The 2009 world champion Sarah Walker qualified strongly to make an excellent return from injury in time trials at the UCI BMX world championships in Birmingham today.
Walker, who dislocated her shoulder in a crash at the BMX Supercross World Cup just six weeks ago, qualified eighth for tomorrow’s elimination racing at the National Indoor Arena.
She and fellow Cambridge rider Marc Willers are the only BikeNZ elite riders to qualify for racing tomorrow although they will be joined by Kaiapoi’s Trent Jones (18th), Whangarei’s Cody Hobbs (28th) and Rotorua’s Matthew Tew (34th) who made it through in the junior men.
Walker clocked the sixth fastest time in elite women’s qualifying with a 29.825s effort around the tight 310m circuit, only 0.8s off top qualifier Caroline Buchanan, who has won the last three Supercross Super Time Trials. Walker was close to that time again to be eighth fastest in the Super Time Trial in 30.028 which was won by the in-form Australian, Buchanan.
Walker was pleasantly surprised by her showing.
“I am really happy with how I have come back from this injury,” Walker said.
“Most people who dislocate their shoulder are just coming out of their sling at six weeks and I am only at six weeks tomorrow.
“It’s pretty cool to be able to race the world championships and finish eighth in the Super final and be up there with the best in the world after just a week back on my bike.
“I will have one of the fast girls who was really close to me in time trials today in my moto and will be able to get a gauge on how I am racing as well as just riding by myself.”
It marked a confidence boosting effort from the 23 year old who has been plagued with injuries that have sidelined her since last season. The troublesome back ailment kept her out of action in New Zealand over summer and then from the first round of the Supercross World Cup in Chula Vista after crashing in practice. She crashed again at the Norway World Cup where she dislocated the shoulder.
While Walker made a speedy recovery, she was entering the unknown in the evening qualifying session in Birmingham.
Willers, who prefers the hurly-burly of racing over time trials, wanted a sharp time in qualifying to boost his rankings for gate preference in tomorrow’s racing, with the tight nature of the first corner on this compact track.
He was content to finish 20th in 27.019, but wanted to go quick as he finished just outside qualification in the top 16 for the Super Time Trial final which would have given him the opportunity to secure a more beneficial gate for racing tomorrow.
Christchurch rider Daniel Franks, a rookie in the elite ranks, was an agonising 1/1000th of a second from qualifying for his first world championship elimination racing. Franks clocked 27.677 to be 65th fastest with the top 64 from 174 starters qualifying for tomorrow’s racing.
The disappointment came for Tauranga’s Kurt Pickard, another rider coming back from injury. The 21 year old was hoping to better his effort of a quarterfinal spot at the worlds in Copenhagen last year. He was among the fastest to the first corner but pulled his foot out of the pedal on the second straight and lost all chance to post a competitive qualifying time.
The rest of the young BikeNZ squad, all in their first year in the elite ranks, missed out on qualifying.