Rio Olympics: BMX track gets poor grade in test event

The BMX track for next year's Rio Olympics hosted its first test event on Sunday, but many of the world's best riders opted out due to unsafe conditions.

Canada's Tory Nyhaug claims track is "not race ready"

Canadian Tory Nyhaug, left, is one of several top BMX riders that made the trip to Rio for the track's first test event. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

The BMX track for next year's Rio Olympics hosted its first test event on Sunday but received a poor grade from riders.

The two-day test event was reduced to one day after some of the world's top riders declined to race on Saturday, citing dangerous jumps and turns.

Organizers tried to modify the track for Sunday, but both men and women wound up using the women's circuit as the men's course was deemed too risky.

To add to the problems, Sunday's racing was washed out by a downpour after three hours.

"The changes have improved it, but it's still not race ready," said Tory Nyhaug of Canada, who won gold in the recent Pan Am Games in Toronto. "There will still have to be some changes made for the Olympics, for sure."

The track was designed by Tom Ritzehthaler, who also built the courses for the last two Olympics in Beijing and London.

"When we first rolled up it was definitely dangerous," Nyhaug said. "There were some jumps that were pretty dangerous for us that we wouldn't have jumped."

Mariana Pajon of Colombia, the gold medallist three years ago in London, called the track "fast and challenging with bigger jumps than usual" and said it had improved in the last few says.

Pajon has broken 18 bones in her career — and she's proud of it.

"I have more broken bones than world titles," she said, ticking off fractures to her wrists, ribs, collarbones and ankles.

"If you want to do something safe, just go swimming," she added.

Dutch rider Niek Kimmann said riders were disappointed to race so little, and several said they would probably return before the Olympic to practice.

"It's not a good thing that a lot of riders show up and it isn't completely ready," Kimmann said.

Finishing the track is a relatively small concern for Rio organizers, who are saddled with much larger challenges.

Venues for sailing, rowing and canoeing are being held in waters rife with bacteria and viruses with only stop-gap measures being deployed before the games open Aug. 5, 2016.

Organizers are also being forced to cut their budgets with Brazil sinking into a deep recession. Inflation is running at 10 per cent with calls for President Dilma Rousseff to be impeached.

Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes and Carlos Nuzman, head of the Rio organizing committee, both said track problems should be blamed on UCI, the world governing body of cycling, which they said had approved the track layout.

Both promised the track would be ready when the Olympics open.

Nuzman was adamant in blaming UCI and said racing should have been allowed on Saturday. He said the UCI official in charge of the track had been "weak" in calling off the event on Saturday.

"Whoever wanted to race, should have raced," Nuzman said. "Whoever chose not to race ... I think they should look to be in another sport."


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