The 2018 USA BMX Derby City Nationals
The last time I traveled to Kentucky for the Derby City Nationals, there was no Olympic level starting hill and first straight. Ah, the good old days. Well, not necessarily the "good old days," just different times we reside in now. The sport continues to evolve in many ways; some bad, some good. It really depends on who you ask and what you are trying to find out. Another story for another time perhaps. For now, let's talk Derby City.
In the weeks and days leading up to this event, the weather looked quite promising. As many already know, this race tends to bring out the worst in Mother Nature - at least as far as precipitation is concerned. Come Friday, she showed up guns blazing as expected. Copious amounts of rain poured down leaving the track in less than ideal condition. Luckily the USA BMX staff was able to get through half of the main events before postponing. The good news, that was the last for major rain. The remainder of the weekend was warm and sunny - for the most part.
One major draw to this year's Derby City National was the official start of Olympic point qualifying for Tokyo 2020. It brought a change to the pro schedule since the normal Friday did not land in September. The pro classes would run on Saturday and Sunday for qualification restraints, but nonetheless, Louisville kicked off the road to Tokyo with a bang!
The A Pro class is always a hot watch. It is great to check out the up and coming pros and see if they are progressing to the top and will be able to make the jump to elite at some point. On the other end of the coin, watching the veterans of the class teach the rookies what the pro world is about can get interesting, to say the least.
Back when I was working for PULL Magazine, a NE native by the name of Menardo Simon was an absolute beast in the amateur ranks. Though it was not super common to see him in other parts of the country. Regardless, his jump to the A Pro class has proven to be worthy albeit he still has room for growth should he continue his focus on the class. For starters, he was out front often. Not to mention he was on the "steel is real" train rather than the aluminum or carbon trends of high-end race machines. Unfortunately for Menardo, he couldn't nail down a win on the weekend. He would gather two-second place finishes, but they were still pretty damn impressive.
Saturday's top honors went to Standard's Brandon Roharik which was a fantastic battle with Menardo. The real surprise for me though was the performance from Brady Kincheloe from Power's Bike Shop. I admit that could easily be due to my lack of being at events over the last few years but seeing Brady ride at the top of his level was a real treat. Props to him on the day one podium, and the major day two victory over Menardo.
Since 316 Racing's Tyler Brown turned old enough to be considered a vet, he has been dominating a large majority of the races he has entered. Derby City left him with his hands full though. Factory Alpha rider Jonathan Suarez was in prime condition to battle the California golden boy and would make push happen on day one to take the win. Definitely one of the best battles of the weekend.
Day two was a different story, but still a nice battle. TB Tyler Brown found his way back on top of the box and was able to hold off the hard-charging Suarez. It was enough for him to also get the chance to take home the infamous Louisville Slugger trophies awarded to the winners of the pro classes each day. Wrapping things up was the legend himself Cristian Becerine who took home a pair of bronze finishes for the weekend on his Throdwn Factory ride.
Has Alise Willoughby earned the right to be considered the G.O.A.T of women's BMX? Throw that question out and I am sure you will get a myriad of answers. Either way you view it, nobody can deny that she is the best on U.S. soil. Once again, she nailed down the double victory and had to pack two Louisville Sluggers back to her California dream where hubby Sam Willoughby was anxiously waiting. Mathematically we might as well start calling her the 2018 champ now.
While Alise hammered home a couple of wins, the rest of the podium was a crazy battle. On Saturday, Brooke Crain suffered a bad stomach bug that left her sidelined. It would end up being a pretty grand battle between Felicia Stancil who is fresh from an injury-ridden season and the not-to-often seen stateside Saya Sakakibara for DK Bicycles. The two went back and forth but Stancil pulled away and took home second. Sakakibara was impressive nonetheless with a third-place finish over tough competition in Dani George and Lauren Reynolds.
Day two had Fly Racing/Haro rider Brooke Crain back on it, though questioning her 100% status. She was healthy enough to battle with Reynolds and leave Stancil and Sakakibara off the podium. In the end, she would finish in a respectable third place. Meanwhile, Reynolds took the opportunity to rebound from day one and found herself in second place to finish off her weekend. There should be little doubt that the women of BMX can put on a killer show!
A first note on the Elite Men's class. I figured this being the first chance to nab country points for Tokyo, there would have been a lot more guys who showed up. Unfortunately, that was not the case as 23 riders were the cap. It left me scratching my head, but I am sure there are quite a few reasons - one being some other big races on the horizon.
Simply put, this weekend was ruled by Chase BMX French phenom Joris Daudet. He would pick up the win on both days and leave the likes of teammate Connor Fields, Corben Sharrah, and others reeling to play catch up. Day one saw killer finishes from Jared Garcia and Jeff Upshaw who would slide in at second and third places respectively. Both great results for those two riders. Connor Fields racked in at fifth overall, but much like Stancil, he is just getting back to full speed after some off-time for injuries.
The other surprise on day one was the performance of Free Agent's Alec Bob. If you looked at his qualifying rounds many would have felt bad as he was surrounded by Olympians. Bob didn't break a sweat though and performed better than ever. His fourth-place finish was outstanding for the competition he was up against early in the day. He followed it up with a solid fifth place on day two as well. A killer weekend for the Free Agent Olympic hopeful.
Day two was more of the same with a big win from Daudet. The main event finishes got super scrambled from day one, however. Anderson De Souza came in flying for second and Jeremy Smith laid it all on the line which earned him a respectable third place finish.
While the schedule change caught me off guard and left me watching videos of racing from day two, it was still a killer weekend. Great racing, awesome weather once we survived Friday, and a great showing from all around. The race to Tokyo 2020 is now in full swing, though riders have plenty of time to make their country team. Don't sleep though, it is easily one of the hardest feats in BMX - or any other sport for that matter.
Thanks for checking out this version of the Maxxis Tires Race Report from RIDE BMX. Check out the link below to our Facebook page as we continue to keep you updated on the best the world of BMX has to offer. See you at Grands!
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For complete results from the Derby City Nationals click here!