New Zealand rider Marc Willers was within a snap of back-to-back success at the BMX World Cup in the Netherlands today.
The California-based rider, defending the event he won last year, won his three-race qualifying group and the quarterfinal before coming a close second to Australian rival Sam Willoughby in the semifinal.
However, the usually strong starter missed the gate in the final and was then forced to avoid two riders who crashed ahead of him, eventually wheeling across the line in fifth.
While disappointed with his start in the final, Willers is confident he is close to his best with the world championships in two weeks' time in Birmingham.
"I was feeling really good all day," he said. "Just the gate in the main was one of those once in a million times when you go to do a start and nothing happened and I just stayed there instead of snapping out.
"It was fatigue and just didn't get the snap. You are on the verge of perfect and being extremely average, and that was extremely average."
His attempt to get back into the race was thwarted when two riders crashed heavily in front of him.
"I saw the two riders come together. Luckily they had separated from their bikes and I managed to split between his leg and his bike."
The weekend also proved a success for New Plymouth's Matt Cameron and Victoria Hill.
Cameron not only qualified for his first World Cup supercross but also made it through to the quarter-finals, finishing fourth in his qualifying group behind world champion Joris Daudet. He bowed out in the first quarterfinal won by Willers.
Hill also enjoyed her first venture into international supercross competition, also qualifying fourth in her group before also falling in the quarter-final.
The riders now head to London where they will be joined by Sarah Walker and Kurt Pickard, both back from injury, for three days' practise on the revamped track in London before moving to Birmingham for the world championships.
Results from the BMX supercross World Cup in Papendal, Netherlands today:
Quarterfinal 1: Marc Willers (NZL) 39.047, 1; Sam Willoughby (AUS) 2, Dave Herman (USA) 3.
Semifinal 1: Willoughby 1, Willers 2
Final: Strombergs 1, Willoughby 2, Herman 3. Also: Willers 5.
Quarterfinal 1: Caroline Buchanan (AUS) 1, Laetitia Le Corguille (FRA) 2, Magalie Pottier (FRA) 3. Also: Victoria Hill (NZL) 7.
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