Published: 16 April 2013
Report: Scott Hobro
Video: Eddie Allen/Simon Powers
Liam Phillips believes the construction of the National BMX Centre in Manchester has been a ‘complete game changer’ for the Great Britain team as the venue prepares to welcome the UCI BMX Supercross.
The opening round of the series will be the first time the event has visited the £24m indoor facility - which was opened in August 2011 and has revolutionised the way in which British Cycling’s BMX riders, including Olympian Phillips, train.
Many of the world’s best BMX riders, including nine named by British Cycling for Great Britain, will congregate in the 110,000-square foot venue for the first major event of the 2013 calendar on 19 and 20 April.
Australian world champion and Olympic silver medallist Sam Willoughby and American world time-trial champion Connor Fields are expected to be part of the visiting party.
“It’s quite weird having athletes from other countries come in and see this facility for the first time, they’re absolutely speechless,” British Cycling Olympic BMX Podium Programme athlete Phillips said.
“We know how lucky we are, we certainly don’t take it for granted and in my opinion this has been a complete game changer. We’ve really seen, certainly for the Academy guys, their levels increase dramatically over the last two years since we’ve been using the facility and I would say my own performances have increased massively due to having this as well.
“I really can’t put in to words how special it is to be able to train indoors in a controlled environment and ultimately get the best out of each and every one of us day in, day out.”
Silver in the time-trial at last year’s world championships in Birmingham - a career-best result - and a berth in the London Olympic BMX final mean Phillips is no stranger to a home crowd.
And the 24-year-old is hoping a partisan following can once again inspire him to deliver his finest form on the 19 and 20 April.
“It’s not very often we get to experience a home crowd,” Phillips said.
“I look back on the world championships in Birmingham and the Olympics with fond memories and hopefully this is going to be another event I can add to that list.
“Last year was the first in ten years for me that I’ve had that experience, it’s certainly something I have been looking forward to because I know that those opportunities don’t come around too often."
After the home Games, which had been the epicentre of Phillips’ programme for the 18 months prior to its arrival, the rider from Burnham-on-Sea endured a difficult return to competition at the Indoor BMX Saint-Etienne Loire last December, suffering four dislocated metacarpals in a collision with Frenchman Joris Daudet.
But a return in March’s British BMX Series first round yielded a victory, the by-product of an industrious winter’s training according to Phillips.
“The Olympics were massive for us,” Phillips commented. “It was at the forefront of my mind for a long-time and so when that had been and gone it was quite strange not really having anything on your mind I guess.
“Needless to say we’ve got back into training and got some good work done. Apart from that [the crash at St Etienne] my winter prep has been absolutely perfect, probably made more gains than I thought I would to be honest.
“I have got a fantastic support network – [Olympic BMX coach] Grant (White) has been fantastic and I have been working closely with other members of the team and as a whole I am really pleased with where I am at right now.”
Competing on a course which has become a second residence to Great Britain’s BMX group is an ideal launch pad for the season which culminates in July’s world championships in Auckland, New Zealand.
With Olympic qualification points only becoming an issue from the 2015 season, improving on 2012 is the mantra and with the benefits of home advantage it is likely to be a prime opportunity for Great Britain to occupy the podium places.
“For me the start of the 2013 season, starting here in Manchester, is sort of a big advantage I guess. Not only for myself but for the whole squad to race against the best guys in the world on home turf,” Phillips admitted.
“We’re hoping to capitalise on that and kick start our world cup season and then we’re off to numerous stops around the world and hopefully emulate what we can achieve here.
“I have set targets. It’s a key part of developing your programme I think.
“I wouldn’t like to go into too much detail but for me I’ve felt like 2012 was somewhat successful, could of been more successful and I’m looking to continue that progress really and I think that having a successful outing here at the first world cup is going to be important to get that ball rolling.
“Ultimately I’m looking to go from here in to the following world cups and world championships and looking to be a real contender.”