On Saturday, BMX enthusiasts enjoyed a special and, at times, emotional official opening of Rotorua's new BMX track. On Sunday, riders had the opportunity to really put the track to the test.
Te Awamutu's Rebecca Petch and Japan's Jukia Yoshimura will go down in history as the first riders to claim elite wins at Rotorua's new world class BMX track.
The new $1.6 million track, next to the Waipa mountain bike park on the outskirts of the city, was officially opened on Saturday. It is the result of five years of planning and dedication by the Rotorua BMX Club with support from a number of organisations and businesses.
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On Sunday, the club hosted the UCI C1 Classic, which carried valuable ranking points towards the Tokyo Olympics, drawing riders from Australia, Japan and New Zealand, with the Central Region BMX Championships staged alongside.
Petch won all three of the elite women's races ahead of Australia's Caroline Buchanan and London Olympic medallist Sarah Walker, a long-time member of the Rotorua BMX Club who also played a key role in the design of the track.
Buchanan, a former BMX world champion, was making her competitive return after nearly two years out of the sport following a serious car accident.
The final in the men's elite division was a thriller. Yoshimura, who had finished third in the motos, got the jump from the gate of the new 8m ramp to win ahead of Australians Kai Sakakibara, the Oceania champion, and Joshua Boynton.
Cambridge rider Rico D'Anvers, a member of the Schick Civil BMX Performance Hub, took out the final of the junior men's category.
Rotorua BMX Club president Aimee McGregor said the club received great feedback on the new track from the elite riders.
"It was a fabulous weekend. We got lots of thanks and appreciation from the riders for building a great track and facility, which is really nice. They all said it's great to ride and challenging.
"The New Zealanders are keen to come over here and train, Sarah [Walker] said she would be over here regularly. I know the Performance Hub as well are planning on putting us into their regular programme which is awesome."
One of the club's major goals was to ensure the new track catered for both the elite and the younger, less experienced riders. The track comprises has routes for differing abilities which came in handy after a downpour of rain just before racing began on Sunday.
"Because of the rain we ended up running the first straight pro and then went on to the amateur line because the rain made everything a bit softer and slower. They elected to do it that way which is fine because it demonstrates the versatility of the track.
"That's what we always wanted, to be able to do both; grow the sport and get kids on bikes but also provide that elite experience which is great for role models for the kids but also fantastic for our town and the sport in general."
In terms of getting kids on bikes, the club is well on track with about 50 young riders signing up for the new Start-Up to Race programme.
"That's pretty much the max number we can handle, so that's great. A few of them came on the weekend, eyes wide watching the elites and seeing what you can achieve if you go all the way in the sport."
UCI C1 Classic Results
Elite Men: Motos: Michael Bias (North Harbour) 1, 2, 1, 4 points, =1; Kai Sakakibara (AUS) 1, 2, 1, 4 points, =1; Jukia Yoshimura (JPN) 3, 1, 2; 6 points, 3; Hayden Fletcher (AUS) 2, 1, 4, 7 points, 4; Daichi Yamaguchi (JPN) 2, 3, 3, 8 points, 5. Final: Yoshimura 1, Sakakibara 2, Joshua Boynton (AUS) 3.
Junior Elite: Oliver Moran (AUS) 1, 2, 1, 4 points, 1; Corey Taylor (AUS) 2, 1, 2, 5 points, equal 2; Rico D'Anvers (Cambridge) 3, 1, 1, 5 points, equal 2; Tasman Wakelin (Cambridge) 1, 3, 3, 7 points, 4; Yuichi Masuda (JPN) 2, 4, 2, 8 points, 5. Final: D'Anvers 1, Masuda 2, Moran 3.
Elite Women: Rebecca Petch (Te Awamutu) 1, 1, 1, 3 points, 1; Caroline Buchanan (AUS) 2, 2, 2, 6 points, 2; Sarah Walker (Rotorua) 3, 3, 3, 9 points, 3; Baylee Luttrell (Hamilton) 4, 4, 4, 12 points, 4.