By Mike Carruth
The 2013 UCI BMX Supercross World Cup season had a big finish for Factory Redline stars Sam Willoughby, Tory Nyhaug and Alise Post.
Sam has been on an absolute tear in the USA BMX series this year, breaking the all-time consecutive wins record in the AA Pro class. But it has been three years since he topped the podium at a World Cup event, and he was ready to do it again in Chula Vista.
Tory Nyhaug was running his #5 plate for the first time (at a world cup) since placing fifth at the UCI World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand in August. Number 49 also booked some big laps in the Friday Time Trial–with a third in the SuperFinal.
Alise Post was racing her "backyard" track, at the US Olympic Training Center, and would wow the crowd with mega-boost airtime into the first turn in her first qualifying run on Friday–where she topped the 32 rider field with a time of 39.290.
Speaking of the track, this was the first time the World Cup was run on the "London" replica track in Chula Vista. Previous races were run on the Beijing track. As its name implies, the London track was built as a near-exact replica to the 2012 London Olympic track–but was plussed-up even beyond the London specs to make the riders train beyond the requirements of the Olympic track.
As Team USA’s track, it is generally not open to riders from other countries (except by special arrangement between national federations). We asked Tory if the so-called home track advantage really was a "thing." Here’s what he said"
"There is definitely such-a-thing as a home track advantage, The Americans have been on the track for a year now and we only had a couple hours on it. Regardless, I don’t care. I just prepare myself like any other race and go out and do what I can do."
Sam, Alise and Tory all showed up early on Saturday to do an autograph session for the first fans through the gate–the best fans of all. It was awesome watching our stars interact so well with the people who make BMX racing the great sport it is–the kids who one day aspire to be behind the Sharpie, signing an autograph before a World Cup race.
Race day conditions were pure San Diego: Bright sun, deep blue sky, and temperatures in the low 80s. The breeze fools you into thinking you don’t need sunscreen, but you need to baste yourself well. That very same breeze, at the Olympic Training Center, in particular, can make for some white-knuckle riding on a supercross track.
Racing got started right on schedule, and Tory was the first Redline rider on-course. He started from the outside, and jumped out to an early lead, which he kept the full way around. In fact, Tory, Sam and Alise aced all three of their respective motos handily. The single-elimination rounds are always more exciting, because you are either in the top four, or you are done for the day.
In the third Men’s Quarterfinal, Tory tucked in behind Nic Long, and passed on an opportunity to sneak inside him in the last turn–smart riding, since, again, top four go.
Sam took the lead midway down the first straight, and opened up a nice margin by turn two. The super-technical rhythm section of the third straight was handled like a breeze, and he got some impressive air-style off the last roller set going into the last turn. Sam and Tory were on to the semis.
With only 32 riders starting, the women went from motos right into the semifinals. If you were watching close enough, you could definitely appreciate the technique Alise was putting down with every lap–subtle, but oh-so-effective. She was on her way to the final, with a safe & sane second place in the second group.
Sam and Tory also scored second places in their respective semis, and after a throw down by live musical guest "Left Alone," the mains were ready to jump off.
First, the Elite Women’s final. Alise was out of lane three, and off to a solid start down the hill and over the first set. The second set saw her land front wheel first–something which, at this speed and in this traffic, could put a less experienced pilot down to the street top. She recovered quick and kept the lead out of turn one, with about a bike and a half on second place most of the way into turn two. Down the third straight, Mariana Pajon from Colombia pulled even, and a race-within-the-race was on. Mariana pulled ahead going into the last turn, but Alise kept full-effort on the pedals all the way to the stripe. The finish would go Pajon, Post and Amanda Carr from Thailand (via Florida). Some amazing racing!
The final lap of the day would have everyone in the packed stands on their feet, and screaming for their favorite. Tory would be introduced first, coming out of the middle, in gate 5. And Sam would launch out of the inside, as he had done all day. There was booming support for both, which is always great to hear.
When the gate dropped, Sam and Connor Fields had a momentary battle down the first straight, but by turn one, Sam was firmly in command. Tory raced back from fifth going in, to second on his way out of the first turn–the pass of the day! Teammate or not, Tory kept the pressure on Sam deep into the third straight, and was ready to pass at any opportunity. It wouldn’t come this time, but Team Redline would go 1-2 on the Chula Vista Podium. Connor Fields was third.
In a post race interview, where the question was "was this vindication after the disappointment of the world championships," Sam said:
"It was devastating going to the worlds, and having a crash early on, not making the final. Over the past six weeks, my coach Sean (Dwight) and I talked a lot about the mental game, and it all came together today…it feels really nice."
We talked to Tory after the awards ceremony. As a summary to the weekend, Tory said:
"I’m really happy with how the weekend went. I felt great on the track all week, and really happy to podium in both the TT and the Saturday race."
Congratulations to Alise, Sam and Tory on three great performances in Chula Vista, and all SX season.
Now that Chula Vista is in the rearview, October is full-on for Redline, with three Redline Cup Finals and the Disney Cup at the end of the month. Be sure to come on out, say hi to Jason Carnes and the team, and see the brand new 2014 Redline completes.