Mon, Jul 25, 2016 - Page 12 News List

Phillips ready for BMX roller-coaster ride

Reuters, LONDON

BMX rider Liam Phillips of Britain poses with his bike at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester, England, on Thursday last week.

Photo: Reuters

Former world BMX champion Liam Phillips sums up the brutal nature of his adrenaline-fueled sport succinctly.

“There are not really any rules on physicality,” said the 27-year-old Briton, who is preparing for a third Olympic Games. “You cannot take your feet off the pedals and kick somebody, but after that, pretty much anything can happen.”

For sheer intensity, thrills and spills, the BMX races on the roller-coaster-like Deodoro course at next month’s Rio Olympics is unlikely to have an equal.

When the starting gate goes down, riders are to plunge 8m down, pumping their pedals for rapid acceleration and then hanging on over the lumps and bumps.

Medal hopes can vanish in the blink of an eye — as Phillips knows all to well after crashing in the final in London four years ago, having recovered from a broken collarbone just in time to take his place on the team.

While BMX racing can look chaotic, it is an extremely technical sport and the power produced by the world’s top riders is similar to that put down by track sprinters like Chris Hoy, Britain’s most successful Olympian.

Phillips said the start is crucial.

“It is a bit like a 100m sprint, but there are no lanes. It is a fight to get to the first corner, then after that, you can move to the best line and dictate a little bit,” Phillips said. “If you make a bad start, and I am talking fractions of seconds out, you are in trouble. Usain Bolt would not last long in BMX racing, because he is not the best starter — he would be cut off straight away.”

While Bolt has a lane to himself, territory is fiercely fought over in a BMX race.

“Someone can come underneath you in a corner, an elbow can catch you, suddenly you are on the floor,” Phillips said. “Nine times out of 10, it stays on the track. There is a mutual respect, but I will make myself heard when I need to.”

Phillips won the World Championships in 2013 in New Zealand and last year became the first man to win back-to-back UCI BMX Supercross World Cup titles.

Phillips said the Deodoro track in Rio would be technically challenging, but hopefully safe.

“It was unrideable when we first went out there, some of the jumps were dangerous. It was insane, but at least it is possible to ride a lap now. Before that was impossible,” he said.

Whatever the outcome in Rio, Phillips said he would soak up the atmosphere.

“When I was a kid, I would never have believed one day I would be riding my BMX bike in the Olympics, so I am just grateful I will be riding in front of huge audiences,” he said. “I just love racing.”

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