Gator Nationals race report and pics
Your jaw drops in awe when you first see it. The huge fortress made of cement blocks resembles a 16th-century castle. Home of the honorable King Sawyer. All that are missing are guarded turrets on each corner, and a moat. The gigantic super-structure that is now Oldsmar BMX's starting grid is simply massive. Impressive. Hiking up the back of the hill, or strolling up the sidewalk on the way to the turn-2 VIP area can take your breath away. High above the SX hill - at 8mm high, you can almost see all of Oldsmar. In fact, we joked that it might just be the highest mountain in the entire city.
With a huge green-carpeted VIP area atop turn-2, city officials, council members, Mayor Bevis and even an Floridian congressman came out with their families for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony. Once the red ribbon was sliced by scissors that matched the starting hill, the brand new Oldsmar BMX facility was officially declared open and ready for business!
The first business at hand was to see which city council member could beat the super-cool Mayor Bevis. And that would be Vice-Mayor Gabby McGee - who snapped hard like a 5 novice and laid down less skidmarks on the starting hill than all the others. Mayor Bevis was putting on the pressure, but just couldn't get close enough to throw any elbows or T-bone anybody. It is pretty cool though, to see the Mayor and City Council members who all had a hand in making this super-track happen, taking it on themselves.
Next up came the Pro and Elite action for the night - and with plenty of South American contingents in attendance, every moto was stacked to the gills. To make it to tonight's final was going to be a tough task for anybody - any age, any class.
While we haven't seen much of Mariana Pajon this year, Oldsmar was just too spectacular for her to resist - and we'd be in for a treat this weekend watching the always-ferocious Post-Pajon rivalry. Both her and Alise were looking super quick in practice and early qualifying rounds, and we knew Alise was hungry for a win after leaving Chula Vista last week with only a 7th and a 2nd. Alise and Mariana didn't meet up with eachother until the 3rd moto and in that match-up, Pajon scored the win while Alise hung in the 2-spot and studied her every move.
After getting nipped at the finish line last weekend, this time it would be Post's turn. In the main, it was just as we expected - the Pajon-Post show down the first straight. The Dan's Comp rider - with her Colombia National Champion sleeves on her jersey, had a slight holeshot, but Alise and her signature Redline flight bike were right along side her over the first couple of jumps. Over the final jump on the first straight - a humongo-sized triple-step, Pajon launched the entire thing and caught perfect backside to propel her in to the first turn with the advantage. Post stuck to her tail, and coming into the last turn, set Mariana up perfectly, with a outside-inside rail that gave her some extra momentum. Pajon and Post sprinted to the line, and just as Buchanan had done to her last week - this time Alise was the one stretchin' at the line to steal away the $3,500 check from Colombia's favorite action sports hero.
Back home in Colombia, the entire country let out a collective sigh and pounded their fists on the table, causing a 2.7 tremor on the Richter scale. Aussie Melinda McLeod - coming off of her near-win in Chula, rounded out the podium, proving that she should likely be the 2nd Australian woman to qualify for their Olympic team (that is, if they earn two spots).
WOMEN ELITE - FRIDAY
- ALISE POST, REDLINE - CA
- MARIANA PAJON, DAN'S COMP - COL.
- MELINDA MCLEOD, AUS. NATL TEAM
- AMANDA CARR, J&R BICYCLES - FL
- DANI GEORGE, CHASE/ DHR - CA
- SHEALEN RENO, HYPER - TX
- LAUREN REYNOLDS, SSQUARED/ANSWER - AUS.
- FELICIA STANCIL, GT BIKES - CA
Above: Dan's Olympic Gold Medalist had it until 2 inches before the line. But got her revenge on Saturday.
In the mens division, it was still a toss-up on who was looking fastest - between our top-3 Pro point leaders. Sam, Joris and Connor have all been evenly matched so far this year, with not one single "real dominator." These three guys have been together on nearly every podium in every possible combination. And judging by their motos, we were all figuring it'd be the same ol' story - but still it would be a roll of the dice for which of those three would win.
But France's Sylvain Andre, a former Jr. Elite World Champion (from 2010) had a different idea. Choosing lane 1 might've been a risky choice, but he was confident that he had the power. Connor was in 2, Joris was in lane 3. Andre would have to get the perfect gate to beat these guys to the first turn. From the get-go, Fields had the holeshot and led into turn one, but drifted a bit high. It was just enough for Sylvain to cut low and take things over. Andre narrowly nabbed the Answer Holeshot award, and from there - he just took things over and rode a perfect lap to hold off the Chase Bros. who were chasin' him down.
MEN ELITE - Friday
- SYLVAIN ANDRE, NESTLE' , FRANCE
- CONNOR FIELDS, CHASE - NV
- JORIS DAUDET, CHASE - FRANCE
- SAM WILLOUGHBY, REDLINE - AUS.
- ANTHONY DEAN, CHASE/DHR - AUS.
- NIC LONG, HARO - CA
- CORBEN SHARRAH, HARO - AZ
- CARLOS RAMIREZ , BOGOTA, COL.
WOW. That is all that could be said after Friday night. This new dual-hill Oldsmar track is built to create some tight and exciting racing, and we can't wait for more on Saturday - for the official Day 1 of the Gator Nationals.
If Friday was any indicator of what we were in for - the thousands of riders and spectators and first-time attendees were in for a treat on Day 1. From Amateurs to Pros, the action was tight in every main. In the pro ranks, the main events were lined up with a variety of nationalities and BMX immigrants that would've made Donald Trump either proud or angry. (Who really knows the difference?)
In the Elite Womens main, it was the complete opposite of the day before. This time, it was Alise Post launchin' it up stairs over the triple-step, while Mariana stuck to the ground to grab the inside advantage, blasting into turn one. Pajon came out with the lead and left Alise no room for any moves or swoops. Post was trying, though - and was just waiting for the opportunity. Down the last stretch, it was another race to the stripe but this time - Pajon powered on and Alise couldn't come close to nipping her at the finish today.
For the Elite Men, U.S. riders were out-numbered 2-to-6, with Team Aussie filling 3 lanes and France owning two. Brazil's great Olympic-medal hope, Renato Rezende, founded out the field for what would be a real barn-burner. Blasting down the steep incline of King Sawyer's Castle, the eight knights on their shiny steeds blasted from 0-to-35 in just under 2.5 seconds, with Sam Willoughby leading the charge. Redline's ace was looking determined and took the Answer Holeshot money, but he had the Chase Bros. breathin' down his back. After scrubbin' the pro section like JS-7, they entered turn two tighter than the velcro closure of gOrk's wallet. Sam saw Joris on his heels and did his best to hold off the Frenchie, and Connor read it like a book, and moved for the inside to pass BOTH of his rivals. From there, the Con-man pulled away with the power and speed of a Bugatti Veyron. The crowd exploded in cheers as Connor scored the victory - USA! USA! USA! ...or, maybe that was just in our imagination. Regardless, it was a good day for our country, as an American finally took a win in the North American Supercross series, and is $7,000 richer for it.
Later that evening, Connor was heard asking "Can I get that in cash?" Why... yes you can.
- CONNOR FIELDS, CHASE BMX, HENDERSON, NV - USA
- JORIS DAUDET, CHASE BMX, FRANCE
- SAM WILLOUGHBY, REDLINE, AUSTRALIA
- NIC LONG, HARO, LAKESIDE, CA - USA
- RENATO REZENDE, RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
- ANTHONY DEAN, CHASE/DHR, AUSTRALIA
- SYLVAIN ANDRE, CAVAILLON - FRANCE
- BODI TURNER, BAYSWATER, ACT - AUSTRALIA
- 1MICHAEL GONZALES, HYPER BICYCLES, WATSONVILLE, CA
- 2KEVIN PAULS, HARO/PROMAX, SIMI VALLEY, CA
- 3NICOLAS DETERS, SSQUARED BICYCLES, ST PETERS, MO
Jacob Trujillo rides with a Gold Cup champion plate - that he'd just earned the week before in Chula Vista, CA. Racing for LDC~Challenge, this kid has really been climbing up the BMX ladder of success and thisweekend, was up against one of the fastest kids in his 10x class - Colorado's Jack Bakken. And up until turn 2, Trujillo was beating the Factory Crupi kid and looking strong, but Bakken's experience and patience paid off and he quietly plotted his move like a ninja, striking when the time was right to take over the lead and score yet another win.
Even with a 2nd, though - Trujillo is proving that he's a name to contend with and will be a factor in Tulsa for the NAG chase. Both Jack and Jacob are turning 11 in the next 40-or-so days, and will be racing 11x at the Grands.
- JACK BAKKEN, CRUPI, LONE TREE, CO
- JACOB TRUJILLO, LDC CHALLENGE ELITE, PORT HUENEME, CA
- CUTTER WILLIAMS, CLAYBORN/FRUIT SHOOT, POTOMAC FALLS, VA
In the end, the all-new Oldsmar BMX left everybody massively impressed and wanting more. Nobody wanted it to end (except for maybe the teardown crew, who had to immediately pack up and head to Kissimmee to begin building the Fall National track). The Oldsmar "castle" is an instant bright spot in our sport and even challenges Rock Hill BMX for the title of "most spectacular" track in the United States. It is truly an incredible time for our sport to see these brand new Supertracks coming to fruition - backed by their cities and communities. Supertracks like these are going to take our sport to a higher level and young American amateurs will undoubtedly step up their game to be even more competitive at the World level.
Next February - the 19-21st of 2016, USA BMX will be returning to Oldsmar and this awesome venue, and we can't wait! If you weren't here, I'd highly recommend that you start making plans for it right now. This is one annual event that you will not want to miss!