By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Aquece Rio BMX bike-riding test event took place on Sunday, October 4th, after the competition was reduced to one day rather than the scheduled two. Riders requested that modifications were made to the course in the X Park at the Deodoro venue following a training session on Friday, October 3rd, and so delaying Saturday’s races. Heavy rain on Sunday forced the competition to finish early.
Organizers said the event truly was a test of their ability to respond to the problems that arose but were satisfied with the event and remain confident that any issues will have been ironed out by next year’s Olympic Games, including ensuring the track remains dry.
After a day of training on Friday some riders refused to return to the course, deeming it to be unnecessarily risky and potentially dangerous. After submitting their feedback to the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the Rio 2016 organizing committee, modifications were made to the track on Saturday. The course, which was built by Tom Ritzehthaler, who designed the BMX courses for the past two Olympic Games, had been approved by the UCI.
In the end the men’s race took place on the women’s track. However, both competitions were rained off after only time-qualification trials and quarter-finals. Winners were then decided by the best times recorded up to that point. Mariana Pajón, the Colombian Olympic champion, came first, beating Brooke Crain of the USA and Stefany Hernandez of Venezuela into second and third. Edzus Treimanis of Latvia took the men’s gold, with Frenchman Amidou Mir and Brazilian Renato Rezende picking up silver and bronze medals.
Many of the riders were disappointed not to have been able to race more and though changes to the course were welcomed, some felt further improvements would need to be made before next year’s competition.
Being a notoriously dangerous sport, extensive medical support was on hand throughout the event. Twelve people were treated for injuries, with two admitted to hospital.