Great Britain start on the path to the Rio Olympic Games on home turf and akin to London 2012, welcome some of the best BMX riders in the world to the UK.
The UCI BMX Supercross series, which is hosted over altering tracks across the globe each year, is making its first ever visit to Manchester’s National BMX Centre. The world-class indoor facility, opened in 2011, houses Great Britain’s BMX athletes and allows them to train year-round.
But on 19 and 20 April, the venue will open its doors to the BMX world and the glories and commiserations of 2012 will be allowed to rest, the focus firmly on the future and further on the horizon, Brazil.
Although Olympic qualifying points won’t be on offer – that process starts in 2015 –it is an opportune moment for each nation’s more experienced riders to recalibrate after 2012 and equally, provide up-and-coming riders with invaluable elite competition experience.
Elite men - start list
British Cycling named seven male athletes in its Great Britain squad. Olympian Liam Phillips has fully recovered from a crash at St Etienne in December where he suffering four dislocated metacarpals and has the chance to better the silver medal he won at the Randaberg round last year, his best ever result in the series.
Academy riders Kyle Evans, Grant Hill, Dan McBride, Curtis Manaton and Tre Whyte can stake their claims for future selection with three more Supercross events in the 2013 season and the world championships in Auckland, New Zealand in July.
Under 16 world champion Quillan Isidore completes the Great Britain line-up, rewarded for his impressive early season endeavours with a world cup debut.
With two-time Olympic champion Maris Strombergs not in attendance, world champion and London Olympic silver medallist Sam Willoughby will be a strong favourite to continue his UCI BMX Supercross dominance. The Australian claimed the overall series title last year, finishing second in the finals of all four events and his consistency enough to oust American Connor Fields.
World time-trial champion Fields, who edged out Liam Phillips to win his rainbow jersey in Birmingham, will want to atone for last year’s disappointment in the world cup. The 20-year-old won the opening two rounds of the series at Chula Vista and Randaberg respectively only to then lose out on the overall victory in the Abbotsford climax.
Dutch duo Twan van Gendt and Raymon van der Biezen - who both performed so capably to reach the final in London’s Olympic Park - and 2011 world champion Joris Daudet of France, will also pose a considerable threat to the podium.
Elite women – start list
Shanaze Reade and Abbie Taylor have been selected by British Cycling in the women’s event and in a field of 38 riders should be confident of challenging through to the latter stages of the competition.
Three-time world champion Reade already has wins at the UEC BMX European Series and British BMX Series to her name this season on the back of an injury-free winter of training. The 24-year-old hasn’t stood on top of the podium in the series since 2011, when she won the London test event edition.
Taylor, part of the British Cycling Olympic BMX Academy, took a notable bronze in Abbotsford last September and has the chance to demonstrate that was no accident. The Rio cycle will be the first full four year sequence for the 19-year-old, a reserve at the London Games.
France’s world champion Magalie Pottier is the stand out name on the start list. Before winning the title Pottier had savoured victory in the Chula Vista, eventually ending behind Caroline Buchanan in the overall world cup standings.
Australian Buchanan is taking a year sabbatical from the competition, but Olympic silver medallist Laura Smulders of the Netherlands will be present and at just 19 years of age is already one of the sport’s brightest stars.