The perfect start: it's first things first for BMX champion Twan van Gendt
© Jarno Schurgers/Red Bull Content Pool
Looking for any kind of competitive advantage ahead of a big summer in Tokyo, the Dutch BMX racer is preparing by precisely recreating part of the BMX track that will be used.
As the current BMX Supercross World Champion, Twan van Gendt is one of the favourites to come out on top as we work up to the biggest sporting spectacle on the planet this July.
Dutchman van Gendt won those World Championships in nearby Belgium at the Heusden-Zolder circuit in 2019. He's acknowledged that being able to train at the Belgian course regularly was beneficial to him in winning the championship gold medal and pulling on the winner's rainbow jersey.
Searching for similar marginal gains as he attempts to emerge victorious in Japan brought him closer to home in the Netherlands. Just a few miles from his new home that he shares with his partner and fellow pro cyclist Puck Moonen to be exact. In nearby Ammerzoden, on the grounds of BMX and cyclo-cross club FCC Ammersoyen, van Gendt and his support team have built a replica of the start ramp and opening straight that will be used on the racing track in Tokyo.
Find out how van Gendt achieved his dream of being World Champion by watching his All or Nothing documentary [with English subtitles] below:
All or Nothing
The start ramp and opening straight in Ammerzoden has been a training facility for van Gendt since they were built in October 2020. It features a starting ramp that is eight metres high which then leads on to a 125m-long opening straight before the first corner arrives. van Gendt and his team were able get the key technical measurements of the Tokyo course to build this opening section in Ammerzoden.
I have to make the difference at the start
Why has just the start and opening straight been built? It's because according to van Gendt, 80 percent of BMX races are decided before the first corner. It's important to get the best start you can.
The opening straight features three jumps before the first corner and for the Games in Tokyo these jumps have been designed differently to most of the courses that the pros ride on for the UCI World Cup. They have been built and specified to a height that make it a more flowing ride for female BMXers. The opening section will take some time to get used to if you're not riding on the Japanese course regularly. In this course in Ammerzoden, van Gendt has an obvious advantage of working out how best to ride those jumps to gain speed and time ahead of the main event.
"I know I have to make the difference at the start and the first few jumps, that's my strength. And when Red Bull asked me how they could help me, I said: with my start. Together we came up with the idea of rebuilding this track, so that I can perfect that first part in the coming months.
“The way you approach the first and second jumps comes down to technique. I'll be trying to find the best technique that allows me to keep in constant contact with the track so to maintain speed."
A return to van Gendt's roots
Ammerzoden and the FCC Ammersoyen grounds are less than 10 minutes' drive from van Gendt's house in Rosmalen. It's a perfect location for the two-time Dutch national champion to get training done. van Gendt left the confines of the national BMX Race programme of the Royal Dutch Cycling Union in 2018 to go his own way with a personal coach in former rider Martijn Jaspers, and so has not had the same access to the national track in Papendal since then.
FCC Ammersoyen is important to van Gendt for another reason. It was here where he first started to race as a youngster, using the old BMX track at the location. He's still affiliated to the club from that time.
The area in where the start ramp and opening straight has been built for van Gendt is away from the old track. While he obviously has priority to use the newly built bit, van Gendt hopes there will be some sort of legacy from his presence on the FCC Ammersoyen grounds. This includes inspiring local youngsters to use the facility and ride the opening straight of his training set-up.
"I want to see how we can let other BMXers enjoy this. Because it is a shame to keep such a great place only for myself."