Elite madness would be an understatement when describing what happened last weekend in Phoenix. The 2017 USA BMX Pro Series season opener was far from picture perfect. Massive downpours made for some pretty tough racing conditions and really tested the elites that loaded up to race. Of course, racing in the rain is nothing new for BMX racers, but it definitely adds a bit of a twist.
Leading up to the first race of the season for the best in the sport, there was still some speculation on if they would even suit up. If you are scratching your head, check out our article HERE on the Pro Payout debacle just a short time ago. Luckily the fans were able to see their favorite riders battle it out regardless.
There is not a ton to say about the ladies besides the fact they had an impressive showing of 22 riders. That is a solid number and it is great to see that, hopefully, it continues to put up solid numbers as the year goes on. Overall, Brooke Crain crushed it all weekend and rode near flawlessly. She and the beast Alise Post were running hard on day one and Brooke was able to make a pass on the outside right before Alise took herself out in turn three. She did not ride her main on day two, and once again Brooke took a solid wire-to-wire win.
Many eyes were on U.S. Gold medalist Connor Fields as well as Nic Long (I still say he got the bronze). However, some big hitters from around the world were also on site to test their skills. Twan Van Gendt from the Netherlands, New Zealand’s Trent Jones, Gonzalo Molina from Argentina, and lastly the Sweed Simon Marquart all ended up in the main to make a serious proposition.
Don’t count out the USA BMX #1 Pro and World Champion Joris Daudet. He made his way in, as expected, with Anthony Dean who has been a hot topic during the offseason. The main event ended up with Connor Fields scraping dirt off of his uniform and a foreign rider podium sweep. Van Gendt took the top slot followed by Trent Jones and Joris Daudet. I think we can expect to see some of these big leaguers at more USA BMX events this year without the Olympic weights on their shoulders.
Day two saw a dominating run from Anthony Dean who had a ton of steam coming into 2017. Not only did he have a killer Grands event, he also signed on with Troy Lee Designs for his kit and was spotted rocking the Supercross Envy BLK. It was certainly a rad sight to see a Supercross BMX machine on top of the Elite podium once again. With all of the rain, I expected this main to be much closer. There were more major foreign names in the mix, and Connor Fields once again struggled while Daudet made it two for two on podium appearances.
Who is hot as we head to Oldsmar?
So now to the real question, who is hot and who is not as we head to Oldsmar? Are foreign riders going to dominate or will we see some U.S. smackdown? Let’s take a quick look…
The women’s pro class has seen a pretty good charge of talent flood into the class. However, these new ladies are fighting some deathly vets of the class in Alise Post and Brooke Crain. I think Phoenix was a huge confidence booster for Brooke. She kept Alise right next to her the entire lap on Friday and I think even if Alise had stayed upright in turn three, Brooke would have made the pass and kept the momentum. That momentum will be big for Oldsmar, at least on day one.
I am not sure Alise has committed 100% to Oldsmar as her social media has been silent for the last few days. If she does show, I think the warm up from Phoenix was a good way to get her juices flowing again. We all know she has been off the bike a lot while helping her better half Sam Willoughby during his recovery from last year’s devastating injury. She is a dominate fighter though that will no doubt be looking for the win on the big hill in Oldsmar.
We got a major announcement that Felicia Stancil is back in the saddle for Oldsmar. Round one of the USA BMX SX series will definitely have her knocking the rust off of her GT machine. She has been fighting a serious thyroid injury for much of last year that derailed many of her goals. Luckily she is in high spirits and will be ready to charge the hill again. While I don’t expect to see a win from Stancil, a podium finish should not be out of reach and it will certainly be a good way for her to get back on track.
My dark horse for the weekend is none other than Mariana Pajon. Yes, the two-time Olympic gold medalist. I am not sure if she will be there, but this is one she has not missed for some time. Florida is basically a second home for the Colombian goddess and she certainly has a lot of wins at John Sawyer’s facility. The last couple of years we have seen her and Alise trade wins. If she shows, I guarantee she will grab at least one.
On to the elite men!
Since 2013 the only rider to win both day’s in Oldsmar was none other than Sam Willoughby. It is extremely depressing shit that we won’t get the opportunity to see the Aussie rip up Oldsmar once again. Luckily we can all still root for him and his recovery. With him ruled out, who else can step up to take the win?
Both Connor and Maris have won in those years and I can guarantee they both want redemption from Phoenix. This could be the perfect stage, but then again with so many riders from overseas hitting the series this year, it is a true toss-up. There are going to be a lot of guys with some serious success on the big hill. Nic Long has had some of the best consistency over the past couple of years by making the main each day. That bodes well for someone who damn near won Olympic gold. If Nic is feeling on, don’t be surprised to see him fire off a win.
Next on that list is Joris Daudet. The Frenchman is riding better than ever these past six months and wants to defend that #1 title with honor. He has some podium appearances in Oldsmar and is due for a win – as long as Khalen Young does not show up anyways….
Finally, I think that Anthony Dean will force his way to a podium and a possible win. He looks super comfortable on that new Supercross BLK and has the momentum rolling from a strong win on day two of Phoenix. I think in his same bucket will be one of the Netherlands boys. Their entire elite team is well accomplished big hill shredders and will certainly be prepared to win.
I checked the weather mapping and it looks to be a complete 180 from the Phoenix mud fest last weekend. The Elite riders are going to be ready to tackle the first USA BMX North American Supercross event of the year and gather some early season points for the silver cup. We will keep you posted the best we can from HQ and hopefully, some of our insight helps you guys pick your favorite this weekend. As always, keep the rubber side down and let’s get it on!
Photos: USA BMX