What happens when you mix together National-caliber race action with high temps, dirt and wind? You get the Bakersfield tradition - the U.S. Nationals! This was the fifth straight year that Metro BMX has hosted the U.S. nats, and this year set a new record for moto-count - with 266 motos deep on Saturday and 230 on Sunday. And that always makes for some of the hottest BMX action of the year. There were plenty of motos that left all spectators on the edge of their seats, or in the case of Metro BMX, on the edge of the turn 2 - as that was the best vantage point for the weekend’s fast and furious battles.
Riders had come in from all over the West coast, and both bike shop and factory team presence was high. The pits were jam packed with both Pro and Amateur support. The whole Haro~Promax~Bell crew was in attendance with their big rig, as well as Phoenix, Supercross, Redline~Challenge, Crupi~Rhythm, Hyper, Black Box Industries, the new Phantom Development team, Vendetta~Elite, Redman~Rockstar, J&R Bicycles and the Tangent cartel. The famous Alberto Ciari even made a rare appearance at the Staats~Ciari pits! Just days prior to the U.S. Nationals, Bakersfield local Justin Anderson hopped from GHP to sign on with Bill Ryan and the Supercross crew. He will be rocking the white and blue for the remainder of the season.
For me, this was my first time at the U.S. Nationals and it was far from what I was expecting. Usually for most of us, when we think of California, we think of warm weather, beaches and pretty people. Even though we did have warm weather and plenty of pretty folks (the USA BMX staff), we did end up trading sandy beaches for dusty pits. The track stayed in great condition and many riders really seemed to enjoy the second straightaway. It was more like a large rhythm section consisting of an off-camber step-up and double, which led into a handful of larger rollers and a gnarly triple step-up into the second turn. This was a nice change from the normal second straights that racers are used too. Phoenix’s 16x, Taylor Stephens, even thought that it was faster pumping through some of the section rather than manualing. The last corner was definitely a difference maker for the weekend. It was tight and very bowled out, but it also had a giant hole towards that top that could make or break your race. Fans witnessed countless last chance moves of desperation that either stuck, or more often - caused a pile up. One of the best examples of this was in 41 and Over Expert, where Al Roybal went old school and took the turn with the inside foot out to make his pass on Brian Simmons for Sunday’s overall win.
Moving on to the race action, as always, the Pros helped kick us off and while this was not a stop for our beloved AA-pros, the single-A’s put on a killer show all weekend, full of battles and upsets. Saturday had a different feeling as Haro’s multi-tasker, Derek Betcher, hopped on their new carbon Haro Clutch and ripped some laps with the young guns. He may be over 30, but he can definitely still rock it with the best of them. Another eye catcher was seeing “The Mini Coop” Kristian Cooper in attendance, but sidelined with a hip injury. Heal up quick, Mr. Cooper! Redline’s rookie pro - Josh Klatman, looked great in all of his qualifiers but some costly mistakes in semis left him on the outside looking in and missing out on Saturday’s main.
Canadian Jim Brown (Factory Yess) showed that he has fully dusted off the cobwebs from his heavy injury last year and is now working his way back into being on top. Brown went on to win the overall for Saturday in impressive fashion, holding back some fast dudes like Blake Paulson, Austin Hiatt, Marty Wisehart and Tony Hoffman. Unfortunately for Brown, he wrecked a couple of times on Sunday which would leave him out of the main event and with no chance of picking up a double like he did in Desoto. Sunday was also the day that the Klatty Daddy would get his redemption. Making it smoothly into his main events, Klatman would hold off Paulson, Hiatt and Rommel to take the overall win after going 1,2, 1 for the three round main event. I am starting to think that Klatman is on the fast track for Rookie of the Year if he can keep up his winning ways.
Yes, the Pro action was pure greatness but the amateur action was straight pulse pounding and jaw dropping. I have always really enjoyed watching the mixed open classes, it is great seeing the girls beat up on the boys and show them how it’s done. Unfortunately, I did not get to see that as the fellas laid down the hammer and took most of the main events on both days. On Saturday, 13-14 mixed open winner, Hunter Cox, out of Playa Del Ray, CA won himself a full week to the Ohio Dreams BMX summer camp by taking the win! He was definitely super stoked and I am sure he will be there this summer rockin’ it with Justin Travis and company. The expert open class was also super tough, especially if you were 10 years old or younger. GT’s Jack Kelly, Tangent’s Justin York, and Worth Harvesting’s Wyatt Worth all picked up double wins for the weekend and proved that they are some of the quickest little dudes out there! Jack Kelly also decided he would pick up another couple of wins in the 10X class…man that kid can fly and it will be awesome to watch him in the Jr. Devo class in just a few more years.
Moving into the cruiser classes, it was great to watch the old guys battle it out and Phoenix’s factory ace Dave Archibald made sure he did not miss any qualifying motos this time. (Sorry Arch, I had to throw it in one last time.) That being said, both him and Ben Hershkowitz decided to double down in their cruiser groups to sweep the weekend. The crowd also got to see the triumphant return of The Big Daddy - Eric Rupe! He found himself out front all weekend long on the big bike and picked up a pair of wins. Maybe that was enough to land him a new sponsor for the remainder of the season. Any takers?
Extreme Team’s Danny Patterson was another guy out there rockin’ it on the big wheels. He picked himself up a nice double in very impressive fashion while his brother, Robby, sat it out and cheered him on. Unfortunately for Robby, he injured his hand during practice and will be out for a bit while on the mend.
The girls also laid down some intense action on their big bikes. Redman~Rockstar’s Lexis Colby and Nema~Roadhouse’s Leyna Jones battled back and forth all weekend long but in the end, they would split the wins and the points. Come November, we expect to see both of these gals fighting for the No.1 Girl title.
Black Box Industry's Olivia Armstrong has also been on fire recently and her current top 10 NAG rating has proven that she is a force to be reckoned with! After this double win in Bakersfield, she should slide into that top 5 slot and be in the hunt for No. 1 by the Grands.
One of the favorite groups to watch this weekend were the girls, as all of them were willing to do anything for the win. Elbows were being thrown and last second charges were made to secure a a victory. In 17-20 girls, it was probably the toughest battle for the top two slots all weekend. Redline~Challenge’s Carly Dyar was giving J&R Bicycle’s Lauren Whisler all she could handle. Dyar would take 2nd on Saturday by a about a bike length, but that would only leave her wanting more. Once their gate dropped Sunday, Dyar took the holeshot and held off the pack all away around the track. Whisler gained some ground through the rhythm to set up a nice move in the corner that would leave her bar to bar with Dyar. At the line, Whisler would make the pass and double up for the weekend but Carly made her earn it. Watch out for these two throughout the remainder of the season - it should leave for an exciting Grands main! Spectators also got to see breakout performances by 7 girls Grace Stevenson, 9 girls Madelynn Desantis, and 11 girls Jordan Scott.
Let me be the first to state the obvious: when you have 29 riders in the 7x class, every single little man in the main event has some serious skill as an ankle biter. Not only that, but 8x also had 29 riders and 9x topped out at 35! The only other class bigger than that was the 11 year-olds, who had 37 rippers. Numbers this big in such young age groups are awesome to see, and should factor in to the end of the year title-chases. Not only does it mean that our sport is growing, but it also means that the races are going to be of EPIC proportions. These are the future pros of our sport.
While Nate Romero (8x) was the only little grom able to pull off the double with such a stacked class, the other guys were definitely working just as hard for their wins. Tyler Grigsby was able to top all of the 7x hotshots and pull the win for Saturday but Jesse Lepore would come back from a 7th on Saturday to take the win on Sunday. The 9x class would see Answer~Rennen’s Brandon Crain pick up the win with Vincent Esposito and Amakye Andersen in tow. Sunday would be different story, though. Without Crain in the main, Andersen would take home the win for Tuscon, AZ and Redman~Rockstar’s Esposito would pick up another 2-spot. Off to the 11x class, Hyper’s Patrick Coo was dominating. Spectators always know when he is out front because, his cheering section can be heard chanting “COOOOOOO” as he leads the pack around the track. Coo has proven that he is deadly in any race and did it once again here in Bakersfield.
Of course, the older experts are always dynamite on the track, and with Bakersfield’s diverse conditions, the Ams were explosive! The 17-18X class was absolute madness on Saturday as GT’s Nick Koehler and Felt’s Marquise “Darkness” Montgomery battled for the lead. After a little bump and run by Koehler in turn 2, Darkness was sent flying over and down the dusty backside. Koehler would take the win but on Sunday, Koehler would move to 4th as Factory Supercross’ Justin Anderson nabbed the top slot and Marquise for the 2nd. In 19-27X, it was all about the reigning National No. 1 Amateur. Rusty Nesvig got the pop, pull and win for Saturday but unfortunately, he was not up to the challenge on Sunday and went down hard in turn two while Jordan “The Missile” Miranda and Kyle “Krusty” Bastin would score the 1 and 2. The 41 & Over X class would help us finish out the weekend. The Big Daddy - Eric Rupe, who hasn’t been seen or heard from since January, handled the class with ease on Saturday. Without the 6-time Vet Pro champ in the main on Sunday, it was an open field. Al Roybal wound up on top with that epic last turn foot down move. He earned it after a tough battle to the end, making the move on B.S. Brian Simmons.
Indeed, the 2013 USA BMX U.S. Nationals may have been the dustiest and/or windiest race so far this year, but all attendees definitely put on a show, with great moto count and some awesome action. This marks the real beginning of the summer series, as we will not see another indoor build on U.S. soil until everyone ventures out to Sin City in mid-July. With record breaking moto counts at almost every national this year, it should only continue to grow. The closer we get to Grands, the tighter the battles get. Those elusive National Championship cups are still very much up for grabs and it will come down to the wire to decide the No.1 champions.
Thanks again to everyone who made the trek out to California, we will see you soon in North Carolina, or Chilliwack, whichever you prefer. Now, excuse me while I go catch my tent that just blew away…