Reigning champion Hannah Roberts made a strong start in the UCI BMX Freestyle World Cup ©Getty Images

Reigning champion Hannah Roberts made a strong start in the International Cycling Union BMX Freestyle World Cup as she topped the charts in qualification in Montpellier today.

The 17-year-old American has emerged as the sport's poster girl after winning the 2017 and 2018 tours, ahead of BMX freestyle making its Olympic debut in Tokyo next year.

Roberts lived up to the hype with a score of 83.2 points, more than a point ahead of the rest of the field at an event incorporated into the International Festival of Extreme Sports (FISE) World Series in the French city. 

In second place was Roberts' fellow American, Perris Benegas, marking a successful return to Montpellier for the 23-year-old after she missed last year's event through injury.

An all-American top three was rounded out by 26-year-old Chelsea Wolfe.

Roberts' fellow teen sensation, 19-year-old Lara Lessmann of Germany, comfortably made it through in fifth place with a score of 74.4 points.

Of the 39 competitors, 24 made it through after reaching the 45-point mark.

Among those eliminated was 15-year-old French hopeful Laury Perez, who could only score 36.2.

The 24 successful riders go through to the semi-finals on Friday (May 31), before the final takes place on Saturday (June 1). 

While freestyle will be a new kid on the block when it comes to the Olympics, in Montpellier it is firmly established - the city has hosted FISE World Series events for more than two decades and is a staple of the urban sports calendar.

The event serves as an indicator of what to expect in 2020 - the street park on which the freestyle event will be held has been covered in concrete, in an attempt to emulate the intended facility in Tokyo next year, and looked in good shape during the early stages of the competition.