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BMX Kiwis kick start the Olympic campaign in Melbourne
19 Jan, 2008 - Sharon Payne

New Zealanders, Sarah Walker and Marc Willers claimed victory in the sixth BMX UCI Oceania Rounds in Melbourne today. In what was a New Zealand white wash the pair secured their respective leads in the overall series. Light rain did not deter the pair who now have their sight squarely focused on a potential spot at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.


Walker, currently ranked number one on the UCI world rankings, won all three races to take out round six. Local favourite, Ziggy Callan (Lilydale), gave early challenger, Krystal Cranfield (Gladstone/Brisbane) a run for her money. Callan also edged out Melissa Mankowski (Moranbah) to take second place with Mankowski in third. Walker now stays in the lead of the Oceania Series with only 4 races remaining. Ziggy Callan is determined to perform her best as the 19 year old tries to make an impression on selectors with eye on this year's Beijing Olympics. Third was Queensland's Melissa Mankowski and Cranfield placed a creditable fourth.


It was a guessing game in the elite men's race until final winner, Marc Willers, surged ahead in the final straight. A challenge was put out by strong starter, Queensland’s Jared Graves from Toowoomba. Willers fought back to secure the lead on the final turn. A strong challenge in the final straight came from Australia's top ranked Luke Madill (Penrith). Willers won by a tyre with Madill in second and Graves gaining third. Willers now stays in the lead in the UCI Oceania series while Madill maintains second in the series.


With nations and individuals keen to gain precious UCI points for rankings, the competition in the Oceania rounds is fierce. Nations need to be in the top 4 for men and the top 5 for women to take the maximum number of riders of three men and two women to the first Olympic Games for BMX in Beijing in August.


In the junior women's race a strong ride by Townsville's Rachel Bracken saw her win with New Zealand's Victoria Hill in second and national series leader Lauren Reynolds (Bunbury) in third.


In the junior men's race it was an unlucky crash for Victorian Michael Chasteauneuf (Eastfield) on the final berm that let strong Adelaide rider Sam Willoughby( (Happy Valley) claim victory. Some elbow action in the second turn sorted out the leaders until Chasteneauneuf touched Willoughby’s rear tyre. Fellow Victorian team-mate of Chasteauneuf's, Joshua Callan (Lilydale), rose to the occasion and placed second with Luke Lodema (Happy Valley) from Adelaide in third.


In the Hog’s Breath Café Champbikx division it was Victorian rider Matthew Dunsworth (Knox) who took the win while women’s winner was world number one Melinda Mc:Leod (Mackay).


Adam Shields gave Mackay another win in the 15 boys. Adelaide’s Zain Ariffin (Happy Valley) claimed the 14 boys while Queensland’s Chelsea King (Nerang) secured the girls win.


Riders continue this week in the Track Attack Series in Melbourne with the next two rounds of the Oceania Series to be held in New Zealand on 16-17 February. The final two rounds of the UCI Oceania will be in Penrith, Sydney on the 8-9 March.

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