Five boys on bikes take on world's best

CHE BAKER IN ALEXANDRA
Last updated 12:04 24/07/2013
Southland Times photo
CHE BAKER/Fairfax NZ
Ben James, 7, Duncan Sutherland, 12, and Lachie James, 9, at the Alexandra BMX track last week.

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They may look too little to be taking on the world but that's exactly what five boys representing Alexandra will be doing this week.

Members of the Alexandra BMX Club have made their way to Auckland to compete for the New Zealand team at the ICU BMX World Championships.

The team consists of Ben James, 7, Duncan Sutherland, 12, and Lachie James, 9, Josh Smith, 13, and Fletcher Sharman, 14.

Sharman, who is originally from Central Otago and now based in Townsville, Australia, qualified for the event for both the New Zealand and Australian teams and chose to stick with his roots and represent New Zealand.

Daniel McElhinney, of Alexandra, will also be representing the team in the over-30 age group.

Club president Steve Adair said the team will have some stiff competition as they compete against the best riders from across the globe.

It was the first time New Zealand had hosted the event and the club would be well represented at the competition for a small club, Mr Adair said.

With Ben ranked number one in the South Island for his age group and Duncan ranked second, there was potential of the team bringing home a world title.

The youngest riders at the event will be five years old and the oldest will be 73 year old Tony Rika, of Hamilton.

About 800 age group riders from clubs around the country will make up the largest chunk of the 2000 competitors at the competition, which has attracted interest from 30 countries.

It was also expected to lure about 28,0000 spectators.

The Alex riders usually trained up to six times a week but heavy rain in June disrupted practice as the track was too wet.

While the boys said they were excited, the thought of crashing during the race and having a bad start meant they were also nervous.

The team has spent the past two days becoming familiar with the track, which has been especially built at Auckland's Vector Arena by the same company which constructed the London Olympic track.

The start-studded line-up at the event will include New Zealand BMX star Sarah Walker, who was the London Olympic silver medallist and 2009 World Champion, and double olympic gold medallist Maris Strombergs, from Latvia, who was considered the sport's biggest name.

Walker, who has her arm in a brace after fracturing her radius in a crash racing in the United States, was determined to compete in the event.

"If it was not in New Zealand then I would probably consider skipping it because of the injury," she said.

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The competition wraps up on Sunday.

- The Mirror

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