Alise Post competes at the 2017 UCI BMX Championships on July 29, 2017 in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
ROCK HILL, South Carolina — Alise Post’s bicycle sponsor, GW, made her a silver bike to ride at the 2017 UCI BMX World Championships. The color honored her Olympic silver medal that she won in Rio last summer.
Now, Post needs another frame, this time painted gold.
In front of a home crowd, the 26-year-old rider held off a charging Caroline Buchanan from Australia and won her first world championship title by eight-thousandths of a second. Reigning world and Olympic champion Mariana Pajon from Colombia finished third.
“My legs were just jelly at the finish line,” said Post. “I was just trying to lunge as hard as I could, and I looked up at the screen and was waiting for the call because it said ‘photo’ [finish].”
The win was a highpoint during a tough year for Post. Less than a month after she won the silver medal at the 2016 Olympics last August, her fiancé, Australian BMX rider Sam Willoughby — also an Olympic silver medalist and former world champion — broke his neck while training on the BMX track in San Diego.
Post has spent much of the past ten months helping Willoughby recover. They moved their wedding date from April of this year to New Year’s Eve, when Willoughby hopes to walk Post down the aisle.
“This win is as much for Sam and the entire team network that we have as it is for me,” said Post. “That’s what makes it so special.”
While her competitors began their seasons last winter, Post sat out much of the early part of the season. The 2017 world championships were here first international meet since the Olympic Games last August.
“I’ve seen these girls battling all year long, and I just wanted to get in there in the mix,” she said.
But the change of focus to other life priorities helped give Post perspective. She has been helping Willoughby recover. But he also helped her.
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“He shared a lot of good insight with me,” said Post. “He just started to put his coaching hat on. I’m his test dummy, but it worked out pretty well.”
Without months of racing behind her, Post also came to Rock Hill with a fresh mindset. She found it interesting that Buchanan, who finished second behind her, also had not raced extensively on the BMX circuit. The Australian rider has been competing in mountain biking this year.
Post, who has raced BMX bikes since she was 6, had one of her most consistent days ever, dominating the motos and the quarterfinal. She got bounced around in the semifinal but still easily qualified for the main event.
Before the final, Willoughby told her, “What do got to lose? Just give it your all. You’ve worked so hard for this and you deserve it. All you can do is give her hell.”
Post remembered that she has made the final in every world championship in which she has competed. She told herself, “Why not me? I deserve this.”
“So I just went up there with that calm mindset, and it worked well,” said Post.
Like she had in every lap until the semis, Post took the lead from the gate. But she did not assume the world title was hers.
“I’ve led multiple world championships and I guess maybe third time’s a charm,” she said, “and I finally got all the way to the finish.”
Post now has world championship medals in every color — and four world championship medals total, making her one of the most decorated BMX riders in the world. She claimed the bronze medal in 2016 before going to Rio, as well as at the 2010 world championships. In 2014, she won the silver medal behind Pajon.
This is the first win in 20 years by an American in the elite women’s race. Michelle Cairns won the world title in 1997.
After the photo finish showed Post edging Buchanan, the American rode over to Willoughby, who was watching the race from a wheelchair on top of the track’s smaller, five-meter start ramp. She hugged her fiancé, then rejoined the seven other women who competed in the final for a group hug.
Pajon, who was riding a gold GW frame — to commemorate her Olympic gold medal from Rio—looked at Post’s silver frame and joked, “I think we need to trade bikes now.”
A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered four Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.