PUT a BMX racing bike next to a track cycling bike and you are hard put to find any similarities.
Small and compact, with 20-inch wheels, the BMX bike is far removed from its larger, sleek and streamlined cousin designed for the track.
Yet, over the years, more than a few BMX riders have transitioned to track, where they have enjoyed outstanding careers. The explosive power and bike-handling skills required for BMX would appear to transfer perfectly onto the boards of a velodrome.
One of the latest athletes to attempt the switch is Japan’s Yoshitaku Nagasako. The 23-year-old was in Hong Kong at the International Cycling Union (UCI) Track Cycling World Championships presented by Tissot as starter in the Japanese team sprint.
A BMX trainee at the UCI World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland, from 2012 to 2016, he already has many years of top-level BMX competition in his legs, including UCI World Cups, UCI World Championships and Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“I started track cycling when I was based at the UCI World Cycling Centre,” he explained. We trained sometimes on the velodrome. I liked it and I thought I might have the potential to be a starter for the team sprint.”
Which is why Nagasako swapped his BMX bike for a track bike. We’re not talking cross-training or merely dabbling in track cycling, we’re talking high-level competition and high ambition. Yoshi, as he is known to most, is aiming to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in both disciplines.
“Of course, I talked about this to my coach at the UCI World Cycling Centre Thomas Allier. He helps me a lot and I will continue training BMX with him after the UCI World Championships in Hong Kong.
“It’s not easy racing all year round but the playing fields are different. The people are different, the bike is different…it’s good for me to change sometimes.”
Yoshi followed in the footsteps of some illustrious names who also made the transition—Great Britain’s multiple UCI World and Olympic champion on the track, Sir Chris Hoy, started out on a BMX bike. Racing BMX between the ages of seven and 14, he was ranked second in Britain, fifth in Europe and ninth in the world.
Others made the switch as adults, not least Jamie Staff who after becoming UCI World Champion for BMX (Cruiser) in 1996, turned to track and enjoyed an outstanding career, including several UCI World titles (keirin and team sprint) and being crowned Olympic Champion in the team sprint in 2008. Other Elite athletes who have switched between the two disciplines include Liam Phillips and Shanaze Reade. But why?
“BMX riders are very good at controlling their bikes,” UCI WCC track Coach Scott Bugden said. “That, together with their explosive power, means that once they are on a track bike, they just need to learn a few techniques and they are ready to go.”
Yoshi confirms: “In BMX we are always focused on the first straight, so we have power for that. And I believe that our bike skills and control are the best. When I was training in Aigle, we rode on the velodrome more in winter when it was snowing outside. It is good winter training, and going from standing starts to maximum speed is very similar to BMX.”
But there is no way that Yoshi is prepared to put his first love aside: “BMX is my sport and I will never stop. I like the feeling of being scared and trying to do something different from the others.”
While athletes before him have made a clear-cut transition from BMX to track (and in some cases back to BMX), Yoshi is determined to continue both in parallel.
“I will try to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games on the track and in BMX, and I would like to medal in both. Track gives more base power for BMX, and BMX gives more cadence to reach maximum speed on the track. Some people might think I should focus on one discipline, but I believe it helps to do both. I want to challenge myself and see how far my bike will take me.” UCI News