Carolina Nationals / North American Supercross
No matter how many times you've walked up to the Novant Health BMX facility, you can not help but be impressed as you walk past the plush 2-story BMX offices with the curvey whoopty-roof. This place is pure impressiveness, from the sidewalk, up the long and steep backside of the Am starting hill, all the way to the water-proof slurry-covered straightaways and gigantic asphalt berms.
It's really no surprise that they were chosen as the site for the 2017 World Championship - to be held next summer. And to compete at next year's Worlds, the battle to qualify for Team USA is going to be one of the most intense in BMX history.
But we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves. That is still over a year away, and this weekend, the BMX world converged on Rock Hill for the 3-day USA BMX Carolina Nationals, along with Rounds 3 and 4 of the North American Supercross and the North American UCI Continental Championships (which will be held on Sunday). It's a full-on, action-packed weekend if there ever was one. And the crowds came out in full force - including a huge insurgence of South American racers. (No doubt, they want to get a head-start on the 2017 Worlds, as well).
Starting off with the all-important pro races (with valuable UCI points on the line for Olympic qualification), we had a huge turnout of Elite riders. Plenty of South Americans, but surprisingly low with Euro racers. In Elite Men, the Americans led with three in the final, with Australia filling two lanes. America's favorite Aussie, Sam Willoughby, was lookin' hot in every lap. The second bloke from down unda' was DHR's Anthony Dean, who is freshly back in time from his collarbone injury a while back. New Zealand, France and Latvia rounded out the gate o' 8. For the U.S., we had the man of the hour - Corben Sharrah (also lookin' sharp every lap), along with Nic Long and RTB's favorite pro, Jeffrey Upshizzle.
Off the start, it was 2-time Gold medalist Maris Strombergs with the holeshot and the power down the 8mm hill. But Willoughby poured on his power and was right there with him - and with an inside line, took full advantage of things into the gigantic turn one. Suddenly, Corben Sharrah shot to the inside and came out in the top-3, well in the hunt for the win. Sam, Maris and Corben skied it down the second straight at full speed, but into turn two Maris drifted high and immediately got eaten up by Jones and Upshaw who swooped in on the inside.
Upshaw's swoop took away most of his momentum, but Jones got a great run out of the second turn and began reeling in Sam and Corben thru the rhythm. Jones is the New Zealand National Champion, as visible in his flag sleeves - and not to be confused with Australia. Meanwhile, Maris began battling with Nic Long for the 4th spot, before giving it up and shutting things down. Hittingmach-speeds out of turn three, it looked as ifSharrah was close enough to give Willoughby a little pressure, but he decided to play it clean and left enough room for Sam to go on for the win.
- 1 SAM WILLOUGHBY, REDLINE~TLD - CHULA VISTA, CA
- 2 CORBEN SHARRAH, DAYLIGHT - TUCSON, AZ
- 3 TRENT JONES, - BOX~THRILL, NEW ZEALAND NATL TEAM - CHRISTCHURCH
- 4 NIC LONG, HARO - LAKESIDE, CA
- 5 JEFFERY UPSHAW, KUWAHARA - DAYTON, OH
- 6 ANTHONY DEAN, STAY STRONG, CHULA VISTA, CA
- 7 JORIS DAUDET , CHASE~RED BULL - CORONA, CA
- 8 MARIS STROMBERGS, FREE AGENT~MAXXIS - RIVERSIDE, CA
Sam took home $7,000 for the win, plus an additional $250 from the Answer Holeshot Award.
In Elite Women, the cool surprise main-maker was BMX mom/coach Arielle Martin (GT BMX) making a return to the big hill and adding to her already impressive legacy. But today it was Alise Post's race to win or lose, and she decided to score another W (despite a huge bobble in turn one, where she luckily saved it with the fast reaction of a Ninja).
- 1 ALISE POST , REDLINE~TLD - CHULA VISTA, CA
- 2 BROOKE CRAIN, HARO - VISALIA, CA
- 3 LAUREN REYNOLDS, SSQUARED - AUSTRALIND, WA
- 4 AMANDA GEVING, FACTORY YESS, LARGO, FL
- 5 SHEALEN RENO, CLAYBORN/ANSWER/FRUIT SHOOT, ARLINGTON, TX
- 6 MELINDA MCLEOD, AUSTRALIAN NATL TEAM - PUNTA GORDA, FL
- 7 REBECCA PETCH, AWAMUTU
- 8 ARIELLE MARTIN, GT BMX - WILLIAMSBURG, VA
Alise took home $3,500 for the win, plus an additional $250 from the Answer Holeshot Award. It looks like the Power Couple is going to have a nice wedding budget when they finally set the date
In A-pro, we saw a great battle between Redline's Hunter Pelham and Layne Gainer that came all the way down to inches at the finish line. Texan Pelham held the lead nearly the entire track, but AZ-boy Gainer stole away the win from him right at the line with an impressive, solid sprint to the finish, and a solid push at the stripe. Afterwrds, Pelham could only shake his head and comment, "In my mind I won it." - even though his paycheck and points will say 2nd place.
- 1 LAYNE GAINER, GAINER PERFORMANCE, MESA, AZ
- 2 HUNTER PELHAM, REDLINE, WILLIS, TX
- 3 ZACHARY VANKAMMEN, JR BICYCLES.COM/CHASE/BOX, LAKE ELSINORE, CA
- 4 CHRISTOPHER WHITE, ONYX / LINDSAY WILSON U, GREER, SC
- 5 JUAN MARIN, HOSTILE ELITE, PLANT CITY, FL
- 6 JORDAN MIRANDA, BAKERSFIELD, CA
- 7 FEDDISON FLANDERS, SAN NICOLAS
- 8 K.J. ROMERO, SUPERCROSSBMX.COM, WEST COLUMBIA, SC
SATURDAY - Day 2:
The action continued on Saturday with clear skies but a tad more wind. Actually, "tad" might be too polite of a term. The breezes were bad enough in the afternoon that A-pros got permission to hit the Am section, while the AA-pros would have to go big. (Nowhere is it written that they have to JUMP the section; they just have to go thru it.)
By the time the semis and mains rolled around, the winds had ceased and conditions were perfect for some insane action. Whether it was Novies, girls, Inters or Elites, everybody was here to put on a show and to give it their best.
In Elite Pro, Redline's Power Couple continued their winning ways, cashing in another $10k+ in prize money. For Alise, she made it looks easy - while Sam, had to really work for it. France's current No.1 Champ, Joris Daudet was right on the back tread of Sam's IRC tires and Joris pulled up alongside Sam down the final stretch. Daudet was the first to lunge at the line and he might've done it too soon - and looped a little bit high, as Sam narrowly held on to the lead and scored the win by about an inch.
Watching the Thoroughbred athletes just screams pure, raw horsepower. Above, Sam, Joris and Collins get down on it.
Amateur mains, from tiny tykes to the elder statesmen, were all edge-of-your-seat barn burners. But of them all, the most exciting one of all would have to be 19-27x. With 43 dudes signed up, this was a packed class, and to just make it to the finals was a killer accomplishment. The man of the hour these days seems to be Free Agent's studious Alec Bob, who is attending Marian U on a BMX scholarship right now. Whie it may seem like he's been unbeatable as of late, Haro~Promax's Tyler Smith was out to put his name in the ring.
From the start, it was Bob and Smith straight to the front, while some serious bar-bangin' was going down behind them. Blasting into turn one at mach speed, Jarred Johnson and Justin Knapper locked elbows mid-pack and decided to abruptly go straight up the turn, rather than turn left. As Smith lead the other five guys out of the turn, Knapper and Johnson tried to clear the sponsor fencing and slid down the backside of the Rock Hill turn. Luckily, it's all grassy on the knoll and they survived it before slamming into the chain link fence below.
If that didn't get the crowd on both sides of the still-crowded bleachers on their feet, the next few straightaways would. Bob was doing everything in his might to get past Smith, but the Haro rider was giving up nothing, and was riding a perfect lap that would put a big ol' smile on Donavon Long's face. Mr.Smith went to the finshline - in the lead, but Alec put on that famous Texas-pull down the last straight and over the final tabletop before the line, caught a little more boost. Crossing the stripe side by side, Alec nabbed the victory out of Smith's hands. WOW. Whatta race!
- 1 ALEC BOB, FACTORY FREE AGENT, PLANO, TX
- 2 TYLER SMITH, FACTORY HARO/PROMAX, DOUGLASVILLE, GA
- 3 MAURICIO SARMIENTO, LA PAZ
- 4 RYAN DEROCHE, DOUBLECROSS BIKES, CUMMING, GA
- 5 MATT CALVIN, N CHARLESTON, SC
- 6 TYLER GIULIANO, CAPE CORAL, FL
- 8 JARRED JOHNSON, EXTREME TEAM, CARLISLE, OH
- 8 JUSTIN KNAPPER, ANSWER/RENNEN, POTTSTOWN, PA
But of all the races on Saturday night, none was more breathtaking than earlier - in the 28-35 Expert semi, where 2nd thru 8th were packed like sardines coming out of the last turn. They were practically 4 abreast and throwin' 'bows thru the rollers. Right before they came to the spot where USA BMX's brand new inflatable Supercross blimp was tied up across a straightaway, one rider veered off to the side and made a perfect NFL tackle right into the inflatable... WOOSH! A giant hole was punctured in the balloon and it instantly deflated onto the straightaway. The only this was, the next semi was already off the running and heading into the first turn. The USA BMX crew and track officials jumped into action and were scrambling to clear the straightaway for oncoming traffic. First, the blower was still pumping in air and trying its darnest to re-inflate the structure. Next, it had been staked into the ground and tied off good. REAL GOOD. Bill Morris was a boy scout, and he knows how to make a good knot. Hard as they tried, with the next semi still charging at them, the balloon was not about to budge. Finally, the restart was called, but the riders were still blasting out of the last turn and the lead rider bump-jumped over the inflatable to the crowd's delight. Then came 2nd place, who came close to jumping it, but crashed upon landing. Talk about a wild 'n crazy semi!
**Tune in at 8:04.27 on YouTube/.comUSABMXvideos to watch it go down (literally).
After the restart, and all of the extra effort it took to get there, Ssquared's Matt Wilcox would again dominate the class and go on to win (not just tonight, but all three days).
- 1 MATT WILCOX, SSQUARED BICYCLES, KENNESAW, GA
- 2 PATRICK ROMERO, DELUXX BIKES, PENSACOLA, FL
- 3 TONY FAVATA, ALLTOW WRECKING CREW/YESS, HARRINGTON, DE
- 4 GREG CUSTER, TUCKAHOE BIKE SHOP, BRIDGETON, NJ
- 5 KURT BAGBY, AUKLAND
- 6 BRANTLEY WINFREY, FACTORY CYCLECRAFT, DELAND, FL
- 7 PATRICK PARKER, ANSWER/RENNEN, KINGSTON, NY
- 8 RODRIGO RUEDA ARAQUE, MEDELLIN
... (to be continued).