Willougbhy is a winner! | SASCOC - SASCOC

Willougbhy is a winner!

Australia’s double Junior World Champion Sam Willoughby continued his impressive rise up the BMX ladder of success when he won Round 2 of the 2009 UCI BMX Supercross World Cup, presented by Swatch in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa at the weekend.

The USA’s current Elite men’s World Champion and World No. 1, Donny Robinson, was second with Rob van den Wildenberg of The Netherlands rounding out the podium positions.

The 18-year-old Willoughby, who last month became the only rider ever to win back-to-back Junior world titles, was in superb form all day, winning every one of his heats, the quarterfinal and semifinal.

In the final, Willoughby started in the favoured inside lane, with Robinson on his left in Lane 2. Willoughby’s powerful start gave the young Australian the edge and this secured the all-important holeshot into the first turn.

With a bike-length gap opened up, Robinson had to hope Willoughby made an error on the highly technical third straight if he had any shot at grabbing the lead. But the Australian was smooth and in control, throwing up his arm in elation as he won his first Supercross World Cup event.

ÔÇ£I’m really excited with this win! It’s the right end to a perfect day I guess,ÔÇØ said the charismatic Willoughby. ÔÇ£I had Lane 2 in my first heat, but won that and held Lane 1 for the rest of the day which proved decisive.ÔÇØ

Robinson was full of praise for Willoughby, but felt that the inside lane was undoubtedly a factor in the final result.

ÔÇ£Sam is improving all the time. He’s a real talent and so consistent. I would have loved to have had Lane 1 for the final, but he made the most of it and he never made a single mistake. I planned to run at him in the third straight, but he was flawless through there.ÔÇØ

Van den Wildenberg was thrilled with third place.

ÔÇ£This is my first ever podium in a World Cup, so I’m very happy,ÔÇØ smiled the Dutchman. ÔÇ£I over-jumped the first jump which threw my rhythm out a bit and from there I just followed Donny’s line and held my position.ÔÇØ

An enthusiastic crowd of more than 1000 watched the event, the first of its kind in Africa and a precursor to the 2010 UCI BMX World Championships, which will also be held in Pietermaritzburg next July.

Current women’s world champion, Sarah Walker of New Zealand, left her best performance for last when she captured a dominant victory in the women’s category.

Argentina’s Gabriela Diaz finished second with Frenchwoman Eva Ailloud, the current World No. 1, taking third.

After a crash in practice and less-than-perfect semi-final runs, the 21-year-old Walker charged into the lead at the first jump in the final, powering into a two-bike-length lead by the second turn. She kept it smooth through the critical third straight, giving her rivals no opportunities to challenge her.

ÔÇ£I took it a bit easy in the semi-final motos because I didn’t want to risk doing something silly and not making the final. But in the final I let it all out and I had a really good race,ÔÇØ smiled Walker, who’d crashed during practice earlier in the day.

ÔÇ£It feels really good to get a World Cup win so soon after winning the World Championships. I have definitely developed a lot of confidence lately and it’s showing in my results.ÔÇØ

For Diaz, it was a rewarding return after a long layoff from the sport.

ÔÇ£I’ve been riding again for just seven weeks, so this is a good way to return. I took a year off after the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Deciding to return to racing has obviously been the correct decision.ÔÇØ