After barrelling down an eight-metre ramp, hurtling through the air over large mounds of dirt, leaning tight around banked corners and pedalling like mad for the finish line, Tory Nyhaug zipped over to his coach and plopped a pair of earphones on his head.
It’s what he likes to do during time trials at major BMX events — the gritty, metal-tinged aesthetic of Ontario rock band Three Days Grace helps keep him in the zone.
It certainly worked on Friday.
The 23-year-old, from Coquitlam, B.C., solidified his standing as Canada’s best hope for a podium finish in the Pan Am Games’ BMX event. Nyhaug finished with the best time of the day, beating out some of the best riders in the world and guaranteeing himself the choice lane in the starting gate when the event shifts to group races on Saturday.
Panting heavily after posting a time of 36.11 on his second run at the new Centennial Park BMX track in Etobicoke, Nyhaug said it was the first time he’s finished on top in time trials at such an event.
“I feel confident, I feel good,” he said. “There are a lot of fast guys here, for sure, but I know that I’m in good form right now. I’ll be ready to battle (Saturday).”
The four-member Canadian squad will have some tough competition in the BMX races on Saturday. Nyhaug and his teammate Jimmy Brown (who finished sixth in the second-round time trial) will have to contend with the No. 1 ranked rider in the world, American Connor Fields, as well as a host of solid racers from Colombia, Argentina and Brazil.
Canada’s Amelia Walsh and Daina Tuchscherer wound up in the bottom half of the pack on the women’s side, placing ninth and 10th in the field of 14 racers. The female category was headlined by Colombia’s Mariana Pajon, the top ranked BMXer in the world and the defending Olympic and Pan Am Games champion. Americans Alise Post and Felicia Stancil, as well as a pair of sisters from Argentina and a racer from Venezuela, rounded out the fastest group of women on Friday.
“It was okay . . . time-trialing isn’t really my thing. I go out there, I want to race,” Walsh told the Star after she posted a 43.43 on her lap, four seconds off Pajon’s top time. “It’s just for seeding and your lane choice for tomorrow, so tomorrow is really what counts.”
The Canadian team planned to head back to the athletes’ village to take it easy Friday night. Going up against Fields, Nyhaug said it’s tough to predict how things will go.
“He’s always one of the fastest guys in the world,” he said. “We do a lot of training together now and there are no secrets between us. We’re just going to have a clean race and hopefully it’s a good day for us (Saturday).”