For the past decade, Redmond, OR, home of the Great Northwest Nationals, has been a staple on the USA BMX National series. The small northwestern town just 17 miles north of world-famous Bend welcomes thousands of racers from across the country in early spring at the Deschutes County Expo Center. For some reason this race has always been the attractant of many top amateurs – all vying for wins and top point earnings in their chase for the NAG 1 title. Perhaps even the prestigious National #1 title.
This year’s track seemed no different than years past. Being indoor there is only so much that can be done. One nice piece was the size of the obstacles. While it was easy to consider them small, it opened things up on the competition side. Riders who thrive on their power output were now on a level playing field with the more technical riders. That of course left for some pretty tight races in many classes. Another track “feature” was the massive turns. For some reason the berms were built higher than I have even seen on this size of an indoor track. From what I heard on the rider end, they were not the easiest to ride. Either way it was another area that allowed prime opportunities for riders that excel in turn warfare.
Hot topics of the weekend…
With pretty much any national, there is always some sort of buzz roaming the pits. On the industry side it was YESS that had many talking on their innovative new frame. For years they have been the brand to push the envelope and try new designs. We have all seen the frame without a seat tube, their belt drive system, or even the OS20 frame. Now on their list of hot new bikes is the MXY frame that is set to hit production soon. The new frame features a modified rear triangle that opens the door for easy swaps from chain drive to belt drive. Of course that also helps with chain maintenance. The other small piece in place was a chain roller of sorts. It sandwiches between your bottom bracket and cranks. This piece eliminated tight spots which make for a more consistent roll. Of course it also throws out the possibility of losing your chain mid-race, which could be a huge sell for some.
Other buzz roaming around was the announcement of a new rider entering the pro ranks. Utah native and Extreme Team hotshot Hunter Brown made the leap to box with the pros. Turns out it was almost boxing, but not quite. On Saturday there was a clash between Pete Pascual and HB after the two collided on the exit of turn two. After a bit of jawing back and forth the showdown fizzled out. From my point of view it was an unavoidable wreck, Pascual didn’t see it that way. Luckily the fists stayed at bay and they went their separate ways. Of course that left the two taking up the last spots in Saturday’s main, but a nice bounce back on Sunday left them both on the podium. For Hunter, his pro debut was a pretty good success with a pair of third place finishes. Time will tell if he keeps improving with the new class, but he is off to a good start.
Hunter Brown turns to the pro ranks and podiums in debut.
The last piece of buzz was Full Tilt’s Matt Baisley making his return. Last year during the Lonestar Nationals Baisley suffered what could have been a career ending injury. After a pair of surgeries and a lengthy rehab to put his ankle back together, it was time for his return to the 26-35 expert class. Most were unsure if he would be able to sustain the full weekend or if the ankle would fight back. In epic fashion though he was able to race both cruiser and class and come back with solid results. Pulling in two cruiser wins and a second place finish in class on Saturday. Sunday was a bit tougher being stuck on the outside of a short track. Any way you cut it, the muscle hamster had one hell of a come back weekend. Watch out for him the rest of the year in that class.
Matt Baisley makes return after a year long layoff.
Stand out battles of the weekend…
As with any national, there are always a few select riders and specific races that truly stand out. Whether it is a new face slaying the competition or a single race that is an epic battle, there will always be some solid bar banging action. Check out my top three picks of the weekend…
#1 – Angel Montoya – J&R Bicycles – 13 Expert
Not being the editor of PULL any longer leaves me having to choose only a couple of nationals each year. Is it a bad thing? Definitely not. It just leaves me more opportunity to learn about names that are new and stand out to me. Angel Montoya was just that kid this weekend. Apparently when I was traveling to 20+ nationals a year, his name didn’t come across my radar. That has certainly changed after this weekend. Angel left his competition reeling for ideas on how to catch him. Style and speed are the two words that best describe the 13 year old from Las Vegas. Perhaps he is training with the Olympic gold medalist Connor Fields. Whatever it is, he needs to keep it up. That NAG 1 plate could easily be his come year end.
#2 – Tomas Anderson – 316 Racing – 14 Expert
For those that do not know, 316 Racing is ran by former AA Pro Tyler Brown. The team has been around since he took over track operations at Chula Vista BMX. Each year this team continues to produce some impressive riders. Going back to my last point, not being around as much left Tomas Anderson another new name to me. There is no doubt that the level of comp in Oregon was high. Tomas was throwing down with the best of them. I am sure this type of track suited his power, and it showed.
The 14 year old was battling hard on Saturday with the national #1 amateur Brandon Crain. As to no surprise, Crain secured the win on Saturday. Tomas was still able to hold on for a solid third place finish behind Arizona’s Chase Warnock. Sunday came with a different tune however. Anderson had a killer first straight that led to a very impressive win over the class, including Crain who finished in fourth. This kid certainly has a bright future, and of course it helps having a trainer like Tyler Brown.
#3 – Entire class of 46-50 Women’s cruiser
There is no doubt that certain classes do not get much love. Though for this group of ladies, I could not resist talking about their racing in Redmond. Not only did they have two racks each day, there was actually some side by side thrashing going on. It is not uncommon to see single file racing in the older ages, but not this weekend. Saturday and Sunday both had full gate main events for the viewing pleasure of all. Holly Dunn-Barsocchini kept the rubber side down and in front of the pack all weekend. The double big wheeled wins were certainly much appreciated for her Fall Risk Racing co hearts. Finishing off their podium were Sunny Harmeson and Michelle Goodin. Those two were able to break through the pack and finish in the second and third spots on both days.
I would not be surprised if we continue to see growth in this class. The moms of BMX, perhaps even some grandmas, are still very much so trying to stay active and competitive. Regardless of anyone else’s opinion, I for one found their class to be a refreshing change of the normal older ladies cruiser class. Who says these girls can’t battle just like the boys?
The final gate drop…
As the 227 moto Great Northwest Nationals wound down, I for one was a bit beat. It is a bit crazy to think back about traveling all the time and hitting so many of these events. Nonetheless it was nice to be back at the track, reconnect with old faces, meet some new ones, and fire the shutter at these amazing athletes. Redmond is one of the best for indoor BMX racing, and USA BMX has done a great job in keeping the Great Northwest Nationals on the schedule. There is little doubt that we will continue to come here for years to come, and hopefully it continues to have a great turnout such as this.
As the season is still early, it is too soon to predict who we can expect to take the titles home come Grands time. There are definitely some new contenders that will be fighting for the grey #1 plate. The current title holders just have to stay healthy and keep those threats at bay. It might be a bit before we hit another national, but rest assured you can continue getting all the latest info in BMX race right from ridebmx.com. Just check out the race tab. Also be sure to give us a follow on both Facebook and Instagram under the ridebmx.com/race handle. Keep the rubber side down and we will see you at the races!
Photos/Words: Jason McGuire