when it comes to racing is when I excel so I am not too worried, it doesn’t mean anything other than lane choice today.

“Just good to get the jitters out.”

The Deodoro BMX track was littered with green and gold – and not just from the Brazilian fans – with all five of Australia’s riders enjoying their own posse of fans in the crowd including parents, family and friends. The moment was not lost on Dean.

“When I was on the gate I heard 'Aussie Aussie Aussie', so that made me smile and took away some of the nervous energy,” Dean added.

France’s Joris Daudet (34.617) was the fastest qualifier ahead of Switzerland’s David Graf (34.678), however it’s a whole new ballgame on Thursday with the competition to move to the thrills and spills of the ‘motos’ which features eight riders per race.

The men return to the track on Thursday for the quarterfinals, with riders to complete three runs in their respective heats and riders allocated points with respect to their finishing place. The top four riders with the lowest points from each heat after the quarterfinal stage will progress to the semi-finals.

Willoughby has been seeded in heat three, while Dean and Turner are placed together in heat four.

The women will jump back into action on Friday’s for the semi-final round.

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

Amy McCann

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