(Reuters) A frantic 40-second ride on a bumpy, dirt track decided the gold medal in the BMX final at the London Olympics but left Australia's Caroline Buchanan with four years to stew over a chance gone begging.

UPDATE: Caroline Buchanan won the first round of UCI BMX Supercross World Cup in Argentina today. Replay above. 

A frantic 40-second ride on a bumpy, dirt track decided the gold medal in the BMX final at the London Olympics but left Australia's Caroline Buchanan with four years to stew over a chance gone begging.

The Canberra native entered the final at the Velopark after setting the fastest time in the seeding runs but a poor start out of the gate saw her finish fifth and the title go to Colombia's Mariana Pajon.

It was a crushing blow for a 21-year-old widely tipped to win a medal after dominating on tracks around the world.

Buchanan has had more than enough time to analyse her disappointment, while building the title-winning confidence she believes will bring her best rides at the Rio de Janeiro Games.

"I just put London down to being my first Olympics," the 25-year-old told Reuters in an interview.

"It's not every day you stand in front of thousands of people like that, wearing the green and gold of Australia. You feel the support of the country but it can also very easily feel like the pressure of the nation.

"Physically, I was more than ready but mentally I probably wasn't. The Olympics is a whole other ball-game. It's such a different level to any other events. Everyone just really rises up another level."

Buchanan dug herself out of her post-London funk by bagging world titles in BMX and mountain biking, earning herself the nickname 'Queen of the Dirt" and winning Australia's Sir Hubert Opperman Medal as the country's most successful cyclist in 2013.

She has continued to climb podiums at major events since, with her profile in the extreme sport bolstered by a big following on her social media accounts.

The Olympic effect on BMX since its debut at the 2008 Beijing Games has meant more of the world's elite riders can support themselves full-time from prize money and endorsements.

Mainstream Media

Buchanan has a healthy roster of corporate backers attracted by the big online audiences her on-track videos draw.

"BMX didn't really have a lot of access to mainstream media before," she said.

"Before, it was about being able to tell fans about myself and what I'm doing but now it's become sort of a really crucial tool.

"For sponsorship, social media is quite key for a lot of brands. They ask you what your following is... They want that return on investment."

Buchanan spoke to Reuters by telephone from Argentina where she was preparing for a BMX World Cup event in Santiago Del Estero, a sleepy provincial capital in northern Argentina.

With Colombia's Pajon winning gold at London and Rio the next Olympic host, BMX has enjoyed huge growth in Latin America.

Colombia will host the world championships from May 25 in Medellin and Buchanan has picked up more than a few phrases in Spanish from touring the continent.

Bringing a medal home to Australia could prove a similar boost for Australia's BMX scene, which has ridden in the tail-winds of the country's traditional strengths in track and road cycling.

"I spend a lot of my time in America and the BMX doesn't really get as much support over there," said Buchanan, who has a training base in California.

"It's probably one of the great things about Australia, (the authorities) do get behind the niche sports."

 

Sunday 27 Mar 2016

Get in the mood for tonight's race. Watch videos of Wiggle-High 5's recon and highlights of the men's race from last year. 

The event was due to take place on April 30 and May 1 but logistical problems mean the velodrome will not be ready until at least May 31.

"The track cycling test event has been cancelled and will be replaced by a training opportunity June 25th through the 27th,” Mario Andrada told reporters.

"We are 120 per cent confident it will be ready for the Olympics."

Andrada said the delay came in laying the track, which is made from Siberian wood.

"We had some logistical problems, such as unloading the wood into the venue and to install containers and offices, and we realised that it was too close for us to make sure that the track was perfectly installed," Andrada said.

South America's first Olympic Games begin on Aug. 5 and run until Aug 21.

"Outside of China, there are two reasons why the name Li Fuyu might be familiar – if at all – to pro cycling observers.

Firstly, there’s Li Fuyu as pioneer. When Discovery Channel plucked him from the Trek-sponsored Marco Polo Continental team in October 2006, his signature was the first by a Chinese rider to dry on a ProTeam contract.

One year later, the team disbanded.

Discovery had decided not to continue as a sponsor in early 2007 and the team, led by Johan Bruyneel, couldn’t secure funding to continue. This ensured that Li returned to the Continental ranks with Discovery Channel – Marco Polo for two more years. He raced his legs off, won the 2009 China National Games ITT gold medal and returned to the ProTour with Bruyneel’s Radioshack team in 2010.

Secondly, there’s Li Fuyu as drug cheat – or victim, depending on the eye of the beholder. His was one of the earliest cases of a ProTeam rider testing positive for traces of Clenbuterol following doping controls at the 2010 Dwars Door Vlaanderen in Belgium.

Li was provisionally suspended by Radioshack in late April and, after a positive B sample was confirmed in early August, handed a two-year suspension. Or, at least that’s what has been reported.

“I stopped international racing and the Chinese Cycling Association (CCA) told me that I just had to wait,” recounts Li, almost exactly six years after his fateful encounter with a UCI-approved beaker. “I never had a ban in writing from CCA.

“I had a long time training. 2010 was a very difficult time. I didn’t want to stop riding for such a big team.”

But stop he did, never to return to ProTeam level. To this day, he maintains dodgy meat was the culprit.

“I don’t know what happened,” says Li. “I think the food in China was the problem, but I cannot attack my country; I’m Chinese. I love China and things are getting better fast.”

Li wasn’t to know that Tinkoff-Saxo rider Michael Rogers would invoke the same defence four years later and be exonerated by the UCI:

“Upon careful analysis of Mr Rogers’ explanations and the accompanying technical reports the UCI found that that there was a significant probability that the presence of clenbuterol may have resulted from the consumption of contaminated meat from China.”

When this is mentioned to Li, he points out the disadvantages of being first. “I was the first case, so nobody knows how it can happen,” he says, before adding somberly “but this is my life.”" 

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