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Smulders' strategy pays dividends

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Cycling BMX

Friday 26 June
BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: A general view of the riders during the Women's BMX Motos Heat 1 run 1 during day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the BMX Velopark on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: A general view of the riders during the Men's BMX Motos Heat 2 run 3 during day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the BMX Velopark on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: (L-R) Simone Christensen of Denmark, Nadja Pries of Germany, Laura Smulders of the Netherlands and Sandra Aleksejeva of Latvia compete in the Women's BMX Motos Heat 2 during day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the BMX Velopark on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images for BEGOC)
© Getty Images
BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: Jan Svub of the Czech Republic competes in the Men's BMX Time Trial qualifying during day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the BMX Velopark on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: Ghinio van de Weyer of Belgium competes in the Men's BMX Time Trial qualifying during day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the BMX Velopark on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: A general view of the riders as Simone Christensen of Denmark leads Romana Labounkova of Czech Republic during the Women's BMX Motos Heat 2 run 2 during day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the BMX Velopark on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
© Getty Images
BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: A general view in the Cycling BMX Men's Motos Heat 3 run 2 during day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the BMX Velopark on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: Amidou Mir of France competes in the Men's BMX Time Trial qualifying during day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the BMX Velopark on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: Niklas Lausten of Denmark competes in the Men's BMX Time Trial qualifying during day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the BMX Velopark on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: Renaud Blanc of Switzerland competes in the Men's BMX Time Trial qualifying during day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the BMX Velopark on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: A general view of the riders during the Men's BMX Motos Heat 1 run 3 during day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the BMX Velopark on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
© Getty Images
BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: (L-R) Simone Christensen of Denmark, Nadja Pries of Germany, Laura Smulders of the Netherlands and Sandra Aleksejeva of Latvia compete in the Women's BMX Motos Heat 2 during day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the BMX Velopark on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images for BEGOC)
© Getty Images
BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: A general view in the Cycling BMX Men's Motos Heat 2 run 3 during day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the BMX Velopark on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images for BEGOC)
© Getty Images
BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: Competitors practice ahead of the Men's BMX Time Trial qualifying during day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the BMX Velopark on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
© Getty Images
BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: Competitors practice ahead of the Women's BMX Time Trial qualifying during day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the BMX Velopark on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
© Getty Images
BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 26: Elke Vanhoof of Belgium competes in the Women's BMX Time Trial qualifying during day fourteen of the Baku 2015 European Games at the BMX Velopark on June 26, 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images for BEGOC)
© Getty Images
Saved her strength in qualification for the motos heats

Laura Smulders of the Netherlands stormed into the final of the women's BMX cycling competition after winning two of her motos heats despite starting from less favourable lane positions at the BMX Velopark in Baku on Friday.

The London 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist finished only 11th in the qualification time trial earlier in the day, claiming there were "no prizes to be won" at that stage of the event. She turned on the power when it mattered, though, going under 38.4 seconds in all three of her motos heats and only dropping a position in the second run.

"It was necessary, because I'm quite tired now," said Smulders of her strategy for the event. "In both heats there were very strong contenders, so you can't hold back in a field like this. If you do that, you will be closed in and then it's over."

Denmark's Simone Christensen capitalised in the run in which Smulders failed to win, clocking 38.058 as she also eased into the final.

The best BMX images from Friday's action can be viewed here

The fastest female rider through the motos was Belgian Elke Vanhoof, who won both time trials and then clocked 36.949 seconds in her final run of the day to send a strong message to her rivals.

"I wanted to finish on a high note, so I gave something extra in the final run and that paid off," Vanhoof said. "I wanted to see where we stand, because times don't lie." 

In the men's event, three riders cruised into the semi-finals by winning all three of their heats in the motos.

World no.4 Joris Daudet of France – the highest-ranked male BMX rider in Baku – could not improve on his 32.938 from the time trial, but was still fast enough to win all three runs in his heat by at least a bike length in an untroubled route to the semi-finals.

"I have been training hard for this and it was my goal," said a confident Daudet of his performance. "This was not unexpected. Hopefully I will do the same on Sunday and bring home the gold medal."

There was double joy for France with Amidou Mir also posting a perfect record, while Twan van Gendt added some Dutch orange to the French blue with three wins from three in his heat. 

These three will be the riders the others will have to beat in order to secure a podium place on Sunday.
 
There were several crashes in the motos on Friday as the BMX competition underlined its reputation for risk-taking and danger.

Nadja Pries suffered the heaviest fall just before the first bend in her second heat, but the German world no.25 was able to walk away after receiving medical attention on the track.

Among the men, Italy's Romain Riccardi, Jan Svub of the Czech Repubic and Norwegian Tore Navrestad all lost their wheels in separate crashes. The wipeout of the day involved Russian team-mates Evgeny Komarov and Evgeny Kleshchenko, who crossed the line in their final run in a mass tangle of arms and legs after a collision.

Both still qualified for the semi-finals, which will be run before the women's final on Sunday.

The men's final will complete the Baku 2015 European Games cycling competitions at 16:30 on Sunday.


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    Daudet dominates final to secure men's BMX title

    Frenchman takes gold, Dutchman Van Gendt gets silver and Swiss Graf grabs bronze
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    Smulders' strategy pays dividends

    Saved her strength in qualification for the motos heats
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    Europe's top BMX teams ready to jump into action

    Men's world no.4 Joris Daudet says France are 'here for the win'
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