The #GreatestRaceonEarth - GRANDS!
Without a doubt, the 2016 USA BMX Grands once again lived up to its familiar hashtag moniker of #greatestraceonearth. This race never fails to deliver on its promise to bring the best in competition and the best out of each rider. This year we witnessed some incredible title chases go down to the wire with only a few points separating the National Champions from the number two spots on down. In one word, it was EPIC.
The battles were tight coming into Tulsa, but nobody could've predicted what was about to go down in the major title chases. Would there be any repeat Champions, or would we see some brand new, first-time Champions crowned with a silver Cup?
The first Championship title-bout up for grabs would be Girl Cruiser. This one is always the tightest class in points and rider count and this year was more exciting than ever.
Arriving in Tulsa right before Thanksgiving was Jaycie Sinclair from Spring, TX., who was sitting in the number one spot of points. Once motos were posted, the 13–14-year-old girl cruiser class had 24 riders, giving them the advantage with 48 extra rider points.
But also in Jaycie's class was the familiar rainbow-colors of "Skittles", a.k.a. Mackenzie Gayheart. The Floridian rider had been training hard and honing her jumping skills leading up to this race, and it could all be seen on her numerous social media videos.
We knew coming in, that this race would be a battle of epic proportions. From the start, Jaycie Sinclair pulled the holeshot (from an outside lane no less), but Skittles was all over her all around the track and in every turn. In the first turn Mackenzie two-wheel drifted on the inside and Sinclair stretched an early lead only to find that pesky Skittles right beside her and taking another inside shot, entering the Tulsa turn. Again, Sinclair dodged the bullet and maintained her lead thru the rhythm. Blasting into the last corner, Sinclair was doing everything in her might to hold off the S-squared rider. Final turn action and Skittles made one, final last-chance divebomb which ended badly for her and left Sinclair free and clear to score the win.
And with it, came the National No.1 Girl Cruiser championship.
Next up came the cruiser title chase. Coming into this weekend's greatest race on earth, we knew it would be a showdown between the younger rider and the old farts. With 41 riders in 9under cruiser they had good rider count, but compared to 51 riders in the 46 to 50 H class, Motley held the advantage.
Answer-Rennen's dominant nine year old, Marshall Gehrke, was sitting number two in points and was out to at least retain his NAG number one plate, and then crossed his fingers hoping to also nab the National black plate as well. He did just that with a start-to-finish win, all the way from gate eight! From here, he'd just have to wait until 46-50 cruiser and cheer for anybody other than Motley.
Drew Motley started from lane seven and the intensity built when USA BMX president B.A. Anderson announced the usual line: "With the win, and only a win, Drew could become the national number one cruiser champ."
As the gate slammed down, Motley didn't get the best start of his life, and as expected - holeshot artist Eric Sweets did. Coming out of the first turn, Sweets held the lead but Motley and his belt-driven Yess cruiser pulled up alongside him on the outside - and then proceeded to pass Eric like he was standing still. Out of the Tulsa turn, Drew had five bike lead. By the last turn, Motley won with an easy seven or eight bike length lead.
Crossing the line, the celebration began with hugs and high-fives all around. Motley had just made history - being the first National No.1 Champion to win the title without a chain.
Of all the national title chases the girl battle was by far the craziest most intense race the entire weekend. Lined up in the gate in lane three was 510 Bay Area's Olivia Armstrong but the one rider to watch for was Emily Hayes, who had been looking super strong all weekend ever since the NAG-5 challenge.
Hayes was in the middle lane and got a strong holeshot and drag-raced Armstrong to the first turn and took over the lead. From there, it looked as if it was going to be all Hayes' race to win or lose and she was looking like it was wrapped up as she blasted into the final turn. Suddenly to the inside, Olivia Armstrong - the 2-time Girl Cruiser Champ made a last ditch move and they exited the turn, side-by-side. Grip to grip, and instantly - elbow-to-elbow! With elbows locked as they approached the next jump, Armstrong and Hayes both went down in the ball of flames that launched them off the track, into the sidelines.
Motive Power's Claire O'Connor from Norcal was in the third spot and suddenly found herself the victor of 15-16 girls main event.
That left it wide open for GT's defending champion Sophia Foresta, in the 17-20 women ranks. Sophia had lane eight but wasn't worried because she'd been pretty dominant all weekend long. If Sophia won the title, it would be hers - again. And sure enough, she got the holeshot, whizzing past Samantha Miller in the first turn. But then Powers Bike's Miller made the move of the century in the Tulsa turn and took over the lead. Miller had the rhythm dialed and pulled away from Sophia who looked as if she was in shock having lost her lead so suddenly. As Miller went into the last turn, her wheel suddenly washed out tossing her over the bars and right in the path of Sophia who was holding down second place. Third-place rider Kristen Long had the high-line going and had nowhere to go except off the top of the berm.
As bikes and bodies were flying all over the place, carnage all over the track, Answer-Rennen's Elida Beeman managed to cut low, quickly, and went from fifth to first in just a millisecond. Coming into this race ranked No.4 in points, and with the win here at the #Greatestraceonearth - plus having the largest rider-count, was just what Michigan's Beeman needed to earn the illustrious No.1 Cup. By far, thee most exciting and unexpected No.1 title of the 2016 season!
Chalk up yet another class win for Answer~Rennen. So far, it seemed like they were winning them all. We'd have to wait until the end of the races to see if TM George Costa played the right cards on his team sheet to win the Factory team title.
Next up, the boys Amateur Championship - and just like it has been over the past 39 years, this No.1 plate would be hotly contested.
With his win in 8x, Answer~Rennen's Karter Montellano capped off what had already been an awesome year. The UCI World Champion did just as he'd done earlier this year in Colombia - and not only added a 7-foot tall trophy to his collection but also took over the Amateur Boys points.
The fun really begun, though, when the 9x's lined up in the gate. With three riders in the hunt for the Amateur title lead, things were just coming to a boiling point here. Marshall Gehrke grabbed the holeshot with his usualpower, and went straight to the front as Crupi's Josh White and Haro-Promax's Connor Eaton battled for the 2-spot, locked elbows and flew off the backside of the first turn. From there, "The Major" won it by a huge eight bike lengths.
In 10x, SE's Junior Flores did a fine job of holding off Haro's Ronnie Kim - which still left Gehrke with the overall Amateur points lead.
Next up in 11x, Full Tilt's Kody Kolshinski was the one to watch ...or so we thought. This main was one of a few where the International field came into play and threw a monkey-wrench in the American racer's plans. Australian Tommy Tucker, on his Redline, adorned in a Strength-for-91 jersey, was out to show us Yanks why he's got a big "W" on his number plate. The last time we'd seen this kid was in Rockford earlier this year, and he diced it out all weekend at the MidWest Nationals. But here, under the biggest stage of them all, Tucker grabbed the lead like a young Sam Willoughby and held off the hard charge of one of the Gundy Bros. (Chandler) - from Chandler. Kolshinski's fifth place score would put the turquoise terror down and out of the points chase.
Next up in 12x, the match-up would be between Elite's Angel Montoya and Answer~Rennen's Birdman, Brandon Crain. At the ROC, Montoya took the win. But this time, for the Grands, Crain wasn't about to slip up. He had been sitting No.6 in point coming into Grands, and with 78 rider-points, a victory for Crain would mean he'd take over the Amateur points and could possibly take the Cup if all "things" fell his way.
Soon as the gate dropped, it was the familiar yellow-G-Force knee pads and knee-high blue socks out front - ahead of Montoya and pulling away as if he'd just hit the nitrous oxide button on his Ssquared. Crain was now the leader - but the next couple of classes with higher rider-count had some Title prospects - "with a win and only a win."
Jack Kelly in 13x stretched his lead so far that he was in an Owasso zipcode. Despite skying the first straight triple like Eric Rupe, title contender Henry Chudzik, who'd led Am points earlier this year and had recently fought back from a late-season injury, couldn't make up any ground on the turquoise twins and wound up third.
In 14x, it was the Foreign-import factor again, with UK's Ryan Martin and his carbon Speedco blasting ahead of Haro's dynamic duo of Leo Hile and Gavin Freewalt.
Then came 15x, with the gate chock full of the fastest fifteen-year-olds in the entire World. While they didn't have the largest rider-count - only 87 riders, No.4-seeded Jesse Welch from So.Cal. had the next opportunity to take over the Amateur chase - "with a win and only a win," said BA.
Welch got the pop from lane seven and while Radro and Hunter Brown had great starts, they could not match Welch's Perris-pull. By the Tulsa turn, Welch and his carbon Haro bike were sitting in a comfy 6-bike length lead and rode a flawless lap to take over the Amateur points lead.
- 1 JESSE WELCH, HARO/PROMAX, CA
- 2 HUNTER BROWN, EXTREME TEAM, UT
- 3 SPENCER COLE, DANS COMP.com, OH
- 4 BRAXTON ELSEN, FREE AGENT, CO
- 5 JUAN RAMIREZ, COLOMBIA
- 6 ROMAN JAWORSKY, RADRO RACING, NV
- 7 DAHVIN CHILDS, J&R BIKES.COM/CHASE/BOX, CA
- 8 ARAM SCHWINN, HOSTILE ELITE-DRIVEN, TX
USA BMX president BA Anderson came back on the mic and declared, "the next class with a chance to take over the lead will be 19-27x." Welch went from No.4 in the points to the lead position with that 15x win.
Now, only Free Agent's Alec Bob could take it away.
In between now and then, we witnessed more great racing - with more gigantic leads by the winners. In 16x, Bryce Batten scored the "W" - again, from lane seven. (What is it with Lane seven this weekend?!) Markwane Billingsley gave close chase to the B.B. King of Cool, but couldn't catch him.
In 17-18x, It was the defending champ - Kevin Pauls, with the snap and as we'd predicted, his teammate Cameron Moore was in hot pursuit. As they all diced and sliced through the first turn, Moore washed out and took Larsen down with him, while Answer~Rennen's Dustin Hammond swooped down low and cut up high with a clean elbow in front of The Champ, to take over the lead. Pauls went a little far to the outside down the second straight and left the door wide open for Golds Gym's Triston Judd.
Hammond, who started off the year on fire but suffered a serious crash at Nashville and has been recovering ever since, just pulled off the "Comeback of the year."
"This is the moment we've been waiting for," announced B.A. Anderson. Locked and loaded in the gate was 19-27x, and in it, was Alec Bob - the man who'd came to Tulsa sitting in the points lead. He'd already won the NAG-5 Challenge (which could actually be a curse, as no NAG-5 Challenge winner has ever gone on to win the No.1 Am title). This was also Bob's last race as an amateur, as he'd announced to the world on the RTB podcast that he was going to turn pro in 2017.
In the gate with Alec Bob were some mighty tough hombres: Vaugn, Salas, Steinberg, Roarty, Hopson and the old man of the bunch, Patterson. As the names were announced, Alec was the last one to roll into the gate. You could just tell he was feeling the pressure.
As the gate slammed, Alec Bob got a bad gate and to make things even worse, he and Corey Salas tangled a tad over the starting-hill dropoff. By the first jump, Bob was in dead last and off the pace, while Justin Knapper and Makieva Hopson powered to the front of the pack.
Watching from the sidelines, the Haro~Promax clan were quickly celebrating halfway through the main, as there was no way Alec Bob was about to pull off a miracle. Knapper brought it home - whcih was cause for the Answer~Rennen team to do their own victory dance for the Factory team chase.
19-27 EXPERT TOTAL RIDERS = 102 GROUPS = 17
- 1 JUSTIN KNAPPER, ANSWER/RENNEN, PA
- 2 MAKIEVA HOPSON, J&R BICYCLES.COM/CHASE/BOX, NV
- 3 DYLON VAUGHN, FACTORY HARO/PROMAX, AZ
- 4 COREY SALAS, SUPERCROSS BMX, CA
- 5 EVAN STEINBERG, MOTIVE POWER RACING, AZ
- 6 LUKE ROARTY, HYPER BICYCLES, MD
- 7 ALEC BOB, FREE AGENT, TX
- 8 ROBERT PATTERSON, EXTREME~FLY, UT
Jesse Welch, from Perris, CA - home of Grand Prix BMX, was our new USA BMX National No.1 Amateur!
Just because the title chase was over for the Ams, didn't mean the awesome race action was about to turn mellow. NO, it was actually just starting to heat up! SE's Jason Morris completed his second consecutive Grands-triple. He'd done it last year, and repeated his three wins again - X-Open, Cruiser and now 28-25x! To make things even sweeter, his wife - Courtney Tomei, won her Grands class as well. Now, they'd just need to figure out how to bring him four 7-foot tall Grands trophies!
The ageless UK-racer Alan Hill, who is like the Eric Rupe of Great Britain, dodged a Shawn Diprete crash in turn one to take things over. Hill held off Canada's MacPherson to score the win in 41-45x. And for the final race of the entire Grands - AllTow's Renato Siiva held off the charge of retired-pros to nab the final win of the weekend.
In the end, the final National standings told the story; with the Answer~Rennen squad capping off an incredible season with 5 National plates out of the Top-10 spots in points:
|1||JESSE WELCH Haro-Promax||Age 15||2576|
|2||BRANDON CRAIN Answer~Rennen||Age 12||2552|
|3||DUSTIN HAMMOND Answer~Rennen||Age 17-18||2530|
|4||MARSHALL GEHRKE Answer~Rennen||Age 9||2511|
|5||JACK KELLY Full Tilt Racing||Age 13||2495|
|6||BRYCE BATTEN Ssquared||Age 16||2476|
|7||MAKIEVA HOPSON J&R Bicycles.com||Age 19-27||2470|
|8||JUSTIN KNAPPER Answer~Rennen||Age 19-27||2459|
|9||KARTER MONTELLANO Answer~Rennen||Age 8||2448|
|10||LEO HILE Haro-Promax||Age 14||2437|
REMAINDER OF STORY STILL TO COME! Stay tuned...