Great Salt Lake Nationals Race Report
WORDS AND IMAGES BY: Jason McGuire
For as long as I can remember, the Great Salt Lake Nationals has been a staple on the USA BMX National series. Growing up in Idaho, I frequented Rad Canyon BMX fairly often and each year I come back the race seems to get better. It certainly seems like this year the race is going to be quite a bit larger than the last few. The pits are stuffed to the gills with teams and vendors lining deeper than ever.
With many still getting used to the new pro racing format, spectators and racers were beyond excited to watch the best riders in the world. With fifteen Elite Women and nearly thirty men, there was certainly going to be some excitement on the track.
During the early qualifying rounds, Alise Post, Brooke Crain and Felicia Stancil were all looking fantastic. While those main ladies were not much of a surprise, everyone did get a big surprise with DK’s Caroline Buchanan making an appearance – not skipping a beat at the same time. With the heavy hitters of the Women’s Elite class in full force, there was no telling who was going to take home the win. Early qualifying rounds pointed towards Alise Post, and in the main event things would be no different. The beast was unleashed and from the gate drop to the line she was in full control. While the win was on lock, the main battle was for second and third. Haro’s Brooke Crain was holding strong behind Post, but Buchanan was right on her tail end. She entered turn two in third and emerged in second, making an outstanding move for the pass. They would finish the same way with Post winning, Buchanan in second and Crain for third.
Elite Men came with an ending that was, but wasn’t, expected. All throughout the qualifying rounds, the current World Champion Sam Willoughby was consistently in third and fourth. While that is definitely not what we are accustomed to seeing, hopes were high that he would pick it up for the main. The Chase duo of Connor Fields and Joris Daudet were looking on fire after consistently taking the top two spots in qualifying. Another rider looking on top of his game was Twan Van Gent from the Netherlands. We certainly thought he would be in the main, but would come up short in the semi.
When it came time for their main event, three Chase bikes held the inside gates. Joris Daudet, Connor Fields and Anthony Dean. All three really fast guys who were all capable of winning. Nic Long sat next with Sam Willoughby on the right side of the ram. Logan Collins, Jared Garcia and Tanner Sebesta filled in the remaining three. The gate hit the deck and Sam had by far his best gate of the weekend. By the middle of the first jump he held a half bike on the rest of the field. Stuck in the middle, the beginning of turn one got a bit tight, but he was able to pull through and power away. Daudet and Fields were battling behind and fell of pace by just a bit, but Fields gained steam in the last turn and started to reel in the world champ. Unfortunately for him, the last minute lunge at the line still left him short by a half a wheel.
The elite classes were definitely some of the best of the year and day two will without-a-doubt bring more of the same. The power duo of Alise Post and Sam Willoughby once again took the podium sweep. With a pile of cash and some rad awards from the Utah Sports Commission, these two really cleaned up – not to mention their Answer BMX Holeshot awards.
Be sure to check out all of the USA BMX social media outlets for updates throughout the weekend. And as always, check back here tonight for the latest from day one of the 2015 USA BMX Great Salt Lake Nationals!
There is one thing that is almost always evident about this event – the weather. Never does it seem to fail that South Jordan, Utah welcomes us with sweltering heat in the high elevation of the Utah Mountains. One year, you could not find a canopy within a 50-mile radius of the track as everyone scrambled to claim his or her little stake of shade. However, the time finally came for some truly perfect weather. With the sun shining and temperatures in the mid to high eighties, we could not have asked for a more wonderful day. To add icing on top, there was a slight northern afternoon breeze that was nothing but pleasant.
What else could go with perfect weather? How about a perfect day of racing? We definitely succeeded on both fronts. To kick off the main events we starts with the A Pro class, which with 22 riders, was certainly a battle of wills. After turning pro at the Grands, Redline’s Collin Hudson has still been searching for his first win. A new rookie in Haro~Promax’s Walker Finch was ready to shine in glory as he made sure his pro debut would have him in the main. With the only other “rookie” being Kyle Bastin, they would have a lot of work for one of them to pull out the win. When the gate finally dropped Hudson kicked it into overdrive past the first obstacle and checked out from Factory Extreme Team’s Jeremy Smith, Bellflower’s Paul Wassenaar and the newest rookie, Walker Finch, who all finished 2-3-4-respectively. With the will to win it was never even a question. Hudson crossed the line first to secure his first pro victory. He told us during the podium presentation, “Finally! It feels so good to get this win out of the way.” He followed that by keeping his first big check and sharing a hug with his father.
Next to bat was the Vet Pro class where it was a true dash for the cash as all seven entrants were in the main event. Ssquared’s Cristian Becerine was looking on point with SE’s Javier Colombo during their “gate-choice” lap. Speedco Bicycles Brand Manager Derek Betcher and GT Bicycles rider Jason Richardson were also both looking on top of their game and ready to take down the two best in the class. When the main event came around, Becerine completely left the rest in the dust – winning by a quarter straightaway. Javier had a rough start, but was able to battle back past Richardson and Betcher where he would end up second overall. DB44 would finally find himself taking third, just ahead of Richardson. As we near the Grands, it is becoming evident that we will most likely have another big battle between Javier and Cristian for the title.
After a whirlwind of a day for the Women’s Elite class, there were definitely some surprises. Both the rookie Kelsey Van Ogle and Caroline Buchanan would miss the cut by just a point or two. Luckily Rachel Mydock was able to make a showing for the rookie ladies. With Redline’s Alise Post the favorite for the weekend, Brooke Crain and Felicia Stancil were urging to knock her off the top of the podium. The curtain call arrived, but the star was once again Post as she went wire-to-wire. Crain was looking strong and made pulled in another second place, while Stancil held strong over Lauren Reynolds for the final spot. As the ladies head to Rockford next weekend, they will certainly be looking to reel in Post in the points chase.
With seas of crowds lining the straightaways, they were ready to see the best riders in the world bang bars. The biggest news before they loaded up was Sam Willoughby getting dropped in the semi. After a bad gate, he was on the bubble. The rookie of the class Lain Van Ogle made a great pass on the world champ to find his way in the main. Twan Van Gendt also redeemed himself after making the show and was ready to prove he could win the class. At the drop of the gate, all eight riders exploded like fireworks down the starting hill. At the thirty-foot line things tightened up, and it was Haro’s Corben Sharrah emerging as the leader. Corben has led here before, but has been known to end up on the ground before crossing the line. Luckily this was not one of those years as he surpassed all the obstacles and a strong last straight push from Anthony Dean to take the win. Dean would end up with another second place finish on the year and Twan Van Gendt made it happen with a solid third place finish. I am sure Dean shortened the gap as the point’s leader; Joris Daudet had a rough go in the main with a last place finish.
The pro racing was absolutely awesome as Rad Canyon BMX always allows for full throttle from all the riders. We are entering day two with 180 motos and amateurs ready to take their fame. We will have updates throughout the day on our social media outlets and have complete coverage of amateur racing on day two later in our race report this evening.