By Paul D. Bowker | June 09, 2019, 6:25 p.m. (ET)
Alise Willoughby (center) celebrates winning gold at the UCI BMX World Championships on July 27, 2019 in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium.

 

Two-time Olympian Alise Willoughby and Laura Smulders of the Netherlands battled it out again this weekend at the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France.

Willoughby finished third on Sunday in the sixth round of the series, just behind France’s Manon Valentino and Smulders, one day after she finished runner-up to Smulders in a photo finish in round five.

Willoughby has reached the podium in her last four world cup races and is ranked second in the world in women’s BMX. She led portions of both final races this weekend, and is still looking for her first win of 2019.

She trails Smulders, a 2012 Olympian and defending world champion, by just five points in the world cup points standings, 670 to 665.

In Saturday’s final, Willoughby blasted to the front of the field and stayed there the entire race until Smulders caught up to her at the finish, edging Willoughby by 14 hundredths of a second.

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On Sunday, Valentino took to the front right from the start in front of a roaring home crowd and held off both Willoughby and Smulders. Another strong finish by Smulders in the final stretch earned her a second-place finish ahead of Willoughby. It was actually Willoughby’s charge late in the race that sped the race up.

“She was coming back again and again and again,” Valentino said of Willoughby.

Olympic hopeful Felicia Stancil, who has reached the finals in all six world cup races this season, finished fourth Saturday and eighth Sunday.

The world cup tour moves to the United States for the next two rounds. Rock Hill, South Carolina, will be host to the seventh and eighth rounds in September.

Paul D. Bowker has been writing about Olympic sports since 1996, when he was an assistant bureau chief in Atlanta. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.