10 August 16:01 (BST)

French star ANDRE blocks out the pain to keep BMX gold medal bid on track

GLASGOW - World champion BMX rider Sylvain ANDRE (FRA) cruised through the opening motos round at the Glasgow 2018 European championships despite nursing hip and wrist injuries from his crash in training on Thursday.

The world number one had doubted whether he would even make the first starting gate before a packed Glasgow BMX Centre in Knightswood Park on Friday, but looked comfortable as he won all three of his runs with ease. 

"I could handle the pain from the very first few metres but I'm glad I (now) have 24 hours," ANDRE said. "I will need the body to be at least 95 per cent and then I can win."

French team-mate Romain MAHIEU and Dutch rider Dave VAN DER BURG also dominated their heats but neither was as quick as Great Britain's Kyle EVANS, the fastest rider over the course on Friday.

"We've got a big crowd here (who) are all behind us," EVANS said. "We can hear that when we are on the course, and, as racers, we are having good battles and challenges."

In the women's event, Dutch sisters Laura and Merel SMULDERS both qualified from the same heat as they again look to occupy the top two podium positions at a major championships, following Laura's gold and Merel's silver in the world championships in Baku in June. "I got in front of Laura twice but she passed me on the last straights anyway," Merel said.

The elder SMULDERS found her best form on race day after admitting to enduring "a little bit of a struggle" in practice on Thursday.

"Today I felt right, right away," Laura said. "I gave myself a few boxes to tick in practice, it felt perfect and then I went into motos and it felt like a race again."

The chasing pack is being led by Denmark's Simone Tetsche CHRISTENSEN, who was the only woman to go under 40 seconds on Friday despite witnessing Liam WEBSTER (GER) being stretchered off the course following a crash. 

"I think we're pretty used to having people crashing in front of us and having to wait and then it's our turn, so I don't think you can put too much on it. You kind of just trust your own skills," she said.

Elke VANHOOF (BEL) and Judy BAAUW (NED) will also hope to feature among the women's medals when the BMX competition reaches a conclusion on Saturday. 

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