1 Feb 2016

Walker and Jones top Oceania BMXers

12:41 pm on 1 February 2016

New Zealand BMX riders Sarah Walker and Trent Jones pressed their claims for the Rio Olympics after beating out tough competition near Pukekohe.

Sarah Walker, 2011.

Sarah Walker, 2011. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

A day after claiming the men's and women's titles at the National Elite BMX Championships at the same venue, they led the way for a superb day for local riders at the UCI Oceania Continental Championships.

Jones dominated the elite men's final while Walker, on her return to the sport after an injury-plagued last two years, edged out world No.4 Caroline Buchanan by the narrowest of margins to win the elite women's honours.

It proved an outstanding day, with the event carrying valuable qualifying ranking points.

Walker, the London Olympian, has been forced to deal with significant injury since early in 2012, but arrived at the championships fitter, stronger and healthier than for some years.

She forced her way up to Buchanan on the final straight to pip the Australian in the final moto to give her the overall Oceania title on countback.

With the women's title decided over three straight races, Walker finished third in the first race after a wide lane draw but absolutely nailed the second race to lead from the snap.

Buchanan and Lauren Reynolds (AUS) made the early running in the deciding moto, but Walker fought back on the second straight and showed her handling talents to haul in Buchanan on the final straight, with a photo-finish required to separate the pair.

Walker said all the hard work they had been doing in training paid off.

"The result today means I am back, I guess. This off-season training is the best I have ever had and I am tracking so well that it is so exciting to be starting to realise my potential. That is my goal this year, to see what I am actually capable of," she said.

In the men's division, Jones, world No.5 Sam Willoughby and fellow Australians Bodi Turner and Corey Frieswyk headed the four qualifying groups after their three motos.

Frieswyk impressed to edge out his Australian compatriot Matthew Juster in the first semifinal with Te Awamutu's Cody Hobbs, returning after two years out of the sport, third ahead of Willoughby who had to recover after a poor gate.

Jones was pushed hard but held off Turner, Josh Callan (AUS) with his Cycling New Zealand high performance team-mate, Matt Cameron claiming the final qualifying spot.

Jones made a strong start to the final, around the first turn before being challenged by Turner as the pair went aerial over the big jump on the second straight.

Turner got his line wrong and crashed heavily while Jones survived and from that point was in control to claim the win ahead of Juster and Frieswyk with Willoughby back in fourth.

Jones couldn't be happier with his weekend.

"Two wins in two days is great. I picked up my game today. Personally I find it easier with the tougher competition because you can't make a mistake and the motivation is easier for me," said Jones.

"This result adds some buffer for me in the rankings to hold that Olympic spot, with Rio the big target this year of course."

All elite riders will now look to prepare for the opening round of the UCI Supercross World Cup in Argentina at the end of March, with the Olympic qualifying process completed at the world championships in Colombia in May.

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