Corben, Manon take titles | SASCOC - SASCOC

Corben, Manon take titles

Corben Sharrah rose to the occasion to win the grand final of the UCI BMX Supercross in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday while the young French rider Manon Valentino confirmed her status as the hottest property in female BMX racing by completing a rare double in the women’s division.

The quietly spoken 19-year-old from Tucson, Arizona Sharrah timed his charge to perfection, shifting up a gear in the semi-final where he dominated the Frenchman Joris Daudet, who had until that stage been the men’s pacesetter.

In the final Sharrah got the hole shot and as he led into the first berm he looked in total control. While the pack jostled behind him, resulting in classy Kiwi Marc Willers going down, Sharrah never let control of the main final slip, racing home to win from Australian Khalen “Wild Child” Young, with time trial superfinal winner Daudet in third.

“This track really suited my style of riding,” said Sharrah as he was mobbed by well-wishers from Team USA. “I had a really good gate and won the big battle to get into the first turn first.”

“When I realised I was leading it was all about staying calm and focused. That was the critical part for me. It feel fantastic to win the first World Cup of the season,” he added.

Dreadlocked 21-year-old French sensation Valentino was ecstatic after completing a totally dominant win in the women’s main final. “This is totally amazing! What a comeback for me!” gushed the former junior world champion, whose first year as a senior was dogged by injury.

In truth she had won the final by the time she had turned into the second straight. From her quicksilver reaction off the start gate to her athletic and fluid pace across the demanding 15-metre triple on the first straight, she was peerless, and romped home to win by more than a second from Argentinean Gabriela Diaz, with Kiwi icon Sarah Walker earning the last spot on the podium.

Australian ace Sam Willoughby was the shock omission from the main final line-up. He was one of four riders to crash out of the semi-finals in a pile-up on the first berm that also accounted for gutsy Canadian Tory Nyhaug, Dutchman Jelle van Gorkom and Joshua Meyers of the USA.

Two podium contenders fell by the wayside in a drama-laden second men’s quarte- final, where on-form Frenchman Sylvain Andre and former world champ Donnie Robinson of the USA, who was being cheered on his comeback to the Supercross circuit, were both unseated in spills.

In the men’s qualifying rounds the last local hopeful left in the men’s draw Gavin Lubbe was squeezed out of qualifying for the quarter-finals. Needing only to repeat the two fourth places from his first two heats, he was sluggish off the startline, completed his final heat in seventh place, and was eliminated.

“Yeah, it’s frustrating!” said Lubbe. “I was just late off the gate and was playing catch-up from then onwards.”

Earlier in the day South Africa’s solitary female challenger Teagan O’Keeffe was sidelined after failing to make the cut for the women’s semi-finals, despite the vocal support from the packed stands.

The regular pile-ups kept the on-site medical team busy throughout the afternoon, with only four serious injuries requiring hospital attention, one for a broken ankle and three broken collarbones.

The heady mix of on-track action and music under the blazing sun provided a compelling spectacle for the big crowd that packed into the new BMX venue at Alexandra Park, which will become a permanent BMX facility after the Supercross.

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1 Corben Sharrah USA 34.054, 2 Khalen Young AUS 34.815, 3 Joris Daudet FRA 35.095, 4 Raymon van der Biezen NED 35.156, 5 Andres Jiminez Caicedo 35.620, 6 Robert de Wilde NED 36.026, 7  David Herman USA 37.689, 8  Marc Williers NZL 1.13.216

1 Manon Valentino FRA 33.714, 2 Maria Gabriela Diaz ARG 34.858, 3 Sarah Walker NZL 36.116, 4 Magalie Pottier FRA 43.085, 5 Caroline Buchanan AUS 43.726, 6 Vilma Rimsaite LTU 49.473, 7 Stefany Hernandez VEN 1.04.473, 8 Lauren Reynolds AUS (Did Not Finish)