Ross Cullen Competes at the World Championships

Earlier on this year the Dave Hitchen Fund provided a grant to Ross Cullen, an extremely talented 14 year old BMX rider. He wanted to go to the World Championships in Colombia to defend his World Title. Ross has now competed at the World Championships and has sent us a race report so we could share with everyone how he went on.

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I have been preparing for the UCI BMX World Championships since late 2015 and the event was scheduled for the 23rd to the 29th May this year in Medellin , Colombia. On the 19th May I flew from Manchester to Miami where I had 2 days to acclimatise & start to reset my body to the time difference (6 hours behind the UK) as there are no direct flights to Medellin. I had some time in Miami on South Beach to stroll the beach, take a swim and I rode along Ocean Drive to see the Art Deco district. Onward travel to Medellin, Colombia was on Saturday 21st via a three and a half hour flight.

Colombia was an exciting place immediately….our small taxi managed to cram 4 people, all our luggage and 2 bike bags in…although the three of us in the back couldn’t move our arms or legs for the 30 minute journey through the mountains and we could only just see over the bike bags piled up to our chins! The view at night as we descended into Medellin was amazing, with the city lights filling the valley and sides of the mountains.Pic 2 cropped

Sunday morning was spent relaxing at the hotel , building my bike up and getting ready for some training at a local track in Envigado. We arrived at the track at 2pm and met up with some riders from the USA, Venezuela, Chile & Colombia and got used to riding my bike again having not been on it for about a week. The track was in a built up area and part of a sport complex, not in as good condition as many UK tracks but was great to ride. At 4pm we made our way to the track where the main event was being held later in the week to collect our race number plates and view the track for the first time. Unfortunately the track wasn’t ready and we could not view it…. That made us all a little nervous as we were due to practice on it the following morning at 9:30!!

We were up at 6:30 to have breakfast and were on the bus to the track at by 7:30. Practice went ahead as planned and by 10am the temperature was around 27 degrees and it was really humid. We were also at about 5000ft above sea level so I was feeling the strain of the difference in conditions to UK & European races. I think I must have drank well over a litre of water during practice !!

Practice went well and although the track was more of a USA style track with smaller jumps & less technical than most European tracks, I felt good after my 6 practice laps. Tuesday was similar with an early start & practice. I tried a few new lines on the track, and concentrated on getting used to the climate. Our evenings were spent out in the bustling town finding somewhere to eat and taking in the sights and sounds of the city, then early to bed.

Wednesday was race day for the younger riders so I relaxed & then went to the track to watch. We were back in the hotel for an evening meal and there was a real big thunderstorm… we were hoping it would stay dry but it wasn’t to be so.. off to bed by 9:00!

Thursday came early with a 5am start . Breakfast and off to the track by 6:15. The previous night’s storm had caused problems with the track, which had not been covered over with tarps. Practice was due to start at 7:20 and racing at 8.We were told that the track needed to be repaired and that if repairs could not be made by 11am, the event would be cancelled! We were also told that the qualification 3 races that you do to get through the first phase would be cut to 1 or 2 races which meant any mistakes would probably take you out of the competition as you may not have the other races to recover points. It was time to sit & wait nervously while the repairs went ahead.

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At 10am I started to warm up & stretch again in readiness for the 11am start . The track repairs were complete and the event was on, but only 2 qualification races as suspected. One quick practice lap & then me and the other 97 riders in my age class were straight into qualification races. Some of the riders I knew and had raced against them before but many of the South Americans were an unknown.

First lap and, as the track had been repaired with cement powder, the dust was everywhere. Mostly in our throats!

I won both qualification races and went into the 1/8ths finals (remaining 64 riders) from this point on it’s only the first 4 riders (of the 8 in a race) over the line who progress to the next race. I won that race and progressed to ¼ finals (last 32 riders) and got a second place to the European Champion from Latvia. I won my semi-final and was absolutely stoked to make the final again. I have made the final in every World Championship I had attended & really wanted to keep that consistency and have a chance to get that World Title .

In between races it had been a process of keeping cool by stripping off race kit and draping an ice cold towel around my head and shoulders, and keeping hydrated & fuelled, whilst riding gently around to get the lactic acid from my legs.

In the final there was a Latvian, two French riders, a Colombian, Australian, New Zealander, Argentinean and me . You get to choose your lane based on how you finished in the previous race, and I had second choice. I  chose lane 2. The European Champ from Latvia was on my inside in lane 1 and the fast Colombian was on my outside in 3. I knew this was going to be tough as these 2 riders had been fast all day . The other riders were spread across the other gates with the New Zealand rider out the far side in lane 8.

As the gate dropped I knew I had started well and drove hard to try to pull away from the 2 riders either side of me. By half way down the first straight and over the second set of jumps, I had managed to just about nose in front of the 2 riders with me in lanes 1 & 3 but felt the pressure of them being right on me. While I was battling with the 2 riders closest to me, the rider from New Zealand (and a friend of mine called Cailen) was in good space on the outside from lane 8 and was clear of traffic. He appeared on my outside at the end of the first straight, so we were about 10 seconds into the race, and he closed down my space further and was able to get into the first corner in front of me. The Latvian and Colombian then both made moves to go either side of me and I slipped back into 4th place as we exited the first corner. I managed to get between the 2 riders as we entered the 2nd straight and was elbow to elbow with the Colombian rider in a very physical battle for second place. I managed to hold them off, get into second place and maintained that position right up to the line.

To finish as World Number 2 was an amazing result in one of the toughest races and conditions I have ever raced in. My friend from New Zealand, Cailen was now World Champion, and as I had taken the title from him the previous year, I was pleased for him too.

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The rest of the trip was spent seeing a little of the city and culture in Medellin and resting. We visited the City centre with its modern art bronzes and the outlying Favelas (shanty towns) which we viewed from a cable car.

I would like to thank the Dave Hitchen Fund for the support and hope everyone is as pleased as I am with the result.

Thank you.

Ross Cullen


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