February 13, 2024
UCI BMX Racing World Cup: New Zealand kick-off

Olympic Champion Kimmann on his preparations

For the first time in UCI BMX Racing history a round of the UCI World Cup will be raced in New Zealand. Many top athletes made the trip early to gain valuable practice time on the track and enjoy the sunny conditions.

The new year ushers in team changes: some riders will appear in new clothing and on new bikes. 2023 UCI World Cup winner Saya Sakakibara (AUS), 2023 UCI World Champion Romain Mahieu (FRA) and former UCI World Champ Simon M. Marquart (SUI) have all joined Speed Co bicycles for 2024. They have teamed up with New Zealand’s Rico Bearman, last year’s winner of the Under 23 UCI BMX Racing World Cup , who will help his team mates with the local Kiwi knowledge in the lead-up to the first UCI BMX Racing World Cup rounds of the year in Rotorua (10 and 11 February). Peaking at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games is the main target for most, but first it’s key to obtain national quota spots and be selected. For France especially, it will be a difficult task to select their Men Elite riders for Paris 2024 as they have more than three podium candidates. Showing form at the three UCI World Cups in New Zealand, Australia and USA early on in the year and May’s UCI BMX Racing World Championships in Rock Hill, South Carolina (USA), will help coaches with their selections for August.


Everyone is getting ready for the season in their own way: Reigning Olympic Champion Niek Kimmann, of the Netherlands, has chosen to be in California for his preparations.

What are your goals ahead of the UCI World Cups?

Niek Kimmann: For starters I officially have to qualify for the Olympic Games. As a gold medalist of the previous edition, you do not get a free ticket to start at the next Games. My National Federation has set criteria and that’s an internal ranking and at the moment I’m doing quite well there. My goal is to race the UCI World Cups well so there’s no discussion on who the Federation will pick to represent the Netherlands for Paris. I don’t want to rely on a ‘coaches’ pick’. On top of that we are battling for one or two quota spots with other nations, with three spots not being very realistic for the Netherlands currently. In case we get two spots I’m pretty safe going to Paris but otherwise I will need to win that internal ranking. The past two seasons for me didn’t go too well but I’m looking forward to turning that around and reaching the level where I belong. That’s the goal for the UCI World Cups. I’m hoping for a good start in New Zealand.

In BMX Racing a mistake can mean the result doesn’t reflect your form. How do you deal with that?

NK: It’s always possible to have a bad day but if you’re in top shape you don’t put yourself into those situations. If you look at Romain Mahieu’s 2023 season, in Sarrians he was eliminated in the quarter finals so it’s possible, but other than that he made it to the podium most of the time. If you’re not good, it’s possible to be lucky one time but you’ll be in a bad situation more often. When I’m feeling good I’m not saying I will win, but I belong in the final or on the podium and if you are shooting for the podium, you can also win.

What’s your preparation like for 2024?

NK: That’s a good question. In the past I’ve worked well with Liam Phillips for a couple of years but I’m a person who is always looking for new challenges. That’s also the reason that I moved to Switzerland to train with Liam [at the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle] to prepare for Tokyo 2020. I had the feeling that I was ready for a new challenge so at the moment I’m writing my own training program and doing everything on my own. I realized I needed to do something new for motivation and to keep me focused so that’s the way I’m doing it now. It’s a lot different compared to how I did things in the past. We’ll see how it turns out. When I made the move to Switzerland before Tokyo, people told me I was crazy and now people will think I’m crazy. I always want to learn. I see that as my main purpose.

How important is mental strength in BMX Racing?

NK: A lot! When I look at my UCI World Cup race in Argentina for instance, one day I did the LCQ [Last Chance Qualifier], the next I was on the podium. In one day you can’t improve physically by 30%! That’s pure mental strength that changes your focus. The past two years I might have been racing too comfortably. I needed to step out of my comfort zone and use that to give everything to get in shape. This year I’m turning 28 years old, I’ve been riding BMX since I was 7 years old, at 18 years old I won my first UCI World Cup race so in all honesty, I’m not going to get 10% better on the track. If I can get 0.5% that’s a lot. It’s a matter of feeling right at the moments that it matters. How to ride with the experience of a veteran but with the passion of a youngster and that’s the balance I’m always after. That’s the puzzle.


Looking at 2024 the biggest competition for Niek is expected from Frenchmen; their Men Elite pool of talent is deep with Sylvain André, Romain Mahieu, Arthur Pilard, Joris Daudet and more. With Cam Wood (USA) back after injury the Americans also have a podium threat as do the Colombians with Diego Arboleda and Carlos Ramírez.


The Women Elite racing will also be tight. Olympic Champion and 2023 UCI World Champion Bethany Shriever (GBR) won’t be easily riding to victory. Saya Sakakibara (AUS) and Laura Smulders (NED) both plan to be landing on the top step in 2024. With an extra year of Elite racing behind her, big things can be expected from European Champion Zoe Claessens (SUI), currently training at the UCI WCC, while veteran Alise Willoughby has been on a winning streak over at home in the USA.


Last year’s Men Under 23 top ten are all still eligible for the Under 23 category in 2024. The door is wide open in this category, especially as Under 23 UCI World Cup winner Rico Bearman has made the move to Elite. It will be interesting to see how he fares in this category on his home turf in New Zealand. In Women Under 23 racing, Great Britain’s Emily Hutt will face stiff competition from Belgium’s Aiko Gommers, the Netherlands’ Michelle Wissing and the strong Latvian Monika Stūriška. Meanwhile local rider Megan Williams, who was showing form in 2023, will hold the hometown advantage in Rotorua


Courtessy : UCI Official Website