Sakakibara Race Report - UCI World Cup Rounds 3, 4, 5, 6
5-6, 12-13 May 2018 | Papendal Netherlands & Zolder Belgium
(Report by Kai. Photos by Craig Dutton)
Wow. Another massive two weeks of World Cup racing. We had a weekend oﬀ after the European Cup round in Zolder, spent the next weekend in Baku, Azerbaijan for our pre-Worlds camp, and then got into the two weekends of World Cup racing. It’s been a very busy month.
Being so close to Papendal, our place being only 30min away, we were able to get some good training sessions on the track in the lead up to the event. The number of international riders increased each week as the race drew nearer, and the track got nicer and nicer as well.
Kai - Papendal
I felt great coming into Rounds 3-4 in Papendal. I was comfortable with the track, my gate starts were feeling solid, and training was ticking over nicely. I spent minimal time on the track during the oﬃcial practice. Day 1 was going smoothly - 2nd in Round 1, 3rd in the 1/16 Final, and a 2nd in the 1/8. My lap was a little rough in the 1/8 Final which gave me an outside lane choice for the 1/4 Final, but I was conﬁdent that I would still be able to pull through from whichever gate I was in.
My start was perfect out of lane 6, but Connor Fields and Joris Daudet got out well from the inside as well. I wasn’t able to come across enough because of this, and three riders dropped inside of me in the ﬁrst corner, pushing me back to 6th. Weaving through the pack, I got myself into 4th again around the second corner! Down the third straight however, I caught up too much with Marquart who was in 3rd, and he pushed me up high on the last corner, washing away all of my speed. Fields took the opportunity to hold his momentum and pass 10m before the ﬁnish line… I was out in the 1/4 Finals.
The result was disappointing on the ﬁrst day, but I was riding great. I was looking to redeem myself on the track on day 2.
Things started oﬀ great. 1st in Round 1, 2nd in the 1/16 Final, 3rd in the 1/8 Final and 3rd in the 1/4 Final. I ended up with lane 3 in the semi ﬁnal. There was no doubt, but I think I was over-conﬁdent. I tried to push too hard out of the gate, and hit the gate with my front wheel on its way down. I was spat out at the back of the pack. There was way too much going on in front of me for me to be able to pass into 4th. I ﬁnished in 6th.
Even though the result was better on day 2, I was angrier with myself as I messed up my own chances by going out of routine. However, with another two rounds coming up on the following weekend, there was nothing for me to be dwelling on. I was riding great.
We had two days at home in Wijchen Netherlands, before heading down to Zolder to prepare for round 5-6 to be held on the weekend. Fortunately, we had raced the track already at the European Cup, so we didn’t need a whole lot of practice to get into the groove of the track. I had a light practice session on Wednesday, while Saya rode on Thursday, and it was race time come Saturday.
Kai - Zolder
I started the weekend’s racing pretty anxious. I lost my start form during practice on Saturday morning - I hit the gate sometimes, was late at others, and just wasn’t feeling the conﬁdence that I was at Papendal the week before. I ﬁnd it fascinating that after racing BMX for 18 years, I still have these episodes of struggling with the gate - it’s deﬁnitely something that I’d like to look into carefully to avoid it in the future. I reminded myself of the great starts I was doing last week and on Wednesday at Zolder, and told myself not to stress out even if my starts weren’t perfect in racing either.
My starts weren’t perfect, but racing was going great. 2nd in Round 1, 1st in my 1/16 Final, 2nd in my 1/8 Final and 3rd in my 1/4 Final. I had 5th pick for the semi ﬁnal.
I had a good start, but Connor Fields from lane 4 got out even with me, and I couldn’t get across. I was stuck around the outside of the ﬁrst corner. I saw an opening on the left side of the second straight and went for it - Komarov, Mahieu and myself were three wide down the straight battling for 4th, but Komarov got ahead and shut me down. In 5th around the second corner, I was hunting him down for a pass on the last straight, but I couldn’t get him. I missed out on the ﬁnal by 0.05seconds…
There was a sprinkle of rain to start day 2, but not enough to have any impact on the racing. 1st in Round 1 and 2nd in the 1/16, 1/8 and 1/4 Final to end up with 5th pick in the semi ﬁnal. Another solid start, but I was stuck on the outside of Sylvain Andre, leaving me on the outside again around turn 1. A tight second straight but I got myself into 6th, and spoiled Komarov and van Gendt battling for 4th and 5th. I saw my opportunity. I waited as they bumped around the last corner, and went for the pass down the last straight. It worked! I crossed the line in 4th.
I had 8th pick for the ﬁnal, and ended up with lane 7. A strong start, but not enough to come across down the ﬁrst straight. I was once again stuck on the outside, and caught up with a crash on the inside, preventing me from jumping the second straight. I kept going through to ﬁnd two Frenchmen crashed on the last straight and rushing back onto their bikes. I rode past them to ﬁnish in 4th.
The ﬁnal deﬁnitely wasn’t what I envisioned, but I feel relieved to ﬁnally get my ﬁrst World Cup ﬁnal for this year. I really saw great improvements psychologically over the last two weeks compared to rounds 1-2 in Paris, and I’m happy to be entering this last stint into the Worlds injury free. Let’s do this!
It was actually so exciting for me to race at Papendal because for the past 4 years, I had been at home watching this particular Round every year. And it was ﬁnally my opportunity to race!
I was in love with the track from the moment I hopped on a few weeks ago, but there was deﬁnitely some nerves getting in the way on race day during Round 1. I got through the day with 1st in Round 1, 1st in 1/8th ﬁnals and 3rd in my 1/4th ﬁnal and 2nd in my semi ﬁnal.
The ﬁnal was messy but very exciting race. I had a good start but after being held up on the outside, I went from being 4th, to 5th, to 6th then back to 5th to ﬁnish the race. There was so much passing going on and there was lots of decisions needed to be made quickly. I ﬁnished the race with a smile on my face, it was not the result I was looking for but it was a crazy experience, and exactly what I came to Europe for!
Due to few riders dropping out, there was only 1/4 ﬁnals for the women for Day 2. I won Round 1 and my 1/4 ﬁnal and 2nd in the semi, which put me in 5th qualiﬁer for the ﬁnal. I was happy with my split second decisions throughout the race, choosing an outside line on 2nd straight which put myself into 2nd place! I was slowly catching up to the leader, Alise Willoughby and planning for a pass down the last straight. Damn, a small mistake almost threw me oﬀ the bike and cost me my 2nd place position! I ﬁnished 3rd. What another crazy race, and again ﬁnished with a smile on my face. Another podium in the books, and I can’t complain!
Saya - Zolder
I was pretty conﬁdent on the track after racing there a few weeks prior, so I gave myself a couple of days rest just to get over the fatigue from last weekend.
On race day, I struggled with my gates. I couldn’t quite put my ﬁnger on it but it didn’t feel great. On day 1, I got through with a 1st in Round 1, 1/8 ﬁnals and 1/4 ﬁnals and I was through for semi ﬁnals. My start was a little late and I was already behind down the ﬁrst straight. I was in 4th, qualifying position, and I went to cut down on the ﬁrst corner hoping to make passes down the second straight, when my back wheel washed out and I hit the ground. I was very annoyed I made that stupid mistake. Cutting too tight on these slippery corners. Time to learn and move on, get ready for day 2.
A little disappointing day 1 put a little bit of pressure for day 2, I was still in 2nd place in the overall ranking and I was determined to keep my spot. But I had remind myself to keep calm and focus on the process instead of the result.
I ﬁnished 2nd in Round 1, then 1st in my 1/8th and 2nd in 1/4 ﬁnals then ﬁnished with a 3rd in my semi. Which put me in lane 5 for the ﬁnal. I messed up my gate and I was behind, but I got on the cranks straight away after the ﬁrst jump and headed for the inside. I was battling for 5th place around the ﬁrst corner with Natalia Suvorova on the outside pushing to get back on the track, when I saw Merle Van Benthem appear on the inside. We took oﬀ together and we hit! Bikes and bodies all tangled then we were on the ground.
I was stretchered oﬀ in pain after a big wound on my leg. I was taken to hospital for stitches, but that was the worst of it. I’m feeling very lucky to have walked away with minimal injuries that will take a short time to fully recover from. But again a huge 2 weekends of racing full of crazy experiences!