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2013, opinion on Outdoor and Indoor World Championships

Waalre, August 20th. 2013.

Keeping and creating tradition in our sport

Concerns: opinion on outdoor and /or indoor BMX World Championships in general.

To: Open letter to the UCI BMX committee, the UEC - section BMX,
dear friends in BMX,

It's about 4 weeks now, since the UCI BMX World Championship took place in the Vector Arena in Auckland – New Zealand. Following reactions on facebook and others, as well as watching Junior and Elite racing life on the internet myself, I do have the urge again to give you all my personal opinion on BMX World Championship Indoors, in general.

I do have a problem with a BMX World Championship indoor on a track of around 20/22 seconds a lap. This is not the character of BMX. I do have lots of respect for the riders that won a World title in New Zealand, they had to adjust to a very short track, so respect for them all.

I also have respect for Clark and Kent Constructors building this BMX track within their possibilities in the Vector Arena. Here my motivation for writing my opinion on this topic, BMX Wolds Indoor/Outdoor?

I am involved in BMX since 1974, have seen BMX develop from simple tracks like the 1976 Irvine BMX track, the Van Nuys BMX track, the JAG BMX indoor Worlds towards, the Redditch '80 s BMX track, the Beaune 1 BMX track, the Worlds and ECC Slagharen BMX track towards the World Cup/Supercross BMX tracks of Chula Vista, Papendal etc. and the Olympics in Beijing and London. In Junior and Elite class at a Worlds and in Elite class during World Cup/Supercross events, the 8 meter high starting hill is a remarcable improvement. It has a spectacular look from the outside. After about 40 years of development, BMX racing can be considered a full grown topsport now. For me personaly the London Olympic BMX racing track was the best of all so far and an example for the years to come.

Prepairing for the 2012 Olympics, a copy of the Olympic BMX track was built at the Papendal Olympic facility in Arnhem in 2010. The Papendal design was “one bridge too far”. Too many (bad) accidents (2011) and after evoluation of the event, things changed for the better, specialy concerning safety. UCI layed down strict rules building a trick. Again, an absolute great example how a Junior and Elite World Cup/Supercross track should look like has been the 2012 Olympic track in London.

BMX – Bicycle Moto Cross, a historic background.
I believe it is very important to watch over the character of our sport, plus keeping and creating tradition in our sport. When international BMX racing started within the I.BMX.F., I did compose and write the first IBMX.F. Racing rules and Regulations. I also took care of the second issue of these Rules and Regulations as General Secretary I.BMX.F. at the time. The principal was executing BMX outdoors as copied from motorcycle moto-cross. Minimum tandards were set for outdoor BMX tracks: length of a top class BMX track should be between 400 and 440 meters or around 40 seconds a lap for a Pro to cover the track.


Motivation writing these criteria in the 80's was, athletes had to have a certain physical fitness and ofcourse riding technique as well as mental attitude, to race at top speed during around 40 seconds in, at the time Pro or Superclass. Stamina, power, endurance to be compaired with an Olympic athlete in 400 meter distance running. Making this comparison to sportsjournalists gives them a better impression of what BMX'ers prepairing and training for racing, will look like.

Just the last couple of years, the UCI has updated their criteria building outdoor tracks concerning a layout of an AA type track (WorldCup/SuperCross – Continental, World and Olympic tracks).  Specialy after the 2011 Supercross in Papendal, criteria became more specific and clear such as width of a track, type of obstacles, pro-section and its messurements, the starting hill which in this case is 8 meters high etc.

The same situation with the A type tracks, exactly the same as above only with a 5 meter starting hill and without a so-called pro-section. These tracks have to be around 380 till preferable 400 meters and a lap should take at least 38 seconds till around 40 seconds in Elite Men class. This all concerns international BMX racing worldwide.

For the Press/Media the comparison sporttechnicaly with 400 meter running in athletics, appeals to them. Like right now (Aug.'2013), at the World Championship Athletics in Moscow, the 400 mtr running World Champion, covers the 400 meter in around 42/43 seconds. In BMX riding a bicycle on a track with obstacles at a 400 meter track is done in around 38/39 seconds.


This also says something about how to train and prepaire for such an event. A 1500 meter run in athletics is done in around 3 minutes 40 seconds, however the first 400 meters are done in around 1 minute, insteed of 43 seconds in wich 400 meter specialists run their 400 meter.The way of training and prepairing is absolutely different in both cases.  Why do I tell you all of this, well that has to do with outdoor BMX World Championships on at least 400 meter tracks in around 38/40 seconds OR indoor BMX World Championships of around mostly 250 / 280 meters on which a lap will be done in around 20 till 24 seconds in Elite Men class.  THERE IS AN ABSOLUTE DIFFERENCE NEEDED IN TRAINING AND PREPAIRING as in athletics, to be top in either of them.

Just to keep our feet on the ground, Mr. Bolt, 100 meter sprint, runs at top speed at 44,7 km per hour. Average speed over 100 meter is 9,77 seconds or 35,1 km per hour. Top speed in BMX (with help of 8 meter high gate) at the bottum of the starting hill is around 60 km per hour and average speed on the bike over 400 meters is around 38/39 km per hour.  This also tells specialists something how to train and prepair for BMX.

INDOOR Worlds, why?
During the early days of International BMX in the 80's and 90's there was discussion on outdoor BMX Worlds having them indoor to be sure it was a dry and warm or an airconditioned event. Good for the riders ánd spectators.  Tracks at the time were made out of dirt such as sand, cley or whatever. When the weather was bad, half the track could wash away, berms could wash away etc. Examples were the I.BMX.F. Worlds in Japan 1984 on practise day, Brasil 1986 and Holland 1992. So it was decided to try to organize World Championships Indoor when a possible weather risk occured in a certain country. So, several Worlds were scheduled indoor later on. The problem then was, less room in a hall mostly, to built an original 400 meter BMX track.

We have had BMX Worlds Indoor over time in among others, Melbourne 1998, Louisville 2001, Paris 2004, Birmingham 2012. In Melbourne the track had to be run twice, a loop was built in that track, which created many problems. This indoor facility was much too small (former Olympic swimming pool!!). All of them had to small a track, not up to outdoor standards.  Modern International BMX racing is done now-a-days on BMX tracks with very hard surfaces and wheather restistant tracks one can say, on so called ALL WHEATHER tracks. So in fact there is no absolute need to go indoor anymore. This is what makes BICYCLE MOTO-CROSS special, it's originaly an outdoor sport and we should go back to outdoor racing as standard and with high exeption go indoor.

The first ever all wheather BMX track by the way, was built at Ponypark Slagharen. In 1983 the I.BMX.F. Worlds took place there. On Friday, part of that day it rained cats and dogs, but racing good go on, except for one or two short brakes. O.K. Spectators and riders got wet, so what, thats BMX. The Saturday and Sunday were just fine, with just some short showers, no problem, the track good to be ridden on at all times. Spectators came in anyway.

My opinion and advice:
Since we have ALL WHEATHER tracks now-a-days at UCI AA tracks and A tracks, why not go outdoor at all times and race on BMX 400 meter tracks. That would be up to standard for a BMX World Championship.

Financial consequences organizing INDOOR Worlds.|
Organizing a World Championship Indoor has become very expensive. Budgets of around 2 million euro's is just normal at present. A large part of this amount goes into building a AA and A BMX track. Most of the time the square meters needed to built a 400 meter track are not available, so a too small and too short a track has to be built.  In itself that isn't all that bad if it is just an international event, not a Worlds. BUT, after such an event is over and done with, the track will be taken down, the starting hills(s) is taken apart and an investment (100.000 euro's? at least) is just gone up in air. No benefits left for the actual sport in the sence of a top quality track on which riders can practise and race afterwards for years.

My opinion and advice: if nessecary (if no club with qualified track is available), have a new AA and A track built OUTDOOR, which facility can remain there after the World Championship and benefit the National Organization concerns. It can be used for World Cup/Supercross competition afterwords as well. This is a good investment and NOT throwing away money building a track indoor for just 1 week.

Overall conclusion on World Championships indoor or outdoor?
If it seems impossible to built a BMX track Indoor according to UCI rules concerning length of a track, go outdoor. At least a 400 mtrs / 38-40 sec lap should be in place for a Worlds.  And again, better invest in building an all weather outdoor track, then building an indoor track just for a week. For me. London again is the example. They rebuilt the Olympic track somewhat and this track is used now, not destroyed.


Alternatif idea on BMX Worlds Indoor / Outdoor.
To give indoor facilities a change to organize a World Championship, why not have 2 types of Worlds Championships as in many other sports.

  1. World Championships outdoor on 400 mtr. tracks of 40 – 38 seconds a laps (endurance).

  2. World Championships indoor on 270 / 300 mtr. tracks of 22 – 25 seconds a lap (sprint).

So, 2 seperate World Championship titles to be won here.  Outdoor Worlds in the summer (July/August), Indoor Worlds in the winter periode (December).  Riders who prefer outdoor 40 second tracks can train specific for these outdoor Worlds and those prefering short 20/25 sec. tracks can train and practise those intensities.

Besides my main purpose writing this letter, BMX Worlds Indoor or Outdoor, I also want to mention the following.
Track Layout.
Why always 180 degree turns now-a-days, 3 turns in a track. Why not have a 90 degree turn as 1st corner, then a straight, 2nd corner 90 degrees, a straight again and then a 3rd corner 180 degrees and 4th and last corner also 180 degrees, straight toward the finish,. With such a design, less crashes in the first 2 corners and for sure closer racing. The mix of 2 x 90 degrees turns and 2 x 180 degrees turns looks more appealing to the riders too, I believe.

Time Trials.
Publicity wise there is no sence in having Time Trials and a World Champion Time Trials. Sportjournalists don't think highly of those time trials in BMX, compairing it with road cycling. They don't write about it and it's not shown specific on the sportsnews on TV.

For spectators (most of the time inside BMX people!!) Time Trails are boring and for the organization a waist of time. Time Trials aren't typicaly BMX like. It would be better to have a special price (cash money, like in motorcycle moto-cross) for those riders in Junior and Elite m/w class for those having a HOLE-SHOT in the main events. First from the gate up dan till around the first corner. Hole Shot only counts when NO crashes occur up and till the line put on the ground through the first corner.

Also a National Team competition would be much more attractive for outside BMX spectators. I have mentioned this many times before, would be good to realy serious look into this suggestion!  A National BMX Team World Championship title will publicity wise bring the sport much more then a World Champion Time Trials BMX. Check most other Olympic sports on this subject.

BMX a World wide sport.
We think BMX is BIG!!! My quess is there are around 250.000 registered license holders all over the world, affiliated to the UCI,coming from around 45-50 countries.  Around 200 / 250 top athletes from those countries and numbers do race at World Cup/ Supercross events in Junior and Elite classes (m/v), the show-case class of our sport.  At the 2013 BMX World Championship there were around 2000 entries from 32 countries.Out of New Zealand and Australia together came 75 % of these entries and from the other 30 countries came the rest of the entries, 25%.  The World Championships Atheletics had 2000 atletes present from 206 countries. One can see we still have a long way to go, 38 countries or 206 countries.


BMX in England.
Last thing I want to say is the following. I have been involved and following the development of BMX in England since the 80´s. Going over there racing BMX I always found that the development of tracks stayed behind looking at the rest of Europe.  I remember the so/called `Center of Excellance` in Brighton, the track were we had our first try/out UCI BMX World Cup in 1995. The track was of poor quality.

It is absolutely incredible what happened in England after the Olympics in London in 2012. I was, and I am still very surprised about the immense big step has been made in England concerning building new tracks, top quality, an example for all European and worldwide BMX nations.  Important part in thes fantastic development is I think, CLARK and KENT Constructors, they do a fantastic job. About every other couple of weeks a new track has been built by them all over England. This is absolutely amazing.  So this is what Olympic Games can do for a sport like BMX. Training facilities are just great now, look at the indoor training facility in Manchester. Communities, clubs, regions, councils many of them are behind the sport of BMX 100%.

Well, and the results are there as well, England has its fourth world champion in Elite class in 2013 ….... LIAM PHILLIPS. (Dale Holmes, Jamie Staff and Shanaze Read before him). I am absolutely confinced more titles will follow in the future, won by Brits.

Time to stop my letter here. All of the above is just a thought of one person. Still I hope people involved in the political side of organizing BMX world wide, will take this letter serious and hopefully some of it can be of use in our sport of BMX, sometime.

Wishing you all the best, warm regards,

Gerrit Does