World championship medallist Marc Willers and Olympic medallist Sarah Walker head a select elite New Zealand BMX team to contest next month’s UCI World Championship in the Netherlands.

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Nine riders only will compete in the four elite classes at the championships to be staged indoors in Rotterdam from 23-27 July.

New Zealand gained additional entries as hosts in last year’s world championships, but this year the new qualification system resulted in only three spots for elite men, one each for elite and junior women with four for junior men.

The major competition came in selection for the elite men with five riders from BikeNZ’s high performance squad all producing excellent form this year. All qualified for elimination rounds at the recent Supercross World Cup in Berlin.

Selectors opted for North Canterbury’s Trent Jones, the top ranked rider in 10th on current Supercross World Cup standings, US-based Willers and Tauranga’s Kurt Pickard. Willers was a finalist at Manchester and semifinalist at Berlin and Pickard made the semifinals at Manchester and beat former world number one Sam Willoughby in USA recently.

Cambridge-based Walker is already up to 15th in rankings after only two world cup starts in her comeback from an injury-riddled 2013, while former Taranaki rider Hannah Sarten, who qualified for elimination rounds in her first Supercross world cup in Berlin, is currently ranked fourth in the world for junior women.

The junior men include two riders from Te Awamutu – Todd Barry and Codi Merito , Kapiti’s Liam Perry from Kapiti and Caleb Martin from Christchurch.

BikeNZ national BMX coach Ryan Hollows said competition has been keen for places with the world championships limited to 112 male riders and 44 females, based on world ranking points.

Our 2013 year was focussed on the need to develop our riders to be competitive on the world stage and that improvement has gained real momentum since we have moved to a centralised base in Cambridge,” Hollows said.

“This year Trent Jones has made the semifinals in all three Supercross World Cups, Willers made the finals in Manchester and semis in Berlin and Pickard was in the semifinals in Manchester as well as winning in the USA.

“Matt Cameron and Daniel Franks have also qualified in Supercross races as well. As we move forward we are confident of earning more allocations next year but for this time, there’s been massive competition for those places.

“While we are pleased with this improvement, the team really believe they are in the form that can make it all the way to finals and the podium. That is going to be the aim for all riders at the world championships.”

The elite men are currently training and racing in USA and will join Walker and Sarten in three weeks time for 12 days final preparation at the new BMX track at the UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland before moving on to Rotterdam.

The BikeNZ elite team is:

Men: Trent Jones (North Canterbury), Kurt Pickard (Tauranga), Marc Willers (Cambridge). Junior: Todd Barry (Te Awamutu), Caleb Martin (Christchurch), Codi Merito (Te Awamutu), Liam Perry (Kapiti).

Women: Sarah Walker (Cambridge). Junior: Hannah Sarten (Cambridge).

CAPTION: Trent Jones in action at the BMX Supercross World Cup in Berlin. Credit: Craig Dutton.

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