LONDON Britain's Shanaze Reade is among the favorites to win the women's BMX event at the London Olympics, but she knows all too well that it can be all over in just a heartbeat.
Reade, who was also among the top contenders in Beijing four years ago, crashed in the 2008 final. She knows nothing can be taken for granted, even if she won last year's test event.
"Sometimes things are out of your control. I went to the world championships and slid out in the quarter-finals when leading by quite a bit," Reade, the triple BMX world champion, told reporters.
"It can be frustrating but if I looked at my past history, I've won more races than I have lost."
In the 40-second dash from a high ramp to the line going though banked corners, rhythm sections and jumps, she will be challenged by France's Laetitia Le Corguille, the Beijing silver medalist, and Magalie Pottier, the reigning world champion.
World champion Sam Willoughby will be among the top contenders in the men's event along with Frenchman Joris Daudet and defending champion Maris Strombergs of Latvia.
All will have to master a tricky track for which 14,000 cubic meters of soil was used.
"They've done a great job. I've never seen a track in this good a condition. You don't just come off the couch and ride this thing," Willoughby told reporters.
"It takes a lot of work and I think people will see that."
Whether the spectacular BMX event should be part of the Olympics is not a debate for the Australian.
"It is an exciting sport and it's appealing to the younger generation. I think people will get a bit of an eye opener as to what BMX is now, it's not just kids' bikes rolling around a little dirt park," he said.
Competition starts on Wednesday with seeding runs before the men ride the quarter-final. The women will go straight into the semi-finals on Friday, when both finals will be held.
(Editing by Matt Falloon)