BMX the perfect start for big careers further down the track

SMART LEARNERS: BMX coach John Smart with club members. PHOTO: Bill North

BMX is the go-kart of the cycling world.

An internationally recognised sport in its own right, within its realm are the building blocks for several cycling disciplines.

Inevitably, to become an elite specialist you have to start somewhere. Mark Webber first turned the keys of a go-kart before he rose to world fame in Formula One, just as three-time Tour de France green-jersey winner Robbie McEwen cut his teeth on the bumps and berms of BMX.

Gold Coast professional BMX rider and coach John Smart attests BMX is the ideal entry for kids into the world of cycling.

"It's the go-karting of the cycling world," Smart said during a recent clinic in South Grafton.

"If you want to become a velodrome, road or mountain bike rider, generally you start from BMX. A lot of top riders started in BMX."

In his first visit to the Abbott Street complex, Smart held a Rider Development Camp for 12 Clarence Valley BMX Club members aged seven to 15.

Some are heading to the Australian titles, which start in Shepparton, Victoria, this Tuesday; others are beginners, while brothers Ryan and Drew Gilchrist come from the "mountain bike world" and were taking the opportunity to fine-tune their skills in BMX.

Sam Stanton, 15, and his brother Max, 12, already attend Smart's training camps at Nerang on a regular basis in a bid to win an Australian plate.

"They're looking to take the next step and qualify for the final," Smart said.

"We're accommodating each rider's levels, so it is limited to quite a small group.

"They don't get access to a lot of quality coaching, so it's good to get a coach to have a look and see what they need to work on."

Smart raced for 26 years, 10 as a full-time professional living in the United States, and winning the 2002 World Time Trial Championship, before returning to Australia in 2009.

He admitted more opportunities exist to make a living as a professional BMX rider overseas than in Australia.

"You can make a very, very good living," he said.

"There would be three or four guys making a full-time living based in Australia.

"We have a lot of depth here now with the Olympic program."

Australia's Sam Willoughby won a silver medal in the men's BMX at the London Olympics.

 More BMX and roundup on page 23.


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