A ninth-place finish at the 2016 Summer Olympics wasn’t enough to preclude Corben Sharrah from staking his claim as the best BMX supercross racer in the world. The winner of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup, he said during the week leading up to the cup’s final leg in Sarasota, should earn that title.
With victories in two of the four BMX Supercross World Cup legs before this weekend, Sharrah was positioned better than any other man in the field to earn the championship. His lead in the points standings meant his berth in the final Sunday at Sarasota BMX Track was enough to win the Supercross World Cup. Once he got there, though, he figured he might as well win the final.
“The title was already wrapped up, so there wasn’t much pressure there,” Sharrah said. “There was still a big incentive. You always want to win the race.”
Sharrah led wire-to-wire during the final of the BMX World Cup to win his third event of the season and claim his first World Cup title. The 24-year-old from Tucson, Ariz., is the second American to win, joining 2016 Olympic gold medalist Connor Fields, who won in 2013.
The women’s final similarly lacked drama. The Netherlands’ Laura Smulders locked up her World Cup title earlier in the day and then led wire-to-wire in the Sunday’s final.
“It all came together,” Sharrah said. “The guy that was going to be the most aggressive and believed that he can win was going to win.”
The win capped a season for Sharrah that blended breakthrough with redemption. He made it to his first Olympics and cracked the top 10. He found success early in the World Cup season with a season-opening win in Argentina and earned the biggest accolade of his career Sunday.
But this probably should have all happened earlier. Sharrah was a national champion in 2011. He was on track to reach the 2010 Summer Olympics before breaking his femur. The setback and recovery meant he went to London as an alternate.
He has peaked since returning from Rio de Janeiro, racing to his second win of the season last weekend in Rock Hill, S.C. and then blistering the Sarasota BMX Track in a course-record 33.006 seconds to win the final by nearly a full second.
“The track is fast. It’s world class,” Sharrah said. “It was kind of in my realm of tracks that I love to ride. There’s a lot of obstacles out there. It’s really technical and hard to ride, so I loved racing every lap out here this weekend.”
Smulders took longer to find her footing on the course, even though she had done practice sessions at the BMX Track earlier during the summer on her way to Rio. She couldn’t manage a mistake-free run until her final practice lap, about 10 minutes before time trials began Saturday.
Once she had one smooth ride, though, she breezed through the entire weekend. She won time trials Saturday, then put together the best score during motos, posted the best time during semifinals and won the final by nearly a full second.
“Everything just fell into place,” Smulders said. “It wasn’t the most beautiful lap, but it was clean enough and fast enough.”