2019 USA BMX Gator Nationals Race Report
The 2019 Gator Nationals host track, Ride Oldsmar, had a few tune-ups by track builder extraordinaire Lance Maguire. The third straight was completely rebuilt besides the last jump entering the final turn. Lance also transformed the first jump from a step-table to just a huge table. This change really helped out the little guys and gals.
The weather last weekend felt more like the middle of August than February with highs in the upper 80’s and humidity levels just about the same. The winds were also a factor, shifting directions each day, much to the dismay of those wishing to get airborne above the track’s red clay slurry coat. Outside of that, the weekend was about picture perfect as can be with 215 motos lining up on day one of competition.
This weekend marked the first of five stops on the North American SX series, which features racing from 8m tall starting hills. The Super X Men class generally features the stars of tomorrow and Friday night winner Rico Bearman of New Zealand certainly falls into that category. Canadian hotshot Cole Zufelt brought home a second in the class and Daylight’s Zach Jacobs rounded out Friday’s podium. Saturday brought a new winner, Tampa area local Joseph Leto, with Bearman and Jacobs finishing closely behind for the second and third spots.
The A Pro class was just as international as the rest of the groups dropping in from the big hill. Aussie Jayce Cunning continued his winning ways from the Winter Nationals and took the wins on both days in the class. Brazilian Rogerio Dos Reis took home the Answer holeshot award but couldn’t hold off Cunning. DK Bikes dual threat Tommy Zula took home third place bucks. Day two of A Pro action saw Cult’s Menardo Simon get in there for the two spot and Throdwn’s Tyler Smith finish up with a third.
Vet Pro on Friday night was unbelievable. We don’t often see a mistake from the champion Tyler Brown but that’s what happened out of the gate. It looked like Brown became unclipped just after the gate dropped and put him several bike lengths behind the pack. Luciano Roque took a commanding lead into turn one. Miguel Castro and Tyler Brown were the only two that opted to take the pro set and it paid off for both riders. Castro moved up to the second spot while Brown exited turn two in sixth. Brown motored through the third straight and moved up to fourth while Castro would go for an inside move on Roque only to slide out, taking Josh Smith and Carlos Manrique in the process. This carnage placed Brown in second place at the exit of the final turn, still several bike lengths behind the leader. TB would work the final section for all it was worth, close the gap and with a final lunge at the line, take the win. The crowd erupted in a well-deserved round of applause and cheers for the two-time UCI Masters Champion.
The Junior Elite classes were filled with the best 17 and 18-year-old talent that you’ll find anywhere. The ladies class was dominated by Colorado’s Emily Hayes on day one. The race was on for second and Free Agent’s Natalee Daugherty was in a prime position out of turn two to nab the second spot on the podium. Mckenzie “Skittles” Gayheart worked her way through the pack and challenged Natalee down the third straight. Meanwhile, DK’s Carley Kane worked her magic as well coming from dead last to the fourth spot entering the final turn. Daugherty and Gayheart would lock elbows at the exit of turn three, opening the door for the manual queen Kane who would go on to a second place finish. Gayheart would power past Daugherty and finish up in third. On Day two the Hayes sisters would both hit the ground in the first straight opening up the inside for eventual winner Lexis Colby. Her fellow Arizonian, Delaney Vaughn, would carve the second turn just right shutting down a hard-charging Carley Kane. They would finish second a third respectively.
All four main events of the Junior Men class have been dominated by Alpha’s Cameron Wood. He was admittedly a bit nervous to race off the big hill but you certainly couldn’t tell once the gate dropped in the main on Friday night. There was a major pile-up in turn one leaving four riders vying for the podium. Colombian Tomas Correa gave chase in second to no avail but the real race was between Cameron Bramer and Brazilian Vincente Pinto. Bramer bobbled through the third straight rhythm which opened the door for the South American. On the second day Wood again would dominate the field but was closely challenged by former World Champion Ryan Martin. The Englishman has fought back from a nagging leg injury and looks like he’s back to his former fast ways. Rounding out the top three would be Tomas Correa.
The Elite Women’s class over the last 16 months has been a race to beat Alise Willoughby, who last lost a USA BMX event at the 2017 Grands. This weekend she was briefly seen in second place behind Felicia Stancil during a qualifying round but was out front otherwise. On day one factory Answer’s Lauren Reynolds had some issues with the first jump but gathered herself by main time and pulled down a second. Canada’s Drew Mechielsen made a nice first turn pass on Felicia Stancil to secure the third. On day two it was Stancil who found herself in the second spot ahead of Reynolds who rounded out the podium.
Last year word spread that Red Bull would be hosting a Pump Track World Championships and we wagered that if they allowed 20” bikes in that it would be dominated by BMXers, and it was. The champion from that series, Switzerland's David Graf, showed up in Oldsmar and proceeded to put the smackdown on the rest of the field. Current #1 Pro Joris Daudet is known for his consistency on the podium and Friday was no exception. The Frenchman found himself in second behind Graf. The current UCI World Champion Sylvain Andre would also find his way to the podium in third. On Saturday everyone was looking for Joris but he’d received a call late Friday from his pregnant wife Teagan that he needed to get home asap. Luckily he’d make it back to California in time to see his first child be born. Welcome Jett Joris Daudet to the world! Back in Florida David Graf again would win on day two, followed closely by one of the tallest guys in the class Alfredo Campo and first-time podium maker Canadian Alex Tougas.
On the amateur front, Friday night was the first of two UCI World Championship Qualifiers. All main event qualifiers would punch their ticket to Belgium for the July event. The coolest class during the qualifier by far was the 10 Challenge Girls who not only decided to have a pump race for the main event, they also all stopped just before the finish line and crossed together as one. It was such a captivating moment. We want to take this opportunity to congratulate all of those that made the team and we look forward to the second qualifier on March 15th in Albuquerque, New Mexico to round out the team.
One of the best showdowns of the weekend was between BMX Shark’s Jordyn Miranda and Yess’ Manuela Muñoz Velez who hails from Colombia. The duo would face off a total of four times (twice in mixed open and twice in Expert Girls). Miranda would get the better of Velez three out of the four mains but with Velez’s skillset, we think it's only a matter of time before she finds herself out front a lot more.
Jumping up to the big bikes, 10 & Under Girl Cruiser was won by Velocity’s Ryleigh Herrera both days. She also belted out an awesome rendition of the National Anthem on Friday and Sunday.
The 7 & Under Cruiser class was won by Utah’s Knox Perkins all weekend long. He also finished up in second on day one in Expert. In 8 Cruiser the battle was on between Ryo Boisvert and Arjuna Burgos. Boisvert would nearly win on day two but Burgos charged hard down the final straight to take the win on Sunday. Wiawis’ Jason Linville was another two-day winner who dominated the 11 Cruiser class. In 13 cruiser we saw PJ O’Brien defeat Ronnie Kim both days, granted Ronnie just moved into the class, it was still a very impressive feat by the east coast ripper. The 41-45 class has some legit fast dudes vying for a win but New Yorker Matt Dallas would snatch the top step of the podium both days.
The intermediate ranks generally have some of the best action on the track at any given race and this weekend was much of the same. Sean Lehew of Punta Gorda, Florida felt right at home and won 8 Inter both days. Connor Carosella looked good in the 15 Inter class and never saw anyone in front of him at the finish line. Simon Brandenberg horsed the 41-45 Inter class and looks primed to join the Expert ranks pretty soon.
The girls club saw its share of slicing and dicing throughout the weekend. Gabriella Dyer is a name that most outside of the state of Florida haven’t heard yet but she is one to watch for in the 6-year-old Expert Girl class. She would win both days against some stiff competition including NAG 2 Sequoia Gomolicke. She’s the real deal.
In the 9 Expert Girls class, it was a battle between Zoe Dannenberg, Annalyse Solano, and Nora Willmert. There was lots of passing and jockeying for positions but in the end Alpha’s Solano would be victorious both days in the class.
Canadian Molly Simpson made her presence felt in the 15-16 class by taking both wins on the weekend. The CNAG 3 bike definitely surprised a few folks this weekend in Florida.
Dane Millsaps punched his ticket to the worlds on Friday and then went on to win both days in 6X. If he finds himself in Belgium we have no doubt he will be on the final gate of 8.
On Saturday Carve alum 9X Lucas Ruiz had an awesome lap that led to a photo finish between him and Sunday’s winner Rowdy Holzer.
A sponsorless Gavin Freewalt picked up right where he left off in Tulsa adding two more 16X victories (and trophies) to his collection. We’re pretty sure it won’t be long before the cover boy is back under someone’s factory tent.
Jesse Welch looked like his old self and captured a pair of huge wins in 17-20 Expert for Throdwn. It was good to see the Phenom back on top of the box.
Speaking of Throdwn, Matt Wilcox continued his rampage on the 26-35X class this weekend. We can’t wait to see him take on Nag champ Robbie Patterson again. It's always an entertaining battle between those two.
That about wraps it up from Sunny and humid Florida. We hope you enjoyed it just as much as we did and we can’t wait to get back to the sunshine state for another round of the USA BMX national series.