Gator Nationals race report & photos
DAY ONE: GATORS
We dare you to not be in total awe and amazement when you walk up to the towering walls of the Oldsmar starting castle. With a fresh new coat of blue paint (laced with some sand for tackiness), a recent layering of soiltac to keep the surface in tact and water-proof, and a new and improved rhythm straight away, this facility has improved quite a bit since we were last here in October. At first glance, riders may have been a bit worried about the new and gnarlier third straightaway rhythm. Those who might not have shown it, deep down inside, they were. Others were keepin' that finger on the brake lever and making sure they made it thru smooth and safe. Oldsmar is fast and fun. And if you're not here this year, then you should definitely make plans to be here sometime before you croak.
This weekend also marked the first North American Supercross race of the season, and that meant an Olympic-level field of riders were in attendance - from Japan to Canada, Aruba to the Netherlands, Australia to France ... they were all here and accounted for. Twenty nine countries in all!
Once we'd whittled down the field to the final and fastest eight Elites, it was showtime! First up, came the Elite Women - where it would no doubt be a battle between the top American and Colombian; Alise and Mariana. Would this race be a sign of things to come later this year, in Rio?! We sure hope so. From the start, Alise grabbed the holeshot (cha-ching, $250 richer), but the 2012 Olympic gold medalist was hot on her tail and poised to make a move for the lead at any moment. Down the last straightaway, it was a drag race to the line, and Alise hit the proverbial nitrous oxide booster in her legs and powered to the win.
If that one wasn't thrilling enough, next up came the Elite Men - representing five different countries: France (x2), Australia, The Netherlands, Equador and the good ol' U.S. of A (x3). With the packed sidelines filled with American fans and crazed South Americans, everybody knew this one was going to be a real barn-burner!
Once the gate slammed down, eight of the fastest BMXers on the planet blasted down the 8mm Olympic-sized starting hill, with Sam on the inside with a slight edge. But your reigning No.1 Pro in USA BMX, Joris Daudet, was right on his tail and applying pressure. Like a surgeon, Joris waited until the right moment to strike, and out of the first turn, he took things over just in time to steal away the Answer Holeshot award. But Joris' lead was not held for long, as Sam came back like a seasoned prize fighter. Down the last straight, Sam - just like his fiance' , checked out and scored a serious victory.
This was Willoughby's first win since last September, and he was one stoked Aussie to finally end his dreaded funk of 2nd and 3rd places. To most pros, a streak of seconds and thirds would be nice, but not Sam I Am. He only wants to win.
Other notables in the Mens main was the first-ever appearance at a USA BMX event by the current World No.1 rider, Niek Kinmann - from the land of windmills and electric bikes. During qualifying, Kinmann had some great laps, but he also struggled with a slam on the gate and a exploded tire. There's no doubt that once he's adjusted to the USA BMX scene - perhaps by Saturday, he could play more of a factor in the final.
MEN ELITE - DAY 1
- SAM WILLOUGHBY, REDLINE, AUSTRALIA
- JORIS DAUDET, CHASE, FRANCE
- CONNOR FIELDS, CHASE, HENDERSON, NV
- NIC LONG, HARO, LAKESIDE, CA
- NIEK KIMMANN, THE NETHERLANDS
- JARED GARCIA, BOX-THRILL, VICTORVILLE, CA
- SYLVAIN ANDRE, LYON - FRANCE
- ALFREDO CAMPO, ANSWER, MURRIETA, CA
WOMEN ELITE - Day 1
- ALISE POST, REDLINE - CHULA VISTA, CA
- MARIANA PAJON, DAN'S COMP - COLOMBIA
- CAROLINE BUCHANAN, DK BIKES - AUSTRALIA
- SIMONE CHRISTENSEN, COPENHAGEN, DENMARK
- DANI GEORGE, STAY STRONG - PALMDALE, CA
- MELINDA MCLEOD, AUSTRALIA
- AMANDA GEVING, J&R BIKES.COM - LARGO, FL via THAILAND
- AMELIA WALSH, AYR, ONTARIO - CANADA
In the Amateur ranks, we had some equally-as-insane action from the boys and girls, all the way from five year olds to 40-plus. Things first kicked off with the World Champ Qualifier race - ran in place of opens. Just as we'd done in Arizona the week before, riders were racing for a chance to qualify for a spot on Team USA, and earn the opportunity to compete in Colombia. Look for a complete list of qualifer on USABMX.com soon.
In the expert mains, one of the best races of the day took place in 17-18x, where two of the eight were in the familar sunset colors of Ssquared: Deters and Zinzow. But it wasn't a given that either of those two would score the win (although the odds were in their favor). Brady Kinchloe, the rising star of Power's Bike Shop, along with the always impressive Ponton Cary, who is riding for a new sponsor - Hostile~Elite. Another rider not to be counted out would be Idaho's Michael Boyle, who is also riding for a sorta-new sponsor, Daylight Cycles (although still aboard his trusty Staats steed). Eight guys, all with the equal potential for a huge win.
Once the stickered-up barrel gate silently slammed in to its hidden bunker, it was the Ssquared dynamic duo straight to the front, with Kinchloe and Cary in code-3 pursuit. By the line, Deters - who is looking stronger than ever, stretched his lead to the line and scored the night's win. Definitely one main you will want to watch all weekend.
17-18 EXPERT TOTAL RIDERS = 19 GROUPS = 3
- NICOLAS DETERS, SSQUARED , ST PETERS, MO
- BRADY KINCHELOE, POWERSBIKESHOP.COM, GRAHAM, NC
- RYAN ZINZOW, SSQUARED , ELKHORN, WI
- PONTON CARY, HOSTILE ELITE, WINCHESTER, VA
- NICK DAWSON, PITTSBURGH, PA
- MICHAEL BOYLE, DAYLIGHT CYCLES, BOISE, ID
- ANDRE LACROIX, THE SECOND BASEMAN, OLDSMAR, FL
- CHANDLER MILLER, DADE CITY, FL
DAY TWO: GATORS
Under perfectly blue skies and ideal temps in the mild 70's, Saturday in Oldsmar, Florida was ripe for some radical racin'. And from the first round of motos, all the way to the final main events, racing was hot 'n heavy, with some tight action from start to finish.
After some impressive finishes last year, and a moment in the spotlight when he was award the annual $5,000 Hall of Fame Scholarship, Alec Bob made a good impression on everyone in 2015. Now attending Marian University, Alec has really turned it up and by the looks of this after this weekend, we believe he could have a legit shot at the National No.1 Amateur title if he keeps up this pace.
On the big hills, Mr.Bob excels - which means he could even be a Olympic prospect for 2012 Tokyo. After two days, the Factory Free Agent rider dominated Super-X.
Not once, but twice.
Then, to back it up on the so-called "little" hill, Alec killed it in 19-27x - holding off the modern-day Shawn Texas of BMX, Menardo Simon (who is now doin' it for Yess' new Motley-crew).
Not once, but twice.
11x and 14x have been the largest Expert classes of the weekend - both with 31 riders on Saturday, which means there were some hefty national points on the line. Win these classes both days, and you could bump yourself into National prominence.
That was the story for Kaynen Burg; the quick kid from Ohio who rides for Ssquared. Never heard of him? You're not alone - but after scoring Saturday's win, his name just might become a part of this year's BMX lexicon.
Meanwhile, in the 62-bonus rider point 14x main, it was the pride of Chesapeake BMX - C-yaa's Evan Sinchak, blasting to the front of the pack and not looking back.
- KAYNEN BURG, SSQUARED BICYCLES, HAMILTON, OH
- BLAISE PEREIRA, KID DYNAMITE, MARRERO, LA
- TYLER HENRY, SPEEDTECH/SSQUARED, NEW SMYRNA BCH, FL
- CUTTER WILLIAMS, POTOMAC FALLS, VA
- TYLER HARNAGE, SPEEDTECH/SSQUARED, VALRICO, FL
- PABLO LOPEZ, ANSWER/RENNEN, AUSTIN, TX
- JACOBO ZULETE, MEDELLIN
- MATTHEW SALAZAR-GARCIA, WINSTON-SALEM, NC
- EVAN SINCHAK, C-YAA , SEVERN, MD
- JUAN RAMIREZ, SALTILLO, COL
- SPENCER COLE, DANS COMP, BEAVERCREEK, OH
- KOBE SWANSON, TIME 2 SHINE, TAYLORSVILLE, UT
- CASEY MINTHORN, PROFILE, SARASOTA, FL
- CAMRON MASON, ANSWER/RENNEN, HUNTERSVILLE, NC
- THOMAS BRILLARD, TAMPA, FL
- CAMERON BRAMER, BLACK CROWN, SOUTH PARK, PA
GATOR NATS & USA CYCLING NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP for BMX
Mike Redman said it good during Saturday night's pro podium, interviewing Sam Willoughby: "I can guarantee it that tomorrow, USA will sweep the entire podium! In fact, I predict an all USA main event!" Sam just smiled with his usual Chesire cat grin and could only agree. Following Saturday's mains, many foreign Pros packed up and left for home - due to the fact that Sunday is USA Cycling's day. A time for the American pros to fight over who gets the honor (and expense) of having a red, white and blue stars 'n bars sleeve added to their jersey.
Watch the live video feed this weekend - starting at 11:30am: at www.usabmx.com/webcast