BMX: Vector Arena track receives mixed reviews from elite riders

By Kris Shannon

The indoor track has been described as "embarrassing" and a "lottery". Photo / Dean Purcell
The indoor track has been described as "embarrassing" and a "lottery". Photo / Dean Purcell

When the seven-strong New Zealand elite team met the media ahead of the BMX world championships, one rider was conspicuous by his absence.

Marc Willers, who competed at the London Olympics and will ride in the elite men's field this weekend, was excused by coach Ryan Hollows for "wanting to keep a low profile" leading up to the event.

But Willers was anything but reserved on Monday, making clear his feelings about the quality of the Vector Arena track.

He tweeted a photo of the downtown venue replete with ramps, writing: "It's embarrassing to be a Kiwi this week ... Does anybody have any common sense these days?"

While Willers was unavailable to elaborate on his thoughts, one of the riders he will compete against held the opposite opinion.

"I like it," said reigning world champion Sam Willoughby of Australia. "For the size of arena it is, there's not much more you could have done with it.

I would much rather be in a tight arena that's going to be jam-packed with people than being out in the mud. I think it's going to be great."

Willoughby was unaware of Willers' gripe but he did have a theory about what prompted the criticism.

"The ones talking are probably the ones that are worried right now," he said. "It is small but we've raced small tracks before. No matter what you guys built here, everyone was going to complain - it's just how it is in sport."

Two-time Olympic champion Maris Strombergs, one of Willoughby's main rivals for the world title, wasn't quite as effusive in his praise, but superstition prevented him from voicing his opinion.

"I always believe that, when you say bad things about the track before the race, karma is going to come and hunt you," the Latvian said. "I didn't come here to complain about the track, I came here to compete and try to win the race."

The primary source of concern among the elite field was the shortened first straight - which Strombergs said would make the opening corner "a lottery" - and a course that favoured tight and technical riding rather than those who are aerially inclined.

But, with changes still to be made following the conclusion of the age-group classes, no elite rider had seen the finished product, let alone ridden it.

"From our point of view, maybe it is a little bit technical and tight," said home favourite Sarah Walker. "But, at the same time, it's so different to look at a track than to ride a track, so I can't really say what it's going to be like until I ride it."


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