BMX bandits hope to put brakes on GB gold show

Australia's Sam Willoughby and Frenchwoman Magalie Pottier will be among the riders aiming to stop Britain bagging more Olympic cycling gold from the BMX events later this week.

BMX -- or bicycle motorcross to give the sport its full name -- made its Olympic debut in Beijing where Latvian Maris Strombergs and Frenchwoman Anne-Caroline Chausson won the men's and women's inaugural golds.

And while Britain have continued their domination of track in the Olympic velodrome, the BMX field is far more competitive.

Willoughby, a 21-year-old from Adelaide, is BMX's newest world champion, having won gold earlier this year ahead of Frenchman Joris Daudet.

As Australia continues to reel from having won only two gold medals, Willoughby brushed off suggestions his squad had been cursed.

"I'm not superstitious. There's no curses. I did the work and I have 100 percent faith in what I've done," said Willoughby.

Both the men's and women's field raced the Olympic Park circuit in a test event last year. It has since undergone changes after a number of riders were injured.

Pottier believes the changes make for a more exciting, and fairer race.

"Now it's better, because some riders had an advantage over others from the starting point and also because there were some areas soggier than others," said Pottier, a world champion earlier this year.

"Now the first right is the same for the men's and women's events. Then the girls we'll have a tunnel, which is something new."

British medal hope Liam Phillips welcomed the changes too: "They have downscaled things a lot since the test event which I think is a good move in my opinion.

"The test event was too extreme, it was over and above what was expected."

The men's and women's events start Wednesday with a seeding run which takes the shape of an individual time trial to determine positions for the first elimination phase.

On Thursday heats of eight riders compete in the knockout rounds, with the top two progressing, followed by repechages and more knockouts until a final field of eight emerges for Friday's finals.

Britain's big gold medal hope, former track sprinter Shanaze Reade, is hoping to make amends after the heartache of crashing out of the 2008 final.

"After the last Olympic Games I had a kind of love/hate relationship with the Olympics," she said.

"Coming into this Olympics feels so normal and relaxed. I have been on the BMX course and I won the test event so coming in I just want to enjoy the event."

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