International Biker Gang Rolls Into Sarasota

Sports

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY OCT 7, 2016

The fastest and fiercest of the BMX world descend upon Sarasota today for a weekend of high speeds and high stakes as the final round of the 2016 UCI BMX Supercross World Cup begins. Seeing near 125 riders from 25 countries racing for pride and place, the spectacle begins today with practice rounds from the men and women and the competition kicks off in earnest tomorrow with time trials and qualification rounds before the main event on Sunday. US Olympic gold medalist Connor Fields will also be in attendance and lead a special informative walk through the track before the Sunday races begin.

Races will be held at the newly rebuilt Sarasota BMX track at the Youth Athletic Center off Tuttle Road. Opening in 1974 as one of the first BMX tracks in the country and the world, the facility underwent a $2.4-million restoration project this year to prepare for the event, upgrading the track to an Olympic-grade course with an eight-meter-high starting hill, a new start gate system and upgraded lighting and drainage for safety. The track itself was leveled and remade before being topped with the same red-orange Florida clay as the original in a nod to its history. Measuring around 1,470 feet long, racers can reach up to 45mph off the first hill and snake the track in just over 30 seconds.

For Race Director Johan Lindstrom, this BMX history makes Sarasota the perfect setting for this year’s final World Cup competition, but it’s the new track plus the Florida climate that makes him look beyond this weekend and to future prospects. “My vision is that this will become the epicenter of BMX where we can have training year-round and host big events and camps for kids,” he says. “[Sarasota] has the ingredients to be successful on all levels.”

With Hurricane Matthew making its presence known across the state, weather is being taken into account but Lindstrom remains optimistic, with the primary concern being high winds that could knock airborne riders off-course. “If you have a straight headwind or tailwind, that’s fine,” he says, “but every time you have a side wind, it's a safety concern.” Officials will keep a close eye, he says, and the riders and races are flexible enough to work around any minor weather inconveniences to keep the event moving forward.

For first time attendees to a BMX event, Lindstrom recommends a vantage point at either the finish line (for obvious reasons) or the first straight, where racers reach top speed off the start and hit some of their biggest jumps. But wherever they sit, he says, it’ll be a show. “Remember,” he says, “it is a contact sport. So they’re in for some action.”

Practice rounds for the 2016 UCI BMX Supercross World Cup begin today at noon and continue tomorrow at 10am, before qualifications and time trials begin at 1:30pm. Warm-ups for the World Cup begin Sunday at 12:45pm with races beginning at 2pm. 

Pictured: Olympic cyclist Brooke Crain rides the new Sarasota BMX track. Photo by Jerry Landrum/BMXMania.com.

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