Two-time UCI BMX Racing World Champion, Dutch rider Laura Smulders has been lured to New Zealand early to prepare for next month’s first-ever UCI BMX Racing World Cup in Rotorua.
The opening double rounds of the 2024 UCI BMX Racing World Cup will be staged at the new Te Papa o Te Kauri BMX facility at Whakarewarewa on 10 and 11 February.
Smulders loves New Zealand and wants to fully prepare for the all-important season opener, which is one of only three venues for the 2024 UCI BMX Racing World Cup to carry Paris 2024 Olympic Games qualifying points.
The 30-year-old is training alongside rising New Zealand star, Megan Williams, who is providing a home-base for the Dutch superstar after the kiwi rider stayed with Smulders for much of her European campaign last year.
“It’s my fifth time in New Zealand – I just love it here,” said Smulders. “I planned to escape the winter at home, come to New Zealand because it’s a place I like being and I like training here.”
“It is ideal with the first UCI BMX Racing World Cup here in Rotorua, of course. So I am on this side of the world for three months.”
Smulders is a female legend of the sport, placing on the podium seven times in the UCI BMX Racing World Championships including two UCI rainbow jerseys, along with an Olympic medal in London 12 years ago. She has claimed the UCI BMX Racing European title four times, along with five UCI BMX Racing World Cup overall honours and 27 UCI World Cup victories in her storied career.
After more than a decade in the sport, Smulders still enjoys the family of BMX Racers off the track, without diminishing the fierce competition on it.
“All of the girls are good friends. We have a little family group here. My sister (Merel) and me are staying with Megan (Williams). She has been staying with me pretty much the whole European season. I have had other New Zealand riders, Sarah (Walker) and Jesse (Smith) stay with us before.
“It is pretty cool that you can just race, ride and have fun as competitors but still be very good friends. That is until you get on the start gate when you forget about friendship and just race.”
Smulders believes the Rotorua track will suit her strengths.
“It is a long track so it will suit me for passing people on the last straight hopefully. It has a big first straight which I like. The first jump is quite big – bigger than the ones we had last year. That’s cool.
“It has everything – it is a bit technical; it is long so it has the endurance test but you still need to be smart around the track.”
Entries close on 29 January, with most of the world’s best expected along with significant entries from Australia, who host the third and fourth rounds in Brisbane two weeks after the Rotorua event.
Tickets: Tickets from $10 (plus processing fees) for under 14 and $25 (plus processing fees) for adults. From www.bmxworldcup.nz.