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Practicing on replica track pays off big for four American riders

August 20, 2008|Kevin Baxter | Times Staff Writer

BEIJING -- The United States Olympic Committee and U.S. Cycling spent half a million dollars last year to construct a BMX supercross track in Chula Vista patterned after the Olympic venue in Lao-shan.

And judging from the results on the first day of Olympic BMX racing today, it was money well spent because all four U.S. riders advanced to Thursday's semifinals.

Santa Clarita rider Mike Day, who moved to Chula Vista eight months ago to train on the USOC track, put on the most dominating effort, posting the top time-trial mark of the day, then blowing away the field in each of his three quarterfinals to advance to the next round as the man to beat.

"It couldn't have gone any better," Day said. "It just seemed like everything was almost effortless. It just felt perfect.

"So hopefully tomorrow will be the same way."

Also advancing easily to the semifinals was teammate Donny Robinson of Napa, the top-ranked men's rider in the world and the winner of last year's World Cup race here, and Seattle's Jill Kintner on the women's side.

"I feel real good," said Day, who didn't trail another rider in any of his runs. "Hopefully I'll get a couple of hours of sleep tonight. And not stare at the ceiling."

But Kyle Bennett of Conroe, Texas, the top rider on the U.S. circuit last year, had a tougher go of it. After finishing in the top four in his first two quarterfinals, he got tangled up with Raymon van der Biezen of the Netherlands coming out of the first turn of the 390-meter course and fell hard, dislocating his left shoulder. After being attended to by medical personnel, Bennett, in obvious pain, refused a stretcher and rode off the course on his bike.

Despite not finishing the third run of his heat, Bennett grabbed the final qualifying spot for the semifinal heats. And despite the dislocated shoulder, he said he hoped to race Thursday.

All 16 female competitors moved on to Thursday's semifinals after two time trials today. Kintner, the only U.S. woman in the field, was eighth after the first time trial but moved up one spot by shaving more than a second off her time in her second run.

Anne-Caroline Chausson of France had the fastest woman's run of the day in her first trip around the 370-meter course but took a face-first spill in the final straight of her second run -- one of half a dozen crashes on the day.


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