1999 UCI World Championships

By Keith Mulligan

The Worlds

America’s Jason Ream rode like a champ and came away with a fifth place finish in the Junior Cruiser class.

The World Championships are a weird race. Some riders live for it, others could care less. It’s not hard to understand why some people could get completely hyped up for it¿the prestige of being a “World Champion” is huge. Winning the race gives you bragging rights, literally, to say you’re the best in the world. But it’s the fact that it’s a one race title that turns others off. One shot, one chance to make it all happen¿that’s all there is. An off day, a bike problem, a blown gate, a slipped pedal¿any one little thing can blow your chances of getting that title. There’s definitely a lot of pressure around the Worlds for those who compete in it.
This year’s Worlds were held in a town called Vallet on the eastern side of France. Out of all the countries in the world outside of America, France probably has the biggest BMX scene going on. Consider the fact that two of the fastest pros racing the ABA and NBL national circuits, Christophe Leveque and Thomas Allier, are both from France, and you know the speed and skill level of French riders is high. Knowing these things, it was obvious that this year’s Worlds would be a good one. The French are known for training hard, going fast, and for building technical tracks. Combine that with the opportunity to travel across the globe to visit a country far different from our own, and you’ve got a lot of Americans who were on their way.

Nantes & Vallet
The race was held in Vallet¿a small, old town. On one of our first days there we came across a box ramp demo in the town center. It was weird to see¿it looked out of place. And we weren’t the only ones who thought that¿I saw a few older men and women watching with a look of confusion and disapproval in their eyes.
Most people stayed in the city of Nantes. I hooked up with the GT crew and we stayed in a hotel across the street from the Nantes airport where most Americans flew into. Most of the other Americans were staying 20 minutes away downtown. Headed up by T.C., the GT posse had their own program going on for the week.
In the Nantes airport I found three or four different magazines with BMX in them on the racks. And when every we were downtown in Vallet we saw race promos with Wade Bootes all over them (Trek sponsored the race). Many stores had posters with his picture on them in their windows, and some small shops were even selling postcards with him on them. When was the last time you traveled to a national in the US and saw race promotions in town? Probably never.

Paris
The city of Paris was a five or six hour ride by car from where we were, or a two hour trip by via a 200 mile per hour bullet train that runs as smooth as glass.
There were plenty of things to see in Paris¿too much for one day. The Eiffel Tower, the Louve museum and it’s countless art treasures (such as the Mona Lisa), the Arc de Triumph, and Notre Dame, are just a few of the amazing things to see. Throughout the city the various statues and buildings are eye-catching. There are things there you’d never see in America. You might think that France would be “Americanized” but that’s not the case. It’s rich in it’s own culture.

Differences

Dagmar Polakova leads the Elite Women’s class high over the first set of doubles.

One of the first things everyone did when they got to France was exchange their money. The Freh don’t use dollars, they use francs. The exchange rate when we were there was around six francs to the dollar. The rate changes everyday and it varies from place to place.
Other differences include the use of military time (a 24 hour clock), Kilometers being used to measure distance and speed, and temperatures being measured in Celsius.

The Track

The track in Vallet was anything but a let-down. It was filled with lots of good-sized jumps and rhythm. No one complained. It was a very technical and challenging track¿the way a Worlds race should be. Backsides were steep, the middle of doubles and rhythm rollers were deep, and the track surface was a gray colored gravel¿good for absorbing rain. They don’t sweep off the loose stuff on top¿they just smooth it out. It was slippery in spots¿especially in turns¿and it wasn’t uncommon to see controlled slides through the corners and a good roost coming off of rear tires. Despite the gravel, the track was fast and it was easy to over-jump stuff. Most Americans underestimated a few of the lips and backsides and ended up landing at the bottom of some of the jumps.

The Race Breakdown
Since the race is sanctioned by the UCI some different rules apply. Riders must follow specific rules concerning uniforms, and track behavior (lanes are painted down the starting hill and you have to stay in yours until you reach the bottom for instance). The classes aren’t your normal age group classes, either. For the World Championship titles there are only six classes: Junior Men, Junior Women, Junior Cruiser, Elite Men, Elite Women, and Elite Cruiser. Other classes were run during the weekend, but they aren’t recognized for World titles.
One big change for the Elite Men is that they don’t scramble people up from moto to moto. This makes groups of riders stay together throughout the day. This worked against the American’s favor when five of them made it into the same semi and there were none in the other. Automatically four non-Americans would be in the main.
Another difference was with the scheduling of the races. Different classes would start at specific times. This was cool because for the older Elite guys, they didn’t have to get up at 5:30 in the morning and get there by 7- or 8 am¿most of the races started at some time during the afternoon. Overall the way the race was run was efficient and very professional. With only a few classes and the time scheduling, there wasn’t a lot of waiting around. Things flowed smoothly.

Elite Men

Chad Hernandez on his way to a World Championship victory.

The Elite Men’s class was were all the attention was focused. Understandably, 99-percent of it was focused on Leveque and Allier. They are France’s heroes who left and were now back to win the Worlds on home turf. One day at the track there were two cameras on Allier at all times of the day¿following him everywhere he went. He even left and did some TV stuff at another nearby track. The hype around the two of them was crazy. When the motos came around they were grouped together and put on quite a show. They both rode with total respect for each other¿never taking the other out. They also looked faster than ever. The crowd loved them. And all bets were on their side.
Many of the American pros were riding really good all day until the qualifiers. That’s when they fell apart. Crashes took out many of them starting in the 1/16th’s and went all the way through the semis. One of the semis, as mentioned before, actually had five Americans in it. Unfortunately, only one made it out¿John Purse. Purse was pretty quite through the motos, but he put it together when it counted and made the cut. The rest of the US guys had to watch the main from the stands.
Everyone’s eyes were on Leveque and Allier for the win. The day before they battled it out in Elite Men’s Cruiser and Leveque came away with the win. They were both going fast. When the gate dropped, Leveque charged to the lead with Holland’s Robert de Wilde in second. Allier got into trouble over the big set of doubles on the first straight and couldn’t keep control of things. He crashed shortly after the next roller. Leveque continued to lead and looked strong¿until the third straight. With three jumps to deal with Christophe played it safe and rode cautiously. This gave de Wilde, who was charging hard, time to pick a line and make a move. Christophe drifted to the middle while de Wilde gunned for the inside line into the last turn. With the door wide open, he swooped in and pulled along side Leveque. Instead of hitting him and putting him over the berm, de Wilde rode a clean line¿barely touching Leveque¿and the two raced down the last straight rhythm. Christophe looked like he could have pulled him and regained the lead, but he was left in softer dirt and couldn’t get going. The win went to de Wilde and goes down as one of the biggest upsets ever.

One To Remember
This year’s Worlds was one of the best races I’ve ever been too. And many of the other Americans will say the same thing. The French and the UCI definitely showed us how a race should be done. Hopefully Bob Tedesco took down some notes¿there was a lot to be learned from everything (the track, the daily scheduling, the announcing, the hype, the arena, etc.).
Above and beyond all of that, the Elite Men’s main event made the whole trip worthwhile. The excitement, the drama, and the respect the riders had for each other was unbelievable¿as was the final outcome. For the Worlds, it surpassed most expectations. I won’t for get it anytime time soon, and I’m sure the riders won’t either.

Results

Junior Cruiser
1. Chad Hernaez USA
2. Michal Prokop Tchequie
3. Medhi Remili France
4. Kelvin Batey Angleterre
5. Jason Ream USA
6. Steven Larralde USA
7. Philip Wildhaber Suisse
8. Dan Shanahan USA

Junior Women
1. Gabriela Diaz Argentine
2. Simone Dur Autriche
3. Elodie Ajinca France
4. Rachel Galindo France
5. Aurelia Don France
6. Lucia Oetjen Suisse
7. Emilie Auzoux France
8. Heather Bruns USA

Junior Men
1. Dan Shanahan USA
2. Steven Larralde USA
3. Kelvin Batey Angleterre
4. Rob Van Den Wildenberg Hollande
5. Milan Krebs Slovaquie
6. Stéphane Renaud France
7. Jamie Gray Australie
8. Chad Hernaez USA

Elite Cruiser
1. Christophe Leveque France
2. Thomas Allier France
3. Jason Richardson USA
4. Mario Andres Soto Colombie
5. Carmine Falco France
6. Denis Labigang France
7. Steve Veltman USA
8. Jocelyn Ruiz France

Elite Women
1. Audrey Pichol France
2. Dagmar Polakova Slovaquie
3. Melanie Boudoux France
4. Tatjana Schocher Suisse
5. Rianne Busschers Hollande
6. Anne Rougie France
7. Alexandra Cornelius Allemagne
8. Ellen Bollansee Belgique

Elite Men
1. Robert de Wilde Hollande
2. Christophe Leveque France
3. Mario Andres Soto Colombie
4. Frédéric King France
5. Pieter Does Hollande
6. Florent Boutte France
7. John Purse USA
8. Thomas Allier France
rest of the US guys had to watch the main from the stands.
Everyone’s eyes were on Leveque and Allier for the win. The day before they battled it out in Elite Men’s Cruiser and Leveque came away with the win. They were both going fast. When the gate dropped, Leveque charged to the lead with Holland’s Robert de Wilde in second. Allier got into trouble over the big set of doubles on the first straight and couldn’t keep control of things. He crashed shortly after the next roller. Leveque continued to lead and looked strong¿until the third straight. With three jumps to deal with Christophe played it safe and rode cautiously. This gave de Wilde, who was charging hard, time to pick a line and make a move. Christophe drifted to the middle while de Wilde gunned for the inside line into the last turn. With the door wide open, he swooped in and pulled along side Leveque. Instead of hitting him and putting him over the berm, de Wilde rode a clean line¿barely touching Leveque¿and the two raced down the last straight rhythm. Christophe looked like he could have pulled him and regained the lead, but he was left in softer dirt and couldn’t get going. The win went to de Wilde and goes down as one of the biggest upsets ever.

One To Remember
This year’s Worlds was one of the best races I’ve ever been too. And many of the other Americans will say the same thing. The French and the UCI definitely showed us how a race should be done. Hopefully Bob Tedesco took down some notes¿there was a lot to be learned from everything (the track, the daily scheduling, the announcing, the hype, the arena, etc.).
Above and beyond all of that, the Elite Men’s main event made the whole trip worthwhile. The excitement, the drama, and the respect the riders had for each other was unbelievable¿as was the final outcome. For the Worlds, it surpassed most expectations. I won’t for get it anytime time soon, and I’m sure the riders won’t either.

Results

Junior Cruiser
1. Chad Hernaez USA
2. Michal Prokop Tchequie
3. Medhi Remili France
4. Kelvin Batey Angleterre
5. Jason Ream USA
6. Steven Larralde USA
7. Philip Wildhaber Suisse
8. Dan Shanahan USA

Junior Women
1. Gabriela Diaz Argentine
2. Simone Dur Autriche
3. Elodie Ajinca France
4. Rachel Galindo France
5. Aurelia Don France
6. Lucia Oetjen Suisse
7. Emilie Auzoux France
8. Heather Bruns USA

Junior Men
1. Dan Shanahan USA
2. Steven Larralde USA
3. Kelvin Batey Angleterre
4. Rob Van Den Wildenberg Hollande
5. Milan Krebs Slovaquie
6. Stéphane Renaud France
7. Jamie Gray Australie
8. Chad Hernaez USA

Elite Cruiser
1. Christophe Leveque France
2. Thomas Allier France
3. Jason Richardson USA
4. Mario Andres Soto Colombie
5. Carmine Falco France
6. Denis Labigang France
7. Steve Veltman USA
8. Jocelyn Ruiz France

Elite Women
1. Audrey Pichol France
2. Dagmar Polakova Slovaquie
3. Melanie Boudoux France
4. Tatjana Schocher Suisse
5. Rianne Busschers Hollande
6. Anne Rougie France
7. Alexandra Cornelius Allemagne
8. Ellen Bollansee Belgique

Elite Men
1. Robert de Wilde Hollande
2. Christophe Leveque France
3. Mario Andres Soto Colombie
4. Frédéric King France
5. Pieter Does Hollande
6. Florent Boutte France
7. John Purse USA
8. Thomas Allier France