After nearly 30 races in the inaugural season for USA BMX, SAM WILLOUGHBY came in to the season finale with a pretty comfortable lead for No.1 Pro. Winning in Tulsa and earning a No.1 plate is nothing new to Sam – he did it in 2010, only to lose it to a Kiwi last year. As probably anybody can relate to, once you lose something, you usually want it back worse than when you originally had it. That was Sam’s story this year – and his goal. Winning a silver medal at the Olympics was fine, being No.1 in the UCi Supercross series was good, and getting handed a NORA Cup was nice; but for Sam, regaining his No.1 plate was almost as high of a priority as winning in London.
ALISE POST, meanwhile, had been absent from the race scene ever since she got back from London for the Olympic games. She had thumb surgery and has been working hard to prepare for her Grands comeback. Although not in the hunt at all for any No.1 Pro title, she was confident that she could throw a monkey wrench in Dominique Daniels and Caroline Buchanan’s plans to win the plate. Post came to Tulsa to make a statement – and that she did.
Ever since he was like 11 years old, TORY NYHAUG has done well at The Grands. Without any title-chasing pressure on him, the Canuck was just out to do as good as he could, make the finals and get as high on the podium as he could. This years’ Grands track was to his liking, with a Talladega -type first turn where riders could get 3-abreast in and not touch. Out of the second turn, Pros stayed to the left and hit a huge set of doubles before launching over the amateur turn, landing them backside in to their own larger Pro turn that would launch them over two more doubles to the finish line.
JASON CARNES had arrived early and had the Redline rig polished up and the pits looking spotless. Half of the 20×20 Redline circus tent this year was given LilLove clothing, to help sell and promote the Kyle Bennett "Believe" t-shirts and to show Redline’s support for the KB#88 fund and memory of one of Carne$ longtime Texan friend who tragically died in a car accident in October. Unfortunately, DENZEL STEIN was injured and would not be in Tulsa this weekend.
Thursday was Thanksgiving – which for most folks, means piggin’ out with turkey and ‘taters. To BMXers, it means practice. Sam, Alise, Tory and Jason quickly dialed in the track and were loving it. The USA BMX crew really put together a cool course, that was both challenging and gave plenty of room for the Hot Factory Squad to do their thing and make their moves if needed. Alise dug on the split second straight, and with her jumping skills, she was hoping to make it work for her in the mains.
Friday came fast – for the final UCi Elite race of the year, and a last-shot for anybody to move up in points before The Grands. For Sam, having tallied up 9 wins, he was hoping to hit the cap and take a perfect score in to the 2012 finals. He and rival Marc Willers knew the importance of this race. A win by Sam could possibly make him uncatchable in points. A win by Willers could maybe tighten things up a bit in the chase and close in on Sam’s points lead. Just as they’d done all year long, it became a battle of the "WILL-power" – Willoughby and Willers. Only this time, Sam found himself in the unusual position of 4th place and couldn’t quite catch the reigning No.1 Champ. Still, with a 4th place score for Sam, it wouldn’t change things too much going in to The Grands. Meanwhile, Redline’s Canadian Olympian was looking stronger than ever and was bumpin’ elbows up front for a podium position, placing 3rd beside his good buddy Connor Fields.
For anybody who knows Sam, though — 4th place is unacceptable, and he would be back the next day with a vengeance.
In Elite Women, Alise was on a mission. She was refreshed and she came in to this final race of the year ready to make a statement. That statement was – "I’m back!" Post aired it out in the ROC main and looked like her usual self. It was the Alise Post that the BMX world has come to love; holeshotting and jumping the big obstacles with smoothness and skill. In the one main showdown, Alise dominated the race; not only beating the two No.1 title contenders Caroline Buchanan and Dominque Daniels, but also defeating the 2012 Olympic Gold medalist Mariana Pajon.
Saturday was the day we’d all been waiting for. After 12 Pro series races all around the country, since the Winternationals in March, it all comes down to this day. Pros would run their three motos throughout the day and finish up with the semi’s and 3-main events during the ticketed Pro Spectacular event. With three Pro No.1 Cups on the line, BMX racing doesn’t get any better than this!
While many pros were over-cooking under the pressure this race has, it seems as if Sam lives for it. With so much on the line, he just ticks off each box throughout the day. Win this one; check. Transfer out to the semi; check. Make sure you eat right; check. Go warm up before a moto; check. It’s as simple as that, and at the end of his long mental-list of tick-boxes, is his favorite: "Win the No.1 Pro title for 2012." Check.
After seemingly breezing through his semi, Sam had ticked-off the box next to "Make The Grands main" and from here on out, there were just three mains and a No.1 title left. While the main was made up of eight of the fastest BMXers in The World, Sam was feeling confident and was determined as ever to win the whole thing. The points spread was pretty safe for the title, and it’d take three huge disasters by Sam and three great finishes by Marc for him to lose the No.1 plate. But that would be just icing on the cake. Sam was here to win it all. First main = 1st. Second main = 1st. Third main = 2nd, behind a hard-charging Connor Fields. But with 4 points for the day to cap off a year of domination; Sam had done what he’d came here to do. With a fist-pump in the air as he crossed the finish line, he had now regained the red-background No.1 plate; the first one that will officially have a "USA BMX" logo tagged on to it.
It’s been a pretty incredible year for Sam-I-Am. Here are the highlights he can add to his list of 2012 accomplishments:
2012 USA BMX No.1 Pro
2012 UCi SuperCup/Supercross overall Champion
2012 Olympic silver medalist
2012 NORA Cup winner
2012 USA BMX Grands winner
While most pros in our sport would love to have just one of those listed on the resume’s they hand out at Interbike each year, Sam has them all. Oh … and let’s not forget the payout that Sam received for his huge accomplishments in Tulsa:
$15,000 = USA BMX No.1 Pro Champ prize
$5,000 = USA BMX Grands AA-pro winner
$500 = Rennen’s Holeshot Award (for the 1st main)
$??,??? = Redline’s contracted bonus for winning the title (we’re not telling how much)
$?,??? = Redline’s contracted bonus for winning The Grands (it’s more than his usual payout for 1st)
Not a shabby weekend for a 21 year old kid from Australia; eh?
With all of that, you’re probably thinking – how could it get any better? Well, how about if your girlfriend wins the Womens Pro main and also grabs a sweet Holeshot bonus award in the first main?! Alise Post did just that, with a 1-2-1 in her main events, the BMX heart throb put an exclamation point at the end of the statement she’d made on Friday and proved to us all that she’ll be back in contention for the No.1 USA BMX title in 2013.
The biggest Power Couple in BMX, both on Redline bikes, definitely rocked it in Tulsa, and went back home to San Diego with some mighty impressive results. While injuries and concentration on the Olympics kept Alise out of the hunt for a No.1 plate this year, there’s no doubt here at the Redline Camp that she’ll be a bigger part of the points battle 12 months from now.
As Jason Carnes folded up the canopies and packed up the trailer one last time this year, and drove down to his Austin, Texas home that he rarely ever gets to see throughout the year, he had a big cheesy grin on his face – thinking of how the Hot Factory Squad again put in a great season and wrapped it all up nicely by winning mains and titles at The Greatest Race on Earth; the USA BMX Grands!
Now, with the first Pro race of 2013 beginning in March, it’ll be a much anticipated 3-month break for Factory Redline. …and, let us say … very well-deserved.
Happy Holidays, Redline fans!