Published: 21 May 2012
Report: Scott Hobro
British Cycling BMX Podium Programme rider Liam Phillips has vowed to go all out at this weekend’s UCI BMX World Championships as he goes in search of a first world title.
The championships at Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena represent the return of the competition to the UK, which last hosted the event in 1996 in Brighton. Phillips, 23, is relishing the chance to compete in front of a home crowd - even more so as the event is the final stepping stone to this summer’s Olympic Games.
At the age of just 19, Phillips made it to the quarter-finals in Beijing and with aims of going better in London, a strong performance against fellow medal contenders this weekend is crucial. Frenchman Joris Daudet, the current world champion, and Olympic champion Maris Strombergs will be amongst a robust field facing Phillips, who believes he is entering the event in an encouraging position.
“I know that where I am at now physically and mentally going into the world championships is pretty much the best all-round I have ever been so I can take confidence from that,” Phillips said. “But there are a lot of other guys out there who are going extremely well and will also turn up to the worlds and look to put in a great performance.
“As far as I’m concerned it’s huge to be racing in Birmingham in front of a home crowd but I’m looking to go there and firstly enjoy the race. It’s a massive opportunity for myself, being involved in the sport since I was five years old and to have a race of this magnitude in the UK just before the Olympics is massive. I just want to put in some strong laps and see what happens - all I can do is go out there and ride like I have been in training and I feel like if I do that I should do myself proud.”
"It’s a massive opportunity for myself, being involved in the sport since I was five years old and to have a race of this magnitude in the UK just before the Olympics is massive."
This year’s world championships will be the first for Phillips for two years after he missed 2011’s following a brief switch to the track to compete in the team sprint, an experience he feels helped him return to BMX ‘rejuvenated’ when he made the switch back late last year. A season which has so far included a blend of the UCI Supercross Series, UEC European BMX Series and British Series has aided in building Phillips up for the two showpiece events of the year, though he opted to miss May’s Papendal leg of the Supercross series in order to focus on his preparations for Birmingham.
“I made the decision on Papandel on the Monday after Norway for several different reasons and one of the positives that came out of that was that I was able to get back into some good training and have a solid block between that race and the worlds," Phillips said. "I’ve had a good block and I feel like I have added another layer onto Norway’s Supercross and I’m just looking forward to racing the best guys in the world and hopefully put another good performance together like Norway [where Phillips finished sixth].
“It’s very difficult to say [how much effect the extra preparation will have]. It’s such small margins in the high end performance but if I can take anything from Norway and have built upon that heading into the worlds, I will be extremely happy. I feel like there’s no reason why I can’t but it’s a different track, it’s the world championships and everybody’s going to have been looking to have built on performances heading into the worlds to be in the best shape prior to the Olympics.”
The 2010 world championships ended on a sour note for Phillips, crashing out in the second moto in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. He came into the event on the back of an injury - admitting he preserved himself up to the championships to ensure he was able to compete – an experience he has learnt from for this year’s competition.
“I had three week were I couldn’t ride a bike and basically wrapped myself in cotton wool between then and the worlds,” explained Phillips. “Although training was going well when you’re riding your bike in a reserved manner for that period of time you can’t expect to go into a world championships and perform at 100%. You’ve got to turn up each day whether that be at a race or in training and be expected perform at 100% and you certainly can’t try and wrap yourself in cotton wool or hold anything back.”