Rockford. It’s one of the longest standing ABA nationals with an unmatched reputation. Asphalt turns. A packed, smooth, water-proof surface. The VintageBMX old school gathering. Grassy knolls with shady trees and plenty of camping room. That, and more – are what makes the MidWest Nationals one of the most looked-forward to events of the year.
And Team REDLINE loves Rockford.
But this year – something was missing. Rockford’s longtime trademark – a gnarly first-jump drop-off (the only left of it’s kind), was now a giant set of doubles. Not since Chandler filled-in their bonzai, has the sport lost such a classic track obstacle. But the riders and fans loved the new set-up, and it has now officially switched "The Rock" from a power-track to a skill-track. The starting hill is still pretty short though, and requires killer leg strength to snag a holeshot.
Knowing that it could become pretty hot and humid, Sam Willoughby was inspired by watching the JGRmx team at the AMA Nationals, and saw that they had an "ice bath" swim pool for their riders to literally cool down. So, a small purchase of an inflatable pool, 1 1/2 hours of illing time, and plenty of bags of $5 ice later … our Factory Pros were coolin’ down after a hot race in their own cold jacuzzi.
And they needed it – as all of our pros seemed to be on fire. In AA-pro, both DENZEL STEIN and SAM WILLOUGHBY made their way to the big show, where’d they’d meet up with "The Machine" – Olympic gold medalist, Maris Stromsberg. Earlier in the semi, Denzel had fired off a warning shot of things that could be, as he took a comfortable win over Maris. And he told us right before the final that he still one left in him.
The gate slammed down, and it was Denzel and Stromsberg throttling straight to the front, with the other six in hot pursuit. With the slight dogleg to the right, down the first straight, this is one of the only tracks where you WANT the outside lane.
Denzel and the Olympic Champ were neck to neck down the first straight, and heading in to turn one, Denzel just needed one more pedal to get the lead – but it wasn’t there and he hopped in Stromsberg draft and waited patiently for his opportunity. Down the rhythm-filled third straight, Stein and his Flight bike were set for a last straightaway showing of power as they cranked out of the final turn. As hard as he tried, though – Denzel would have to settle for a second, as Maris rode another mistake-free lap.
For our DeSoto local, he was pleased with that result – his best so far this year.
Meanwhile, Sam Willoughby was battling in mid-pack and was in a sprint to the line to stay on the podium – but couldn’t make it happen today. For Sam, this was the first time he’d been off the top-3 tier all year – but on the bright side, he has not yet missed making a main event this year and should still maintain his points lead for the year-end title.
In Elite Women, ALISE POST welcomed New Zealand’s reigning UCi World Champion Sarah Walker – who made the trip out to give American racing a try. This was the Olympian main-maker’s first ABA National. Her first American BMX race, and she told us she was a tad nervous.
Meanwhile, the seasoned veteran of ABA racing and title-chases, Post was out to impress her MidWest fans. As half of the crowd seemed to be from Minnesota, and more than half of them now on Redline bikes – Post had something to live up to and the presence of the World Champ would only make a win more sweeter.
As predicted, it came down to Post -vs- Walker in the final,. Earlier in the day, Walker beat The Beast in their first match-up, and the main would be their second race against eachother. Walker chose lane 8, while Alise grabbed lane 6.
The gate slammed down and echoed in Rockford’s new covered starting-hill. Alise and Walker were side by side, grip-to-grip, down the first straight. Alise with the inside advantage held Walker off to the first turn, but smilin’ Sarah was buzzin’ on her back Tioga Powerblocks and was poised for a pass at any moment. Alise rode a solid race, and out of the final turn, the crowd was on their feet or edge of their seat, as Walker and Post drag-raced to the finishline – with Alise rippin’ down the backstretch like a girl posessed. To her Minnesota fans’ delight – she just beat the World Champ! For Alise, this win was especially nice – not only beating Walker, but doin’ it in front of her MidWest fans and keeping her Winning streak alive.
In Pro Cruiser, JASON CARNE$ continues to keep things alive. He and his Flight Pro-24 did a Terry Tennette wheelie over the first double and came out on the inside in second place. Carne$ has been slowly creeping back to being the BMX stud he once was before his streak of bad luck and possible career-ending injuries. And so far this year, ProCruiser is where he is shining the most.
As he powered out of turn one in the 2-spot, the multi-time No.1 PC Champ Danny Calaug rounded the corner in third and had Jason in his sights like a Japanese Zero pilot. Carne$ was giving it all he had, and Danny C knocked it up a notch and flew by Jason in the rhythm section. This is a sight that is becoming too familiar to Carne$ and he’s getting pretty tired of seeing it. But he was able to hold off the rest of the charge and still stayed on the ProCruiser podium.
Amateur-wise, Redline’s GEORGE GOODALL, CARLY DYAR and "Lil Ant" ANTHONY DeROSA were all present – and fought it out with their competition. For all of the older cruiser aces, the big talk of the moment is the return of former Redline-sponsored Vet Pro Todd "TP" Parry. Yes .. the same TP who tried taking out Carne$ twice in one race, at the Grands one year. Now re-classed, he’ll be dukin’ it out with Redline’s reigning No.1 Cruiser Camp Gorgeous George. And that they did, with George snappin’ TP in the main but getting swooped from underneath and forced to settle for a second.