BMX racing is booming in Britain. This year will crown an Olympic Champion in the sport for the second time, with all eyes on London. Being included in the Games has firmly put the sport into the wider public consciousness and with tracks around the country, including the permanent indoor facility at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester, BMX racing has the legitimacy and infrastructure to attract and develop new riders.
The city in the spotlight at the moment though is Birmingham, with the World BMX Championships staged at the prestigious National Indoor Arena in the heart of Britain’s second city. While the Olympics showcase the Elite level of the sport only, the World Championships is all encompassing and the essence of what makes BMX racing such a fantastic sport.
For one week in May, racers from across the globe will be in Birmingham competing for the glory of a world title. The track in the NIA will see those who’ll be racing the Olympics later this year and those dreaming of competing in the games years down the line. Championship classes (Elite and Junior) are there alongside Challenge classes that comprise age groups from 6 and Under to 45+. No other cycling discipline has a World Championships like it!
Thanks to the development of tracks like the NCC and Birmingham’s own Perry Park, racers in the Challenge classes will be used to the five metre start hill that they’ll face at the NIA, as well as racing indoors and having a large and vocal crowd present!
The all new indoor facility at the National Cycling Centre
BRITISH CHALLENGERS - UNDER 17s
The chance to compete in a home World Championships has increased participation in the British BMX Series, with numbers topping 800 riders in early rounds this year.
Newcomers and laypeople often find it hard to believe that BMX has racers under the age of six battling it out on tough tracks, but battle they do and fiercely at that! Riders to watch out for include Felix Twitchett, winner of two National rounds so far this season, Archie Alexander, Ryder Joyce, Jared Coppin and Zachary Dowson. Dexter Phillips will be a favourite though, with the lead in the National Series thanks to three wins and two seconds so far. The girls class has been every bit as intense and despite their diminutive stature, these riders mean business! Isabella Hurry, Sienna Harvey and Ella Foster are 1-2-3 in the Nationals and will be the top ones to watch at the NIA.
Emma Jeffers and Emily Hutt will be fighting hard to get the coveted W1 plate in 8 girls, with Isabel Hallam and Isla Harvey pushing them hard. 9-10 Girls is a combined class at Nationals but at World level girls’ classes are split out into single age groups. Holding their own against older riders has doubtless helped those in the 9s face stiff competition. Lydia Webber is eighth in the joint class and will be leading the charge in 9 Girls at the Worlds with Summer-Lily Cross and Mia Wallace worth watching.
Imogen Hill is a classy rider and will be a favourite in the tough 10 girls class, she’s been kept honest at National level by Isabel Hines who won the Brits a couple of seasons ago but has developed into a more consistent rider recently. Emilys Brannan and Orena are also contenders for the main.
The boys’ classes for these ages are stacked, with over 30 riders in each at National level and deep talent. In 7s Rupert Twitchett, Tyler Stephenson, Finlay Todd and Lucas Craik are Britain’s top boys, with Jacob Murray the best of the bunch in Nationals heading them up. 8 Boys is just as stacked, with Ethan Duffy in a fine run of form having taken all but one of the rounds so far this year. He won’t be fazed by the size of the event in Birmingham. William Goode and Jack Hawkins are great riders and are always contenders for a good result come race day.
With 56 riders having done at least one round, 9 Boys is one of the biggest classes at National Series level. Keep your eyes on the top riders in this class! Keon Smith McDermott is leading and must be talked about in any conversation about our top contenders. Ethan Craik, Alex Brookes and Luke Shriever are all top riders too and will carry the GB hopes with them. 10 Boys isn’t exactly a small class either, with another 50 fast youth to be accounted for. Ryan Brookes will be leading Team GB’s charge along with Kobi Joyce, Matthew Hutt, Kieran Bolton and Matt Harman.
It’s hard to believe sometimes that we’re only now considering riders of the age of secondary school pupils, as BMX racing is such a demanding sport and a lot of the young riders representing Britain will have peers who do no sport at all. It’s important to be grateful to the parents and BMX clubs who facilitate the sport we love!
Back to the classes; 11 Boys has Josh Peters out in front so far this year and he’s not one to let pressure get to him at big races. Look out for Lochlan Dudley, Nathan Wood, Ethan Squibb and James King too. Also keep an eye on Ross Cullen, he’s been riding up at Nationals and will be a threat to make the main.
11-12 Girls is a fairly even split at the top between fast 11 year olds and fast 12 year olds, so in single age splits at the Worlds look out for Darcie Taylor, Libby Smith, Ellie Jo Chappell, Taryn McConnell and Eleana Stafford to be right up there when it counts in 11’s and Kim Baptista, Mary Johnson and Megan Wherry to be contending in 12s. The Boys 12s is a rapid class with Euan Hunt and Shay Casey going for the glory and Gideon Orena back amongst his own age after riding up on the domestic circuit as is Ethan Vernon, who happens to be leading the 13s class in the National Series!
Harley Taylor, Haydon Green and Wilfred Njuguna are actually 13 and are ones to watch as they’ve been consistently performing well this season, keep an eye on Kye Whyte who’s been racing up and doing well. Beth Shriever, Blaine Ridge-Davis and Katurah Davidson are the girls to watch in 13s, all top eight in the combined 13-14 class at Nationals. They’re used to close, tough racing so will relish the chance to get some more of that at the Worlds. Alesi Tye would be one to keep tabs on in 14s but a recent illness may yet scupper her hopes of competing. Lauren Stack and Megan Hopgood will be flying the flag though.
Valerie Zebrokova has impressed throughout her racing career, this season she’s been at the front of motos in Championship Women and has been selected to British Cycling’s Talent Team. In Birmingham she’ll be back in her 15s age group and will have a fantastic chance of a great result. Jenny Noble and Molly Dobson are also strong performers who’ll be challenging for places in the main. Paddy Sharrock has been riding up two classes which will give him a great boost in the 14s class, he’s always entertaining to watch as he wows with his style. Lee Golder, Tom Novis, Josh Moore, Robert Jesson, Ben Carnhill and Scott Dominguez will be right up there when it counts.
The boys’ 15s class will feature Jake Power and Roy Jones who are in those positions in the Nationals, along with Jimmy Orena who rides up and impresses in doing so. More talented young riders who can certainly hold their own against the best of the world. Izzy Ferrada and Beth Campbell are worth noting in 16 Girls, in the boys’ class Mike Njuguna is fresh off a win in the National Series and is finding form at the right time, Cam Jeffers, Taylor Andrews and Josh Tucker are all lightning fast and will be pushing hard but a real contender is Quillan Isidore, a rider out front in Junior Men who’ll be riding his age in Birmingham. Fast doesn’t quite come close enough, like most of his rivals...
BRITISH CHALLENGERS - OVER 17s
Speaking of fast, it’s all about speed in the 17-24 class. These guys ride at the limit all the time. It’s deep with talent and will be unmissable. You have been warned. Watch out for amongst others; Billy Luckhurst, Ash Davey, Robert and Michael Hawker, Adam Brazil, Jordan Smith, Dom Skidmore, Oli Cutmore and Shaun Issitt. 25-29 is small but hard as nails, with some real class in the group. The return of Laurence and Chris Mapp and Warren Bancroft added to the already fierce racing featuring Shaun Fry, Ryan Dick, Michael Smart and Michael Brown. Add in Tom Palmer and this class is crazy!
Racing for the over 30s in the UK is bigger and more competitive than anywhere else in the world. With Masters looking like the Elite class from a decade ago and Veterans no less fast and furious. With Masters being a jersey class at Worlds level, the rest of the “gentlemen” of that age compete in 30+. Despite requests, the UCI turned down a proposed 40+ class so the best of the 30’s and the best of the 40’s will be in it together in Birmingham. Think nitro glycerine mixed with plastic explosive. It will be intense. There are 29 riders and they’re all capable of top performances come race day. Alex Dick and Pete Power lead the respective classes in the National Series, but neither will be breathing easy when the gate drops as anything can, and frequently does happen. Brace yourselves for this class and don’t let people of a nervous disposition anywhere near it...
The 17+ Women’s class is stacked with talent; Joey Gough has come back to a full slate of BMX racing this year and excelled (again), Ria Goodman is another rider who’s no stranger to performing on the World level having taken titles on cruiser and Julie Cary returns from Australia to have a crack at a title. Add in established riders like Elly Skinner and Lauren Smith and improving riders like Helen Biggs and the British Women have a strong chance of bringing home some W plates.
BRITISH CHALLENGERS - CRUISER CLASS
Cruiser racing is big in the UK, with riders specialising in the big wheels as well as those doing double duty. The Cruiser action takes place after the official Worlds after- party, fuelling the competitive fire of many of the 24” racers who want to prove they’re no afterthought...
The Under 12’s is chock full of talent, the likes of Shay Casey, Josh Coppin, Alex Brookes and Kobi Joyce will all feature at the front of motos. 13-14s is full of battlers, with Paddy Sharrock getting in on the action along with Scott Dominguez, Tom Novis and Ben Carnhill. Watch out for these guys come finals time. Roy Jones and Skye Beagley are ones to watch in 15-16s. Kim Baptista will be giving away a lot of years in the Under 16s class for women but she’s a great racer and will love the opportunity to get in the mix on another bike. 17-24 sees Jack Hall looking like a favourite to do well, with Chris Potter and Oli Cutmore likely to be in the mix. Kieron McAvoy and Carl Dixon will be ones to watch in 25-29, but keep an eye on Chris Mapp too! 17-29 Women has Ria Goodman as the firm favourite but riders such as Louise Abbott, Lucy Gates and Helen Biggs will be going all out to make the main.
Just as racing on 20” for over 30s is intense in the UK, it is on bigger wheels too. We boast the largest classes and racing domestically is fantastic. For the women in 30+ we have some experienced riders all capable of taking W plates, including Kim Bent, Lea Pendleton, Nicola Spiers, Abi Hill and Julie Cary. Simon Homans is the likely favourite in 30-34 but Liam Fielding, Mark Sleigh, Anthony Edwards and Paul Crook will be doing their best to keep it close. 35-39 is a fast class stacked with talent. Trying to pick the favourites is like trying to tell identical twins apart, except there are loads more of them. Whilst watching out for pretty much everybody, keep your eyes on Darren Reidy, Matt Barnard, Jamie Duffy, Julian Allen, Neil Harbour, Dom Bent, Martin Ogden and Chico Hook. Phew.
The next class is just as thrilling, fast and deep. 40-44 sees last year’s 35-39 World Champ Alan Hill in the mix with Keith Bryceland, Ian Sharp, Darren O’Brien, Shaun Andrews, Jon Moore, Anthony Revell, Neil Stewart, James Christie and most of the other Brits on the start list. 45+ has the pedigree too with Tony Fleming, Nic Preece, Shaun Calvert, Ady Warden, Keith Wilson, Trevor Stamford and Billy Stupple to name a few of the top riders we have in the class.
If anyone has gone home and misses the action on Sunday, they’ll regret it as cruiser racing promises to be intense!
We wish the best of luck to all of the British riders in these World Championships.