Copyright BMX Australia

Rising BMX star Saya Sakakibara and the in-form Matthew Juster have claimed victories in the final round of the BMX Australia Grands Assault National Series at the Sleeman Sports Complex today, sewing up their respective titles in the process.

The fifth round of this new-for-2017 series was the opening event of the 2017 BMX Australia National Championship race week, with riders taking on the testing Sleeman supercross track in wet conditions. Adding spice to the on-track action was the offer of double points for today’s final round.

Also on offer, for those in contention for their respective Grands Assault series titles, was the grand prize of return flights, accommodation and entry into November’s USA Grand Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma – an event touted to be the ‘greatest race on earth’.

Racing against training partner Leanna Curtis and long-time rival Sara Jones of Queensland, Sakakibara stepped up to the plate again today to win her third Grands Assault round. Although happy to chalk up another win, the Wollongong local noted that today’s racing was more taxing than she had anticipated.

“Today was a really tiring day for me. I was really knackered and this weather didn’t help. So during those motos I just had to keep reaffirming myself to push through,” Sakakibara managed through short breaths, moments after winning the series.

“In today’s final I think I had a really good start and carried it through. I knew that Sara and Leanna would be right there with me, and they pushed me the whole way. It was great to finish first.

“Today, with this weather I felt very tired. I actually felt quite dizzy from the effort I needed to put in and everyone agreed that it took more out of us having to concentrate harder and race in wet conditions.

“This result sets me up well for the race for the junior elite women’s national title later this week. It’s a good high and I have the confidence to know that I can get through this track fast.”

In the men’s event the spoils went to Juster, who time and time again this season as proved to be the class of the men’s field.

The towering Sunshine Coast-based Northern Territory-raised rider qualified for the final courtesy of two firsts and a second place in the motos, as did South Australia’s Shane Rosa. Despite equal points, Juster came into the final as the favourite as he looked to make it three Grands Assault round wins on the trot.

Running a measured race, Juster kept his rivals at bay and secured the title – his second in a handful of weeks, after he won the National Series crown at the beginning of April in Cairns.

“I had a decent start, I am pretty sure that Kai [Sakakibara] out-snapped me on the gate, but then I got him into the first corner, even though I was braking and trying not to slide out in the wet,” Juster said.

“I started cramping in the race, which meant I had to try and minimise my pedals, and I had a smooth clean lap.

“Back in round one I got eighth and I knew I needed to step it up then. This has been my best season ever and today’s result was the icing on the cake.”

Just like Saya Sakakibara, Juster will be hoping to take confidence from today’s victory ahead of Saturday’s race for the elite men’s national title. When asked if he had the speed to take it to Olympians Anthony Dean and Bodi Turner later this week, Juster deadpanned “yes” with little hesitation.

In the A-Pro men’s race Lake Macquarie BMX Club’s Nathaniel Rodway claimed victory and the series title, beating Kyle Green across the line. In the Vet-Pro race Luke Marsh got his second win of the series to also claim the title.

The youngest male classes saw Fletcher Klepiak win today’s 10-boy’s race and series title, while Victoria’s Joshua Jolley did the same in the 11-year’s boy’s event. At the time of publication the final standings in the 12-years-boy’s event were under review.

Tyson Kenny claimed victory in the 13 boys’ today, and like Klepiak and Jolley before him, he also secured the title. In contrast Buddha Baum won today’s event, but even with double points on the table it wasn’t enough to win the series, which went to Nerang’s Jesse Asmus.

Oliver Moran won the 15-boy’s event and title today, while Kale Warner won the 16-boy’s series. New Zealand’s Cailen Calkin won today’s final round of the 16-year-boy’s, however only Australian’s were eligible to win the series and major prize. Meanwhile in the 17-32 men’s class Dirk Winter remained unbeaten for the entire season to claim his series victory.

On the girl’s side of the ledger Portia Eden pulled off a season just as stunning as Winter did in the men’s 17-32 class, as she won every single round and the 10-years-girl’s title, while in the 11-years-girl’s the spoils went to Sacha Mills in both the race and the points score.

Ashmore BMX Club cheered on Isabella Schramm as she raced to victory in the final and won the series in the 12-year-girl’s class. She beat home Northern Territorian Caitlin Jong of Satellite City BMX Club to do so.

Riding high in the 13-girl’s class was Kira Hill who won today, and won the series, while Shannon Petre overcame a disrupted practice session this morning to claim her fifth-straight win of the season and the 14-girl’s title.

Kathryn McGee won the 15-girl’s race today, but was unable to peg back Phoebe Wallen’s series lead, the latter securing the title. In the 16-year-girl’s there was joy for Castle Hill BMX Club as Ashlee Miller won her final today and the title.

In the 17+ women’s class Clare McNamara beat home Aislynn Weber, but it was Weber who proved the most consistent and won the series.

The 2017 BMX Australia National Championships begin in earnest tomorrow with the Cruiser, Sprocket and Retro classes taking to the track. On Friday the Challenge classes race, while Saturday will see the Championship classes – including Sakakibara and Juster – take centre stage.

The event will be live streamed at the BMX Australia website. Entry is free for spectators.