MidWest Nationals race report and photos
Over a thousand BMX families will be pulling into Searls Park this weekend; the epicenter of BMX Racing here in Rockford, Illinois. Passing by fields of corn and lush green grass, you enter the park only to find rows and rows of motorhomes and campers, all with bikes and a killer pit set-up. Even some BMX lunatics who are immune to heat and humudity, braving the elements in a pup-tent. Of all the races to camp out at, this is high on the list.
After rolling downhill from the tree-lined park, past the old school Vintage BMX bike show, you arrive at the track - The Rock. It's one of the smoothest and best soil-tac'ed tracks in USA BMX! The fact alone that we've held a national on this track for thirty straight years, pretty much says it all. Now, over the past thirty years, there are some things that have changed dramatically, and others that are more traditional and have remained (mostly) the same.
Take for instance, BERMZILLA - the name for Rockford's once famous first turn. In the 90;s, this turn was monsterous. Nothing else like it. And it forced all other tracks to catch up. ...which by 2006 or so, they did. With the introduction of SX tracks and Olympic sized starting hills, Bermzilla now seemed tame and mild. Thus, in the recent year(s), the Rockford crew tore out the upper half of their turns and re-steepened them to stay with the current times. While Bermzilla might not be the big scary monster that it once was, it is still a hot spot for action and still saw plenty of elbows being thrown.
There's also THE DROP at THE ROCK; the legendary first-obstacle drop-off that is unlike any other track. While it's evolved over the years, and even morphed into a double-jump at one time, The Drop is now back to challenge riders of all ages and skills.
For some time now, old school BMXers have been flooding the BMX forums and social media complaining about how today's tracks are just about pumping. "Bring back the pedaling" they've cried out! Well, for Rockford this year, Jake and the gang took out the last obstacle and made it a Crankfest to the finishline. With about 50 feet of good ol' sprint-time to the stripe, this year's MidWest Nationals seperated the sprinters from the rest of the pack. Plenty of last-straight pull - call it "MidWest Pull if you want, was displayed and many 4th-in-a-semi positions were stolen by a hard charging, surge from 5th or 6th place.
A few prime examples of the last-straight pull was Pistol Pete Choat in 11x. This weekend, he had his arch nemesis from down unnda' - World Champion Tommy Tucker. All weekend long, Tucker was seen out front, showing why he has the big "W" in front of that No.1 on his plate. The Aussie Redline rider could very well be the next Sam Willoughby. But when it came to defending his homeland, Choat made TSA agents look lazy. (Not hard to do, right?)
On Sunday, it was nearly a xerox copy, with the FullTilt'er goin' full tilt bozo out of the final turn. Perhaps blame it on the humidity, the heat or jet-lag - but Tucker was plum-tuckered by the end of the weekend, and Choat could gloat with two major 11x wins.
11 EXPERT - SUNDAY
- 1 PISTOL PETE CHOAT, FULL TILT BIKE CO/SUPERCROSS, BAKERSFIELD, CA
- 2 THOMAS TUCKER, WARNER, QLD
- 3 GAVYN BOWERS, CL4, BRAINERD, MN
- 4 KAYNEN BURG, SSQUARED BICYCLES, HAMILTON, OH
- 5 BRYCE SHACKLETON, YOUNG GUNS BMX, ELKHORN, WI
- 6 LANDEN CURRIER, THUNDERBEACH, PRESCOTT, WI
- 7 BRANDON BREDEWEG, FACTORY THRODWN, ALLENDALE, MI
- 8 BLAISE PEREIRA, FACTORY FREE AGENT, MARRERO, LA
Tucker wasn't the only rider sporting a big "W" on his plate - and there were a few other W-1's spotted out front of their mains.
With over 220 motos, every class in every age was pretty much chock full o' tough competitors, and racing was tight for qualifying and making to to your main was a HUGE accomplishment, whether you were a novice or expert.
Saturday began with sunshine and high temps for practice but the clouds began rolling in by race-time. Things went smooth and we were able to run the races all the thru to the final girls mains when mother nature finally unleashed her fury. The Rockford crew, who is rumored to have trained with the tarp-coverers at Wrigley Field, got the track covered in record-setting fashion, and mains went on hold for just about 15 minutes or so. But when you've got a track soil-tac'd as well as Rockford is, along with near-perfect paved turns, water retention isn't a big factor.
Up until then, we'd seen some fine racing in opens, cruisers, novices and inters. Once the hair-dryers blew off any rain droplets, the final girls mains and experts were up and ready to rip. You could see a big difference between those riders who were a little skeptical of the once-wet turns. Would they hold? Would they give full traction? Or would my slick tires wash out?! All winnrs, for the most part, went for it - and raced The Rock as if it were warm and dry. Others were tappin' the brakes or backing off as they blasted in to turns one and two.
Sunday saw sunny skies and killer actions throughout the day on a pristine track. Like always, when Sunday rolls around, it's your last chance to pull off a victory or just make a main, so things get a little more heated with the "last chance" mentality.
By far the most thrilling main of the day has to go to the 19-27x's, with some insane last-turn action switching up the results.
19-27 EXPERT - SUNDAY
- 1 ZACHARY BAHR, FULL TILT BIKE CO/SUPERCROSS, ST CLOUD, MN
- 2 ALAN STRUNA, WAUKEGAN, IL
- 3 RYAN ZINZOW, SSQUARED BICYCLES, ELKHORN, WI
- 4 AUSTIN (FREAKY FAST) MCKAN, WILLARD, MO
- 5 TRENTON DUVALL, FULL TILT BIKE CO/SUPERCROSS, LINWOOD, MN
- 6 ALEC BOB, FACTORY FREE AGENT, PLANO, TX
- 7 TYLER SMITH, FACTORY HARO/PROMAX, DOUGLASVILLE, GA
- 8 JUSTIN KNAPPER, ANSWER/RENNEN, POTTSTOWN, PA