2021 Circle City Nationals - race report
"X" marked the spot to be over the last weekend of February - and that "X" was smack-dab in the middle of Circle City BMX's track layout, with their legendary cross-over section. As the only track in the country with a criss-cross design, it sets Dothan's track apart from all others.
Turnout in this "mostly-mask-free" city followed the same pattern we've seen so far in 2021; with 168 for Friday's pre-race (VERY large for a double-pointer), and then 273 and 251 for the Nationals. Only two months into the season - with 12 national races in, and the average moto count so far has been 272.5 motos! It's clearly a sign of the times, and BMX Racing is witnessing a huge growth spurt of brand new riders (who might normally compete in other sports if they were allowed to), and then there's a whole lot of riders returning to after taking a short BMX break.
Without a doubt, it's safe to say that BMX is BOOMIN' right now - at both the local, State and National levels.
PRO SERIES STOP #2
Dothan also happened to be the second stop for the Pros in 2021, and with its unique track design and long first and last straightaways and high speeds, everybody was anxious to see what the Pros thought of it and how they'd handle it all.
On the Thursday before, USA BMX No.1 Pros Alise Willoughby and Connor Fields arrived early and did a presser with the local Dothan media. Both were excited about the criss-cross layout - and did a greta job hyping it up with the local newspaper and TV channels. The last time Connor had been at this track was when he was 12 years old, and he recalled enjoying racing on this track as a hyper lil' BMX grom. The ConMan was happy to be back, now as a National No.1 Pro and Olympic gold medalist - and the Connor Fields fan club seemed to be out in droves.
Just like in Phoenix, Pro turnout was large - and this time, has more Foreign contingents since International travel is slowly lightening up. Alabama's Slamma - Barry Nobles, welcomed 14 other Vet Pros, and was hoping to put on a show for his homestate fans.
In the end, it was the Mosquito who got the "bite" on the competition, winning both days. Saturday night's main was a ferocious one, as "Hot Pants" Alan Hudson (J&R) grabbed the lead early on, and then Barry and TB#316 collided at the end of the cross-over and got all tangled up - allowing Suarez the chance to take over the race.
VET PRO - SATURDAY
- 1 JONATHAN SUAREZ, ALPHA BICYCLES - FL
- 2 BARRY NOBLES, FLY HARO - AL
- 3 TYLER BROWN, 316 / DK BIKES - CA
- 4 ALAN HUDSON, J&R BICYCLES.COM - AZ
- 5 LEANDRO DA SILVA - FL
- 6 LUCIANO CORREA ROQUE - FL
- 7 LEONARDO FERREIRA - FL
- 8 TYLER TAFOYA - NM
For the Pro ladies, we saw a total of 18 women come out to Dothan, which meant they'd get the top pay-scale and also have a B-main! With a whole new generation of Pro women coming on board, as a few are talking retirement at the end of the year, what we're seeing in 2021 could be deemed as a "Changing of the Guard."
Haro's Brooek Crain has officially announced that this season will be her last, and just prior to this weekend's race, longtime Pro Dani George announced her retirement from the sport on social media. Add that to Amanda Carr's retirement at the end of last year, and nearly half a gate in the Women Pro main will be opened up for some new fresh faces.
Who will be the ones to fill these shoes?
Tucson's Daleny Vaughn is up toward the top of the list, as she looks to be the hottest Rookie pro lady of the bunch, dicing out front with Alise and Felicia and already standing on the podium. This weekend also saw Supercross' hayes sisters make their official Pro debut - so remember them when the Golden Crank voting comes around in September.
Yet in the end, it was Alise Willoughby constantly out front in her quest for a unprecidented 14th No.1 title. if she does it again at the 2021 Grands, it'll be her EIGHTH consecutive silver Cup. Can anyone stop her?!
WOMEN PRO - SATURDAY
- 1 ALISE WILLOUGHBY, ALBES PROMAX - CA
- 2 FELICIA STANCIL, SSQUARED - IN
- 3 ASHLEY VERHAGEN, FULL TILT RADIO - AZ
- 4 DALENY VAUGHN, TUCSON, AZ
- 5 LAUREN REYNOLDS, ANSWER - CA
- 6 MOLLY SIMPSON, DAYLIGHT CYCLES - AB, CAN
- 7 BROOKE CRAIN, HARO BIKES - CA
- 8 RACHEL MYDOCK, REMIX BMX - AZ
With a record 37 Pros arriving in Alabama, this was the first time the Men were in the 150% payback range - and upped their income on the new USA BMX payscale. Saturday's first place bucks was $1,800.
Just as the Pro titles have gone to the Chase twins the past six years, so did the results this weekend. The first two days (Friday night and Saturday) were won by French-import Joris Daudet, while Sunday's UCI race win went to the Con-man.
As both Joris and Connor are tied with three National No.1 Pro titles - the odds are that one of them, this year, will join Gary Ellis and Pistol Pete as a 4-time Champion.
...that is, unless somebody else really steps it up.
In Phoenix, the rider who looked to have stepped it up was Mongoose's Cam Wood. But then this weekend in Alabama, Wood wasn't even in the A-main hunt, and was so frustrated with his results that he didn't even show up for the B-mains. The guys who we'd have to say was most impressive (other than the Chase winners), would be Speedco's Anderson Fihlo-Souza. He was just flat-out fast on the Dothan track, and was predicted to be the one who could defeat Daudet or Fields.
In the end, it was Dk's Jeremy Smith (your Golden Crank pro of the Year) and Aussie's Josh McClean and Izaac Kennedy joining the Chase boys on the three days of podiums. Tucson's Corben Sharrah and his super clean Daylight Cycle also had their moments of quickness, and by Sunday has dusted off the cobwebs to score a second place for the UCI points race - behind Fields. That's basicly Team USA right there, gearin' up for Tokyo this Summer.
Other impressive pros from the weekend was T-Bone sponsored Zack VanKammen, who is now living in Florida and racing aboard a carbon Redline.
MEN PRO - SATURDAY
- 1 JORIS DAUDET, CHASE / BRGSTORE.COM - CA
- 2 JOSHUA MCLEAN, FULL TILT RADIO - QLD, AUS
- 3 CONNOR FIELDS, CHASE BMX / BRGSTORE.COM - NV
- 4 ANDERSON FILHO, SPEEDCO/AVIAN - BRA
- 5 CORBEN SHARRAH, DAYLIGHT CYCLES - AZ
- 6 JEREMY SMITH, DK BICYCLES/CORSARACEWER - OH
- 7 IZAAC KENNEDY, STAY STRONG - QLD, AUS
- 8 KAMREN LARSEN, HARO BIKES - CA
In the ultimate Am classes - 16x and 17-20x, two names stood out all weekend - Rift-Tangent's Nic Adams and Rival Racing's Nolan Cardwell - from North Carolina.
The last time we were here in Dothan, Cardwell was just coming into his own and starting to make a name for himself. Now, a few years later, he's becoming one of the top dudes to contend with in one of the fastest Amateur class of our sport.
Tangent's Nic Adams and his Rift bike came oh-so-close last year to capturing the National No.1 Amateur title, and he's out to position himself atop of the Title-chase once again. On Saturday there were 42 riders in 17-20; way out-numbering all others. With a wins here both days, Adams ensured that he'll bump himself to the top of the Amateur standings and hopes to redeem himself this November.
17-20 EXPERT - SATURDAY
- 1 NICHOLAS ADAMS, RIFT~TANGENT, ORANGEVALE, CA
- 2 GONZALO RENGEL, J&R BICYCLES.COM/SPEEDCO/AVIAN, QUEVEDO
- 3 CRAZY EYES BRAMER, SUPERCROSS, SOUTH PARK, PA
- 4 GAVIN FREEWALT, MANGLER, FORT WORTH, TX
- 5 BRODY COLE, FULL TILT RADIO, SPRING, TX
- 6 SAWYER HOLLY, TRUE BMX, CHELSEA, AL
- 7 SANTIAGO SANTA, BAY AREA BMXERS, WEST PALM BEACH, FL
- 8 RAYNE LANKFORD, CORSA RACEWEAR, HOUSTON, TX
On Sunday, we'd find out who wanted to step up to Junior Men for 2021, and it looked to be a whole new breed of 16 and 17 year olds. While we would've thought that Answer's Birdman - former No.1 Amateur Brandon Crain, would be the one to beat, it was Rival's Cardwell coming out on top with pure speed, smoothness and a lil' bit o' style.
MEN JUNIOR - SUNDAY
- 1 NOLAN CARDWELL, RIVAL RACING, BELMONT, NC
- 2 WESTON MEURLOT, GT, NEW SMYRNA BEACH, FL
- 3 SANTIAGO SANTA, BAY AREA BMXERS, WEST PALM BEACH, FL
- 4 EVAN SCHAEFER, MUDSLINGER BIKE SHOP, SARASOTA, FL
- 5 BRODY COLE, FULL TILT RADIO, SPRING, TX
- 6 DREW POLK, HYPER, AVON, IN
- 7 PEDRO BENALCAZAR, ZERONINE, CUENCA
- 8 BRANDON CRAIN, ANSWER, RIVERSIDE, CA
Cardwell didn't just stop there - he'd go on to win 16x with virtual ease, just to put an exclamation-point on to his Alabama weekend.
- 1 NOLAN CARDWELL, RIVAL RACING, BELMONT, NC
- 2 CUTTER WILLIAMS, RIFT TANGENT, POTOMAC FALLS, VA
- 3 CEASAR FLORES, BMX SHARKS, ATWATER, CA
- 4 FOSTER HENDERSON, CLAYBORN/ANSWER, BIRMINGHAM, AL
- 5 BLAKE POWELL, DAYLIGHT CYCLES, VIRGINIA BEACH, VA
- 6 JESS BRANT, 6D HELMTS/SUPERCROSS/M&M, DELTONA, FL
- 7 JOHN ROBBINS III, VELOCITY BIKE CO, FREDERICKSBURG, VA
- 8 BRETT STRIPLING, INSANE VEIN, MANCHESTER, GA
In the end, it's safe to say that everybody came away from Dothan with a greater love for BMX. With such a unique and different track that challenged every rider, great competition with such a large turnout, and a fun-filled atmosphere on and off the track in the crowded pit areas and RV area, "fun" was the only thing floating around in the Alabama air.