‘We were riding to survive on Rio track’

Britain's Liam Phillips

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A day in the life of BMX rider Liam Phillips

Britain’s Liam Phillips says he was compelled to speak out about the Rio 2016 Olympic BMX course because of the safety risk to riders.

The 26-year-old became the figurehead for a movement which saw the world’s elite riders refuse to compete in a test event at the course in October 2015.

They claimed it was unsafe, with some jumps “too dangerous”, and forced the organisers to make changes.

Phillips returned to Rio this year to test the revised course and said he was pleased with the progress.

Phillips, who competes in the BMX Supercross World Cup in Manchester this weekend, told BBC Sport: “Six months ago it was unrideable – it was actually impossible to do a lap from start to finish.

“I felt obliged [to speak out] because there are a lot of young kids coming into the sport and we needed to stand up because the situation was upsetting.

“We want to race and be on the podium because you have beaten other riders, not just survived the track – and that’s literally what we were dealing with last year.”

Discussing his return to the venue, he added: “They only finished the day before we started riding so the surface was still soft and there were teething issues, but it will be a very good race track in Rio.”


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Liam Phillips makes BMX history

A ‘huge year’ for Phillips

Phillips, who in 2015 became the first man to claim back-to-back overall BMX World Cup titles, hopes to start a “huge year” with a season-opening victory in Manchester, before the World Championships and Olympics.

He missed the Argentina World Cup last month in preparation for his attempt at a fourth successive Manchester Supercross victory.

“Each year the pressure ramps up, but I’m proud of my record and want to keep that momentum going,” said Phillips.

“I don’t think I have anything to prove, but I love starting with a race here.”

Phillips has won every title on his ‘home’ track since Manchester first hosted a Supercross World Cup event in 2013.

He is joined in the Great Britain team by Kyle Evans, Tre Whyte and Quillan Isidore, with Paddy Sharrock missing through injury.

How does Olympic qualification work?

The British team have only secured two BMX places – one male and one female – at an Olympics since the sport made its debut at Beijing 2008.

They should again seal one female qualification place, but will attain the maximum three male spots if they rank inside the top four at the end of the Olympic qualification period in May.

GB are currently fifth with 3,993 points, with France fourth on 4,278 and a race victory worth 225 points.

“It’s a position we’ve never been in before and two years ago when we started this process we weren’t thinking anything like this could be possible,” said Phillips.

“I’ll ride the best I can to pick up points, but we’ve been open as a squad and they [Evans and Whyte] know they need to step up and score points themselves.”

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