Sponsored by Huffy, Airwalk, 1-800-COLLECT, Gatorade, Saturn.

Words and photos by Steve Buddendeck

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s South Park BMX is unlike any other track in BMX. It’s an incredible downhill track where you know that racing is going to be fast, fun, and fair. A place where the pros can race wide open, yet still face enough jumps to test their skill. Riders of all ages and abilities look forward to South Park. Spectators and photographers also love the track because you’re guaranteed to witness some air. The first straight is fast, the second is filled with doubles, and the third straight boasts a huge tabletop followed by a twenty-six foot double. GT’s Dale Holmes claims, “It’s the best track in the country.” Dozens of other pros agree.

Mother Nature
Upon arriving at South Park we asked DK/1-800-COLLECT’s Neal Wood what he thought about this year’s layout: “I think that the track is good. It’s South Park. There hasn’t been that much work on the track¿it’s the same with everything shrunken down.” Mother Nature had done her part to wear down the lips and landings down the second straight. Pittsburgh had been getting a lot of rain. Many of the doubles that had once been peaked out now looked more like tabletops. This made the track even faster than before and everyone was flying and having fun during Friday’s practice. “It’s easier than last year,” commented Specialized’s Christophe Leveque. “The jumps are a little bit smaller. South Park is a good place to be. I’m happy to be here.” No one seemed to be complaining about the changes, but the turns had everyone talking.

Paved Turns

TNT’s Gordy Tyler showing why he’s #1.

Paving the turns at South Park was a big step for what some people consider an already perfect track. Weeks before the race rumors were circulating about the asphalt. Why would they change a perfect track? The biggest concern was speed. Nobody wants to crash on asphalt going that fast. We asked Mongoose’s Craig Reynolds what his initial reaction was to the blacktop: “Scared. I like carving them, but I don’t like crashing on them.” Christophe agreed with Craig: “I don’t like them too much. They’re good and bad. You can really stick on them, but if you crash it’s bad.” Luckily the asphalt was super smooth and helped riders keep their speed even at the bottom of the track. Schwinn’s Matt Pohlkamp is a big fan of the blacktop: “They make for better action in the turns¿you can stick your lines better.” Neal Wood agreed adding, “They rule!” to Matt’s statement. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there was no shortage of speed in the turns.

The Pro Jump
Over the years there have been quite a few names and variations for the big step-up set of doubles going into the last turn. People have called this section everything from the “Pepsi Challenge” to the “big step.” This year everyone called it the “pro jump” although you didn’t have to be a pro to hit it. It was more mellow than year’s past, but it was still a good twenty-six feet from lip to landing. Many riders felt that it was too narrow. “It should be a little bit wider so you can actually choose a line,” explained Dale Holmes. “You have to follow the person in front of you and hope that he gets over it good. I think if it was wider you could make some more moves in the last turn.” Watching riders get used to the pro jump was wild. Many overshot the landing and others came up short. Haro’s Jamie Staff came up short and bit through his lip. A few stitches later he was back on the track. A lot of key passes were made over the pro jump. All weekend it was rumored that Super Girls Marie McGilvary and Michelle Cairns were going to jump it. Unfortunately neither did.

Starting Outsideb>
If you weren’t snapping out of the gate, then lane position was incredibly important. Snappers like Allier, Leveque, Veltman, Richardson, and Pohlkamp could win out of any lane, but if you were going to be in second or third you wanted an outside gate. Alan Foster explained: “If you go inside the first turn you lose all your speed down the second straight. To me, the outside is better. If you’re a holeshotter, the inside is better.” Romero, Tomko, and Miranda all fell victim to the system as they were constantly on the inside in second or third, only to be pushed to the bottom of the first turn. Being at the bottom killed your momentum and would cost you some spots. Setting up for the second straight was very important.

Let’s Get It Started

Standard’s Warwick Stevenson leads a Pro Open moto through the newly paved first turn.

Watching the first gate drop on Saturday was amazing. Everyone gets so amped to watch racing at South Park that it’s unreal. The first straight was always a drag race, then the technical riders would start passing down the second straight. Mosh’s Jason Richardson was one of the fastest riders of the weekend and had this to say: “The track’s great¿it’s always a pleasure to be here.” What has your focus been this year? “Patience. Not trying to force anything or make things happen when it’s not time. Just patience, plucking away little by little, and trying to be consistent.” DK/1-800-COLLECT’s Neal Wood was looking fast in Pittsburgh, but relied more on making moves than getting the snap. We spoke to Neal: Where do you feel the strongest here? “The second straight. People are braking. People are worried about being close.” What do you think should be changed on this track? “The third straight is good, but that big table should be a big set of doubles. It was kinda better when it was a big triple step-up out of the turn.” Neal made moves all over the track and was consistently in the top three. Consistency counted because going fast in the motos and making the main were two different stories.

Andy Contes & The Coin Toss
Just moments before Saturday’s Pro Open semifinal the NBL came across a problem. Both Travis Turesson and Andy Contes were tied with eleven points each. Normally whichever rider raced the best during the third moto would transfer, but both Travis and Andy were tied here too. They had each finished 4th. The NBL decided that flipping a coin was the best way to settle the score. Andy called heads and made his way into the pro semi. From here he made it into the main and that jump started the best weekend of his young pro career. Here’s what Andy had to say about South Park: How do you feel? “I feel pretty good, I’m trying to keep it really consistent. My gates are definitely on this weekend, so it’s really helping me a lot. I’m trying to get out of the gate and hold my own down the first straight. It’s tough because these guys are very powerful. I’m trying to get more aggressive on the track and hold my own.” Where do you feel the strongest on this track? “The third straightaway. I’m pedaling over the tabletop and trying to get some extra cranks in there. Everyone is jumping it, so I pedal over it and try to weasel my way in there.” Andy made more mains than any other pro in Pittsburgh¿class, open, and cruiser. His best finish was a third.

Florida’s Fastest Pros

One of the many fast MCS mounted youngsters-Troy Simek.

Florida’s top pros Erik Abbadessa and Kevin Tomko have both been having exceptional seasons in 1999. Abba extended his collection of hot laps in Pittsburgh including a win in Saturday’s B-main. Bad luck kept him out of a few mains, but Erik wasn’t complaining. “I feel pretty good. I made two out of four mains. I had problems in the semis, but other than that I rode pretty good and won the B-main.” What do you think of the track? “I think it flows better than in the past with the paved turns. It’s really, really good. It’s the best track that I’ve been to so far.” Do you prefer tracks like this? “Yeah, there’s a lot of big jumps. Rhythm sections are kinda getting played out. People want to go bigger. The pro jump here is good both spectator-wise and pro-wise.” Where do you feel the fastest on this track? “After my second pedal I’m gone. If I don’t get bumped after my second pedal I’m gone.”
Kastan’s Kevin Tomko surprised a lot of people in Pittsburgh. Kevin has been having his best season ever. He’d climbed his way up into 5th place in pro points, only to go out with a possible season ending knee injury in Las Vegas. Kevin showed up at South Park back on his bike and ready for action. He wasn’t 100%, but you couldn’t tell by the way he was riding. “I feel good¿not as strong as I’d like, but I feel good and I’m having fun.” Kevin made multiple mains in Pittsburgh and added a fourth place score in Sunday’s Pro action. Tomko already has a win under his belt this season and is looking for more.

The Super Girls
The fast track didn’t scare the Super Girls class one bit. Different girls led each lap, but GT’s Jamie Lilly and Haro’s Michelle Cairns were the fastest by far. The Super Girls and South Park’s downhill layout were a great mix that made for some excellent racing. Girls like Cairns, Lilly, Brady, and McGilvary all have the skills, so South Park’s added speed helped them boost some bigger jumps. Clayborn’s Jill Kintner showed her skills during Saturday’s main as she passed Michelle Cairns to take the win. Cairns had the last laugh on Sunday as she held Kintner off to take the top dollars. Jamie Lilly won the 14 & Over Girls main both days.

Pohlkamp, Romero, & Consistency
Schwinn’s Matt Pohlkamp and Robinson’s Greg Romero both had consistency on their side at South Park. Pohlkamp’s plan lasted all weekend long as he led laps and stayed in the right spots to make three out of four mains. South Park is Matt’s favorite track, so we asked him a few questions: Where are you doing your passing? “Down the second straight and into the second turn. The second turn is pretty fast. You can really stick and make moves.” Who has impressed you this weekend? “Thomas Allier, Miranda and Wood are going fast. Alan (Foster) is in the main. That impressed me.” With the exception of Thomas, Matt beat all of these guys as he collected two 2nd place finishes on Sunday.
Consistency paid off for Greg Romero, too. Greg didn’t lead the most laps, but he stayed near the front of the pack when it mattered. We asked him a few questions as well: What riders have impressed you this weekend? “Allier, of course. He’s always one to be reckoned with. Everyone really. Stumpfhauser is going really fast. Pohlkamp, Abbadessa, Christophe had some bad luck yesterday, but he’s going fast. Neal Wood is very impressive. He’s making a lot of good passes. The whole class is very inspiring.” Greg put this inspiration to good use and won Saturday’s Pro Class finale in front of ESPN’s cameras. It was a classic case of riding smart and Greg was paid handsomely for his efforts.

The French Invade Independence Day
French riders stole the show on America’s Independence Day. Sunday was the 4th of July and GT’s Thomas Allier was unbeatable. Thomas has raised the level of competition in the states with tremendous speed and skill. “He’s speed jumping and bump jumping in places where no one else would,” explained Matt Pohlkamp. “He’s making everyone step it up a level.” Thomas added wins in both class andxtended his collection of hot laps in Pittsburgh including a win in Saturday’s B-main. Bad luck kept him out of a few mains, but Erik wasn’t complaining. “I feel pretty good. I made two out of four mains. I had problems in the semis, but other than that I rode pretty good and won the B-main.” What do you think of the track? “I think it flows better than in the past with the paved turns. It’s really, really good. It’s the best track that I’ve been to so far.” Do you prefer tracks like this? “Yeah, there’s a lot of big jumps. Rhythm sections are kinda getting played out. People want to go bigger. The pro jump here is good both spectator-wise and pro-wise.” Where do you feel the fastest on this track? “After my second pedal I’m gone. If I don’t get bumped after my second pedal I’m gone.”
Kastan’s Kevin Tomko surprised a lot of people in Pittsburgh. Kevin has been having his best season ever. He’d climbed his way up into 5th place in pro points, only to go out with a possible season ending knee injury in Las Vegas. Kevin showed up at South Park back on his bike and ready for action. He wasn’t 100%, but you couldn’t tell by the way he was riding. “I feel good¿not as strong as I’d like, but I feel good and I’m having fun.” Kevin made multiple mains in Pittsburgh and added a fourth place score in Sunday’s Pro action. Tomko already has a win under his belt this season and is looking for more.

The Super Girls
The fast track didn’t scare the Super Girls class one bit. Different girls led each lap, but GT’s Jamie Lilly and Haro’s Michelle Cairns were the fastest by far. The Super Girls and South Park’s downhill layout were a great mix that made for some excellent racing. Girls like Cairns, Lilly, Brady, and McGilvary all have the skills, so South Park’s added speed helped them boost some bigger jumps. Clayborn’s Jill Kintner showed her skills during Saturday’s main as she passed Michelle Cairns to take the win. Cairns had the last laugh on Sunday as she held Kintner off to take the top dollars. Jamie Lilly won the 14 & Over Girls main both days.

Pohlkamp, Romero, & Consistency
Schwinn’s Matt Pohlkamp and Robinson’s Greg Romero both had consistency on their side at South Park. Pohlkamp’s plan lasted all weekend long as he led laps and stayed in the right spots to make three out of four mains. South Park is Matt’s favorite track, so we asked him a few questions: Where are you doing your passing? “Down the second straight and into the second turn. The second turn is pretty fast. You can really stick and make moves.” Who has impressed you this weekend? “Thomas Allier, Miranda and Wood are going fast. Alan (Foster) is in the main. That impressed me.” With the exception of Thomas, Matt beat all of these guys as he collected two 2nd place finishes on Sunday.
Consistency paid off for Greg Romero, too. Greg didn’t lead the most laps, but he stayed near the front of the pack when it mattered. We asked him a few questions as well: What riders have impressed you this weekend? “Allier, of course. He’s always one to be reckoned with. Everyone really. Stumpfhauser is going really fast. Pohlkamp, Abbadessa, Christophe had some bad luck yesterday, but he’s going fast. Neal Wood is very impressive. He’s making a lot of good passes. The whole class is very inspiring.” Greg put this inspiration to good use and won Saturday’s Pro Class finale in front of ESPN’s cameras. It was a classic case of riding smart and Greg was paid handsomely for his efforts.

The French Invade Independence Day
French riders stole the show on America’s Independence Day. Sunday was the 4th of July and GT’s Thomas Allier was unbeatable. Thomas has raised the level of competition in the states with tremendous speed and skill. “He’s speed jumping and bump jumping in places where no one else would,” explained Matt Pohlkamp. “He’s making everyone step it up a level.” Thomas added wins in both class and open to his large collection. Fellow Frenchman Christophe Leveque was back on track on Sunday. He rolled a few pedals on Saturday, but came back strong with a third in class and a 4th in open.
Cristian Becerine is a new French name on the US scene. He flat out ruled Super Class both days as he collected hundreds of American dollars. South Park local David Bitner came so close to winning Saturday’s main, but Becerine passed him at the finishline. What’s worse is that Bitner had been letting Cristian stay at his house. Ace pro Phil Downell and Dan’s Kevin Dougherty both led a lot of Super Class laps at South Park. Kevin scored second in Sunday’s main. Bully’s Matt Silvia and trail boss, Lance Mosley, each picked up spots in the top four.

Into The New Millennium
The NBL season isn’t over yet, but many riders are already looking forward to racing at South Park again. It’s an NBL tradition that will hopefully never go away. After Sunday’s mains I heard one pro say that he wishes that this race could start over again. Some of his favorite BMX memories had taken place in Pittsburgh. The 1999 Huffy Stars-n-Stripes National is now a memory, but you can bet that next year will be even better. Craig Reynolds may have put it best: “This is South Park¿it’s always fast and a lot of fun.”

To find out how the scores were settled make sure you link to the results page. and open to his large collection. Fellow Frenchman Christophe Leveque was back on track on Sunday. He rolled a few pedals on Saturday, but came back strong with a third in class and a 4th in open.
Cristian Becerine is a new French name on the US scene. He flat out ruled Super Class both days as he collected hundreds of American dollars. South Park local David Bitner came so close to winning Saturday’s main, but Becerine passed him at the finishline. What’s worse is that Bitner had been letting Cristian stay at his house. Ace pro Phil Downell and Dan’s Kevin Dougherty both led a lot of Super Class laps at South Park. Kevin scored second in Sunday’s main. Bully’s Matt Silvia and trail boss, Lance Mosley, each picked up spots in the top four.

Into The New Millennium
The NBL season isn’t over yet, but many riders are already looking forward to racing at South Park again. It’s an NBL tradition that will hopefully never go away. After Sunday’s mains I heard one pro say that he wishes that this race could start over again. Some of his favorite BMX memories had taken place in Pittsburgh. The 1999 Huffy Stars-n-Stripes National is now a memory, but you can bet that next year will be even better. Craig Reynolds may have put it best: “This is South Park¿it’s always fast and a lot of fun.”

To find out how the scores were settled make sure you link to the results page.