Gator Nationals 2021 - Race Report
Since its grand opening on Sunday, April 8th, 1979, the track now known as Cape BMX has hosted it's share of incredible BMX event over the past four decades - from major NPSA races to NBL Nationals to plenty of SSA events, but not until this weekend had they had the opportunity to host a USA BMX big-one.
Back in early '79, when the track was first opened, it was built in a City park surrounded by fields and everglades. These days, it's a park surrounded on all four sides by residential houses. How cool would it be to live directly across the street from such a cool BMX facility?! In fact, we noticed a few open lots still up for sale - so, if you're thinking about moving to Florida and want to buy land, check out the local neighborhood by Cape BMX.
Stop No.2 on the 2021 National circuit was welcomed with record-breaking turnout. Cape BMX, in the Ft. Myer region of Florida was home to this year’s #Gatornats, and became the second-largest USA BMX national in Florida - not to mention it being the largest outdoor national in the Sunshine State. Judging by the obvious, one could easily assume that BMXers around the country are tired of being locked inside, and are anxious to race and get on with their lives in a post-Covid era. On top of a super successful Florida State series and a massively-growing local scene, in one of the most “open” states in the U.S., Florida is defininitely a hot-bed for BMX fanatics.
HOW ALL TRACK LOGOS SHOULD BE:
In my artsy opinion, one of the coolest things I noticed about Cape BMX was their track logo. From a distance, the curvey track emblem sorta resembles a slithering snake, but once you look closely, it’s actually an aerial view of the track layout, replete with their legendary decision-maker Pro section and the gaps between the jumps. Pretty brilliant branding, if you ask me.
PEEK AT PRACTICE
The Cape’s track split in two out of the second turn, with a super tough Pro section cutting sharp to the inside. If you took the right side, you got an extra turn, while the mondo-double section angled you straight into the last corner. From practice, it was apparent that the section would come more into play once you hit 15X. A few 14 year olds were hittin’ it up, stylin’ and whippin’ it out in practice, and we’d find out in the main who would go for the glory.
BIRTHDAY BASH & DASH
By far, the biggest story of the weekend was the timing of this race, as the stars lined up for the BMX-equivalent of Haley’s comet.
Due to the dates of this weekend, reigning National No.1 Cole Frederick and his Full Tilt team mate, Sean Day, would both be 13 on Saturday - and it’d be their last race together until Louisville in late September.
Sunday was Sean Day’s 14th birthday, so he’d move into 14X and meet up with BMX Shark’s Cedric Cade. Those in the know were anxiously awaiting this match-up, as this would also be Cedric’s last race as a 14X, since his birthday was just ONE day later.
The only person missing in this scenario was Ronnie Kim; who had just turned 15 four days earlier and decided to sit out the Florida events.
Thus, this meant that on Saturday, it’d be Cole -vs- El’ Suave (in Sean’s last day as a 13x), and then for Sunday we’d get to witness El’ Suave -vs- Cedric The Entertainer (which would be Sean’s first day as a 14x and Ced’s last day in 14x). WHEW!
Had this race been one day later, none of us would have got to witness Sunday’s super showdown.
NOTE: Looking months and months ahead, now that Ronnie and Cedric have turned 15, we can all look forward to watching them compete in the NAG-5 Challenge this November.
In Saturday’s 13x, Sean beat Cole with his usual smooth and effortless riding, and neither of them opted for the Pro decision maker. On Sunday morning,
we asked the reigning No.1 Champ if he’d gotten Sean a birthday present. He quickly snipped “I gave him something yesterday.”
Really? What’d you get him?
“I gave him a win,” Bacon Boy replied.
Sunday, in the Cedric -vs- Day dual, it wasn’t as exciting as we’d hoped for. Sean played it safe and stuck with the longer route, while Cade and a couple of other 14x’s aired out their feelings on the decision maker. That’d make five wins in a row for Cade, prior to him jumping up to the next age class.
And as for our new favorite suepr hero, Bacon Boy, he whupped ‘em all in the Day-less 13x - and will likely continues to do so for the next seven months.
GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS
Last year, Alpha’s Analyse Solano was in the hunt for the No.1 Girl title, but fell a bit short at Grands to score the silver cup. She wound up ranked No.5 last year, and obviously would like to subtract four numbers from the equation in 2021. Thus far, she’s off to a tremendous start.
Solano and her carbon-’n-gold Alpha scored wins in both 11 girls and 11-12 cruiser - which, when added to her Phoenix finishes, places her in the No.1 positions for not one but TWO National classes.
BMX TRIVIA: The first girl to ever win the two National No.1 titles in the same year was Ashley Recklau - back in 1996. Since then, only two other girls have ever taken two Cups simultaneously: Alise Post in 2004 and Dominque Daniels in 2007.
The season is very young, so the question remains whether Analyse could hold the No.1 spot in points all year long and be up for TWO National No.1 championships in Tulsa.
In the girls and ladies cruiser class, competition could very well be the toughest we’ve ever seen. At The Cape, RaceFast’s Sara-cuda Pruitt ruled her 15-16 class on the 24”. With some solid turnout in these ranks, we could very well see Sarah or other 15-16’s be up for the title when November rolls around.
In the next class up - 17-20, No Excuses’ Jasmine Topper scored the wins both days here, improving on her podium scores in Phoenix.
Delaware’s Daylight’eer, Katie Pioti, was on fire in Florida and scored both of the available wins in 31-35 ladies cruiser. Katie is easy to spot on the track - just look for the bright Daylight rainbow colors and then look a few bikes lengths out in front of the rest of her comp.
Apparently, if you’re a girl and your last name starts with the letters A-L-V, then you are detined for BMX greatness. Just ask Malia Alvarez and Olivia Alvidrez. No; they’re not related. One is from Illinois - known as “The baby Mangler,” while the other hails from Moreno Valley, CA and is a Lake Perris local who rides for the BMX Sharks.
In 7 girls, Malia won both days, while Olivia scored two wins in 9 girls.
We had the usual suspects known to dominate their age class in the 12, 13 and 14 year old ranks ... and all three of them are used to being out front and chasing after that coveted silver Cup each November. Will one of them capture the black No.1 plate this Thanksgiving weekend?
...only time will tell.
In 12 girls, Sophia Rodriguez dominated with doubles in day from class to mixed open. The same could be said for 13 year old Alexis Alden (riding for J&R). Even as a 13 year old, she whupped up on the 14 year olds in cruiser both days. Then you had Ava Corley, lookin’ sharp in her new BMX Sharks uniform, dominating 14 girls and beatin’ the boys in Mixed Open.
In what is considered one of the toughest girls classes - 15-16 year olds, it was Manuela Munoz flyin’ fast out front all weekend at Cape BMX. Whenever the Florida local shows up at the track, she’s always got a big target on her back and every girlis gunnin’ for her.
24 x 24
The cruiser title chase has already heated up, as defending two-timer, National No.1 Champ Rowdy Holzer is in hot pursuit of a three-peat.
BMX TRIVIA: According to the BMX history books, only one rider has won more than two consecutive No.1 Cruiser cups - and that would be Barry Nilson. Known by all as “The Beltbuckle,” So.Cal’er Barry did it four in a row.
Looking to impress his Floridian sponsor - Profile, Rowdy did his usual double-double, owning both 11 cruiser and 11x. Like many former No.1 title holders in BMX (In Hee Lee, Justin Ream, Brent Romero, etc), Rowdy has the destinct advantage of being about a foot taller than the rest of his fellow racers - and it looks like he’s grown another half-a-foot since The Grands!
The cruiser-comp at The Cape was great - with larger-than-expected turnouts in all 24”er age classes.
Starting off with the youngest big-wheelers, Clayborn’s NAG Champ Greyson Sneed owned it both days, holding off the hard-charging World Champ of Ashton Hester (LDC) and J&R’s “other Grayson” Novak.
If you ask any announcer in BMX what his favorite nickname is to announce right now, they’re likely to say “Henry Frickin’ Lenners!”
The nine year old from Minnesota continues to win every time he’s on his cruiser. Now doin’ it for Ssquared, Frickin’ Lenners has the support he needs to be up for a National or NAG No.1 title this season. Like Jimmy Johns delivery, Henry is freaky frickin’ fast.
After a breakout season last year, where he was up for the No.1 title on his 24-inch Yess, Kaiden Ireland is off to another great start in 2021. The Aussie-born Washington’ian hopes to be up for the title again. It’s kind of an amazing story that just three years ago, he’d signed up for the local BMX Beginner League at his local track. Immediately hooked on BMX, Ireland quickly clied thru the ranks on up to being a National title contender. With wins both days in Florida, you can expect him to be up for the Cup again this season!
When you come from Elgin, Illinois - that means you are a “The Hill” local - and Cole “I’d like to buy a vowell” Copczk is used to hitting high speeds on a BMX track. According to the moto sheets, he’s privateering it for now, but after winning 14 cruiser both days, we’d bet that the sponsors will be knockin’ down his door in no time.
In last month’s issue of PULL, we warned you about Velocity’s Zack Drinkard - with a sweet picture from Grands. Now, the pressure is on - to live up to the hype. In 15 cruiser, Zack was on the attack and scored two big wins on his 24”.
No matter how you spell it - with an L or an R, if your name starts with a CAR andf ends with a WELL, you’re good to go in BMX.
In 12cruiser, J&R’s Logan Caldwell owned it on Saturday and Sunday.
Meanwhile, in the rough ‘n tumble 16x class, Rival’s Nolan Cardwell also prevailed with a win each day - making his trip back to North Carolina well worth it. When you look at the names he beat in 16x - such as Hobbie, Henry, Flores and Basaj, you know he had his work cut out for him and that it wasn’t an easy job to do.
The Bay Area crew was on fire in Florida, even though they didn’t score a big win in the bike shop category. Still though, top-tier riders such as Gaige Gomolicke ruled their ranks with an iron fist. Big ol’ Gaige won every 12x main he entered - putting him to the front of NAG standings.
Another dude with the size advantage in his favor is Supercross’ latest pick-up - Patrick “P.J.” O’Brien. The line-up in the main event was more like a Grands main - with J&R’s Rocco, Mudslinger’s styllish-one Popovich, Full Tilt’s NAG Champ Trerise, Profile’s Velador and LDC’s River running through it, we knew it’d be a heater ...and that the entire main would likely his the decision maker.
Man-child O’Brien layed down his horsepower early and blasted stright to the lead by turn one, never looking back - to get both wins in 15x.
Next, came the class that everybody anxiously awaits: 17-20x!
On Saturday, just as the orange-shades of the sun were setting in on the Florida skyline, the biggest guns in 17-20x rolled into the gate.
As the barrell gate silently slammed down, Corsa Racewear’s Rayne Lankford flew into the lead, with seven other hungry heavy-weights were breathin’ hard down his neck. Lankford held ‘em off down the second and third straights, and fame, fortune and BMX groupies were in his near future as he hit the decision maker in the lead.
With just a slight less scrub thru the big doubles than Lankford, Hyper’s Drew Polk made up some precious milliseconds to catch up with the tenacious Texan. Polk aimed for a hard inside line and got the under-cut on Lankford in the last turn. From there, Polk held the inside line thru the log-legged last straight to score Saturday’s victory. You know that’ll be a highlight video on Polk’s YouTube channell!
Perhaps a bit disappointed with his close third place on day one, Supercross’ Cam Bramer was out for redemption on Sunday. Like a man pocessed, ol’ Crazy Eyes went all-pyscho on his competition and powered out front, never to be caught until twenty feet after the finishline.
While cruisin’ the pits, we spotted a pretty sweet Sprinter van over by the J&R pits. On the side was a huge photo of “D.M.” - Domingos Lammoglia. The Brazilian-import hs done well for himself here in the U.S., and continues to live the American BMX dream. Not only did numerous riders that he trains with on a daily and weekly basis do well all weekend-long, but Domingos himself proved that he’s still got the right stuff with wins both days in 51+X.
Overall, Cape BMX was the perfect fit for a record-breaking Gator Nationals. Great track, great comp and some GREAT racin’!
Who caould ask for more?!