Novant Health BMX in Rock Hill, South Carolina is undoubtedly the finest BMX facility in North America. While I have only visited the facility a sole time, this is truly a must visit venue for any BMX racer – simply put there is a reason it will be the host for the 2017 UCI BMX World Championships. This weekend though was all about the USA BMX Carolina Nationals and stop two for the North American Supercross Series. Riders from across the globe congregated and amassed to break the 300 moto mark in a weekend full of bar banging and paint scraping.
The weekend's event was one of many this year that will dawn the three-day national badge, something that has already been well received in the inaugural year of having more than a handful major weekends. Also on the docket for the weekend was the North American UCI Continental Championships, which were held on Sunday for North America's greatest riders to take the center stage and battle on one of the best tracks the sport has to offer.
With the Olympic games just around the corner and many qualification points still up for grabs, the Elite classes had waves of riders in attendance – all with hopes of being in a better position for Rio. Rolling into the gate first for the Elite classes were eight of the best ladies in BMX. Redline's Alise Post was the favorite, but Haro's Brooke Crain and company had no intentions of letting her walk away with a win. After a rough start, Crain was searching for position as Post and Ssquared's Lauren Reynolds started to pull away from the group. Crain found her footing and came back to pass Reynolds down the second straight, but that was all she had as Post held her off for the wire-to-wire win. Both Post and Crain found the same outcome on day two, but the Factory YESS rider Amanda Geving swapped positions with Lauren Reynolds for the final spot on the podium.
The fastest men on earth took center stage next and with a solid showing of American's in the main, the opportunity to take home top honors was there. It was a different view point for Austrailia's Sam Willoughby as he blew out of the gate on Friday night to take an early and commanding lead. The two-time Olympian and Free Agent rider Maris Strombergs rode side-by-side with Corben Sharrah down the second straight until he got a little sideways and lost some traction. Sharrah pulled into second and Strombergs got pushed high in turn two, which caused him to shut down. Willoughby held the lead as Sharrah came charging down the inside. It looked as if he was going to pull the Australian and take the lead, but a small bobble ended that run and SW91 secured the win and that $7,000 check. The New Zealand National Champion Trent Jones took the final spot on the podium after pulling away from Kuwahara's Jeff Upshaw. Certainly the fireworks were going off as these guys pulled out all the stops for the money.
Day two it was Willoughby once again in search of another major payday and valuable points toward his Olympic journey. With many of the same faces in the main event, Bodi Turner, Logan Collins, and David Herman all found their way to the big finale after missing out on day one. The gate slammed down and all eight cranked down the eight-meter hill with lightning speeds. For the second day in a row, Willoughby had a powerful start, but the Frenchman Joris Daudet (who also held the points lead coming into the weekend) was bar-to-bar as the two entered the behemoth turn one. Willoughby had the line and took advantage as he pulled away. Daudet started hunting and coming out of the final turn had some major momentum. He reeled in to fight for the lead but after some hard fought cranks at the end was just a few pedals short of the win. Willoughby took the honors, Daudet for second and Sharrah once again found his way onto the podium with a third place finish.
On the final day of competition, it was only Americans lining up in the gate for both the Elite Men and Women's classes. The North American UCI Continental Championships is always one of the best races every year, and this year proved to be no different. With the ladies leading the finals off, Alise "the beast" Post was looking to make the weekend a clean sweep – and she did just that after dominating the main event to claim the title. There is no doubt that Post is riding better than ever and is focused on redemption from her last visit to the Olympic games.
For the men, Haro's Nic Long came alive and took an early lead down the first straight. Speedco's Logan Collins and company were hot on his tail and were searching for every line to find a way around the 2012 Olympic competitor. With Long having a clear path, the competition was closing in on Collins as they entered the final turn. Sharrah rode him a little high, Upshaw came under and the three flew down the last straight. Long held them off for the win and title while Upshaw secured second and Sharrah pulled Collins at the line for another third place finish.
The internet was left buzzing about the world-class racing that went down in Rock Hill over the weekend, and it certainly seemed as if there was no better place to be. This year has been one of the most electric with so much going on in the pro ranks. With Olympic teams still waiting to be picked, the competition will do nothing more than ramp up from here as more UCI points remain up for grabs. Be sure to tune into usabmx.com/webcast this weekend for stop three of the USA BMX North American Supercross series and the Mile High Nationals in Grand Junction, Colorado.
For full results from the Carolina Nationals and stop two of the North American Supercross Series please visit www.usabmx.com
Photos: Mike Carruth/BMXnews.com