2017 Midwest Nationals Race Report
That is the best word we can think of to describe Rockford BMX. Everywhere you look, everything you see and experience, everything you do here, you just can't but be impressed with when you are at the Midwest Nationals.
When you first pull into Searls Park, you just can't help but be impressed at your first impression. The plush green lawns for pitting in and camping on are to BMX what Augusta is to golfers. Surrounded by trees for shade, this is by far in the Top-3 Nationals of the season for camping out at. There's never any dust and usually not a gust of wind. The whole scenario - even if you haven't gotten to the track yet, just screams relaxation and fun.
Next comes the track; the #WorldFamous Rockford BMX. This track, just like ABA (USABMX) is also celebrating their 40th Anniversary. The first race ran here was in 1977 - and it has hosted the MidWest Nationals pretty much non-stop for the past 30. Part of the reason why is the track itself; with the famously photogenic "Drop" at the Rock, the used-to-be Monsterous "Bermzilla" (once the largest first turns in the sport - but now dwarfed by Supercross tracks like Rock Hill and Grand Valley BMX). Then there's the second most photographic jump in BMX - going into the second turn. Whether it's been a tabletop or the current step-down, racers can't help but buzz the ground like an F-14 jet fighter.
For some riders (the more talented type), you can hit the triples out of the first turn, stay low and launch off the last lip of the triples and jump the straightaway to gap it over to the step-down. It's the quicker route and requires the skill of a AA-pro to do so, but we did witness plenty of older Ams goin' for it. That, too, is mighty impressive to watch.
Out of the second turn, you are sent at speeds into a fun-filled straight full of doubles, step-ups, rollers and assorted obstacles that will challenge every type of rider; from flat-pedaled Novices to A-pros.
All of the turns in Rockford were steeped-up a few years ago, including the wide and sweeping third turn. Keeping up with the times, Jake and his crew extended the tops of their berms and gave them a lot more bank toward the top. This seems to have solved racers from launching over the top - and would be a great solution for last week's venue; Rad Canyon in Utah.
Out of the third turn at speed, you now hit the newest change at Rockford - a row of steeper and deeper rhythm that will keep every rider, any age, challenged and on their toes. Another impressive thing about Rockford is its ability throughout the years to make it a race to the stripe. As you come off of the "Rockness Monster" - you MUSt pedal all the way to the white line, or you just might get nipped for the win or a spot in the semi. Let up before the line and chances are good that you might get beat at the stripe. The only good news to that would be that when you're watching your main from the sidelines, you have some cool bleachers to do so in.
So, if you think being "impressed" with this first-class facility is all, think again. Because the impressiveness never stops, and continues on with the racing. Do the math: impressive track = impressive races. It's an easy equation to figure out. Once main events rolled around on this three-day weekend, we were ready to watch a great show.
IMPRESSIVE RIDER No.1: DANICA ANDERSON
After the first day of racing, we'd have to say that the most impressive racer so far of the 2017 #MIdwestnats would have to be the Lil' Avalanche, Danica Anderson - daughter of former 2-time No.1 Amateur Richie Anderson.
Danica was the only one to triple on Friday night, and she didn't lose a single lap all day - probably including practice, too. Up against Haro-Promax's Avery Chartrand and Venom's Sophia Johnson, Danica was unstoppable in Rockford. Can she triple-triple (get three wins, all three days?) ...we're betting that she will.
The pressure was on. But remember - she's an Anderson; so there should be no question if the Lil' Avalanche could handle it or not. Just like Uncle Ronnie when he was No.1 Pro in the ABA, or her father back in 1978 and 1979, Danica totally dominated.
Saturday ...three more wins to her record book.
Sunday ... three more, making for a rare triple-triple. Three wins, in three classes, all three days, and not losing a single lap all weekend. Whatta way to keep up the Anderson family values! There's a reason she has earned consecutive NAG No.1's for multiple years.
10 & UNDER GIRLS CRUISER
- 1 DANICA ANDERSON, LANCASTER, CA
- 2 AVERY CHARTRAND, HARO/PROMAX, ISANTI, MN
- 3 SOPHIA JOHNSON, VENOM RACING, ISANTI, MN
- 4 OLIVE HINTON, SPEEDPEDDLERS, BROOKFIELD, IL
- 5 BROOKE STEVENS, STATELINE BMX, NEENAH, WI
- 6 EMMA CAVNER, ROCKFORD, MI
- 7 LILY HINTON, SPEEDPEDDLERS, BROOKFIELD, IL
- 1 DANICA ANDERSON, LANCASTER, CA
- 2 AVERY CHARTRAND, HARO/PROMAX, ISANTI, MN
- 3 SIENNA SODERBERG, YOUNG GUNS, GENOA CITY, WI
- 4 OLIVE HINTON, SPEEDPEDDLERS, BROOKFIELD, IL
- 5 SOPHIA JOHNSON, VENOM RACING, ISANTI, MN
- 6 JOSIE LARSON, MUDSLINGERS, PLANO, IL
- 7 BROOKE STEVENS, STATELINE BMX, NEENAH, WI
- 8 EMILY HAUGEN, BENT RIM, ISANTI, MN
IMPRESSIVE RIDER No.2: LAYNE GAINER
It seemed unusual to see a small contingent of Arizona's Gordy's team in attendance, but obviously, that heard this was an #impressive place to race. After winning Bike Shop team in Utah, they came to Rockford to cruise around the track in Friday's parade lap - and then their star A-pro, Layne Gainer, proceeded to take on local, hometown hero Olijuwon Davis in the Pro Open field. Now, you know that "Prince O.D." has the Rockford track wired, and if you follow him on social media, you that he's also a beast in the gym and could bench-press Layne or dead-lift the entire Pro gate if he felt like it. So for Layne to come here, on O.D.'s turf, and make a move to score the Pro Open win was ... well, you guessed it. #IMPRESSIVE.
PRO OPEN - FRIDAY
- 1 LAYNE GAINER, GORDY'S BICYCLES, MESA, AZ
- 2 OLIJUWON DAVIS, SPEEDPEDDLERS, ST CHARLES, IL
- 3 ELLIOT MCGRATH, STAATS-CIARI, NEW HOPE, MN
- 4 TYLER KLUMPER, JR BICYCLES.COM/CHASE/BOX, TARPON SPRINGS, FL
- 5 SKYLER PRATHER, SPEEDPEDDLERS, PAWNEE, IL
- 6 SHANNON TAYLOR, DAN'S COMP/ALIENATION, WARSAW, IN
- 7 JORDAN SCHEIDERICH, RACER CONCEPTS/BIKES FOR THE LIKES, KANSAS CITY, KS
- 8 HEATHER COLLMAN, FACTORY YESS, ROCKTON, IL
PRO OPEN - SATURDAY
- 1 LAYNE GAINER, GORDY'S BICYCLES - AZ
- 2 ELLIOT MCGRATH, STAATS-CIARI - MN
- 3 OLIJUWON DAVIS, SPEEDPEDDLERS -IL
- 4 SHANNON TAYLOR, DAN'S COMP/ALIENATION - IN
- 5 JARROD ADCOCK - IL
- 6 TYLER KLUMPER, JR BICYCLES.COM/CHASE/BOX - FL
- 7 SHAWN CARDEN, SALINAS, CA
- 8 JORDAN SCHEIDERICH, RACER CONCEPTS/BIKES FOR THE LIKES - KS
Sidenote: Did you read those results? See anything unusual in there? That's right - without enough riders for a Pro Women open class, the fastest of the females came here to race, and wound up dicin' it out with the dudes. On Friday, Yess' Heather Coleman made the main and was holdin' her own against A-pros.
IMPRESSIVE RIDER No.3: TINA GILLIS
Imagine my surprise when I saw thru my camera lens - the lead rider of 46-50 ladies cruiser catchin' big-time air and even throwin' down some turn-bars while out front. The Throdwn rider shocked me as she skied the step-down into turn two and gave her fans a small cross-up. WHOA!
"Who is that?" I thought, as I snapped the surprise shot with the PULL Canon. Announcer Erick Grindle was just as surprised. The leader - and eventual winner all weekend, was Tina Gillis.
She is 46 YEARS OLD and completely RAD!
Her husband is Sam Gillis who is like the local Rockford photographer in this neck of the woods. I ran into him on the sidelines, with camera in hand, and complimented him on having such a rad wife. "She raced for a short time in the 80's" he told me. And then she returned to racing awhile back and has been tearin' it up ever since.
46-50 WOMEN CRUISER
- 1 TINA GILLIS, THRODWN, WAUKESHA, WI
- 2 CARRIE MUNDAHL, ADVENTURE, BISMARCK, ND
- 3 TAMARA SCHULZ, STANDARD BYKE CO, KENOSHA, WI
There's no denying it - she's got more style than most gals 20 or 30 years younger than herself. More style than most of us old, bald fat men who race 24's. When it comes to stylin' it up - Tina has not only set the bar high for BMX moms, but for us dads too.
MOST IMPRESSIVE RACE No.4: JAYCIE SINCLAIR -vs- MACKENZIE GAYHEART
What makes a great race? When elbows are flying, when riders are battling in the berms and drag-racing to the finish line. In Rockford - with a fairly long flat sprint to the stripe, we always see a ton of close calls. And one of the best ones of the entire weekend had to be in 14 girls.
- 1 MCKENZIE "SKITTLES" GAYHEART, THRODWN, FORT WHITE, FL
- 2 JAYCIE SINCLAIR, ALLTOW WRECKING CREW/YESS, SPRING, TX
- 3 IMAGIN NELSON, CRISP BROS RACING, ROCKFORD, IL
- 4 JASMINE TOPPER, NO XCUSES/SSQUARED/ODI, VENTURA, CA
- 5 MALIAH NEMETH, KID DYNAMITE MN, SARTELL, MN
IMPRESSIVE RIDER No.5: HENRY CHUDZIK
You might've recently read all about Henry and his chromed-out Powerlite in the #ClippedIn article in the latest PULL magazine (I know - if you haven't gotten it yet, the mailman must'vestole it). Chudzik made a great bid for the No.1 Am title last year and he's right on target to do the same in 2017; only better.
With Rockford being one of his frequent homes in the Illinois area (he also races The Hill, Steel Wheels, Waukegan and East Moline), Oh-Henry is very familiar with how to rip up Rockford. The photo below is from the main event, out of turn two - and as you can plainly see, Chudzik and his P-lite have a comfy 4 or 5 bike length lead over Throdwn's Dylan Wood and C-Yaa's Cole Zufelt.
Local advantage? Or just one fast kid? Both.
13 EXPERT - FRIDAY
- 1 HENRY CHUDZIK, POWERLITE-DANS COMP-DFR, HOMERGLEN, IL
- 2 DYLAN WOOD, THRODWN, HOUSTON, TX
- 3 COLE ZUFELT, C-YAA FACTORY, TRENTON, ON
- 4 GRANT GERKE, FACTORY THUNDERBEACH, LA CROSSE, WI
- 5 DREW POLK, SALINAS, CA
- 6 SAMUEL NICHOLS, HARO/PROMAX, O'FALLON, MO
- 7 ZADEN FITZSIMONDS, FACTORY FREE AGENT-BOX, COON RAPIDS, MN
- 8 BRYCE HOMAN, FULL TILT BIKE CO, GLENCOE, MN
Chudzik would go on to won 13x all three days - followed in my Wood and Zufelt each time.
IMPRESSIVE RIDER No.6: RENATO SILVA
With two groups of 46-plus used-to-be-super-fast guys, the overall podium included two BMX Hall of Famers and one former AA-pro from Brazil; All-Tow's Renato Silva. Just one week prior, we got to see Renato and Mr.Bill duke it out at Chesapeake BMX, and they obviously didn't get enough BMX or enough of racing each other. Here they were, less than 5 days later, ready to go at it once again.
In the main, Silva was in lane 3 and Griggs was in 4. Billy and his Razor-sponsored Chase ride are known for their killer gates - a start that nearly won him the National No.1 Pro title back in the 90's, and he snapped hard on the Brazilian. But Billy knows that Renato is a powerhouse and as soon as they crossed the 30-foot line, Griggs was coming over hard to the inside, causing Renato to back off the throttle. Griggs heard a pile-up down that first straight and told us that he was thinking Silva was no longer there, and opted for the higher line in turn one, to keep Rupe from railing the outside. Suddenly, Renato dove by on the inside to take things over - totally catching Bill off-guard.
It was a great race, and Silva made his move for a drag race to the finishline.
46 & OVER EXPERT
- 1 RENATO SILVA, ALLTOW WRECKING CREW/YESS - CA
- 2 BILLY GRIGGS, RAZOR/CHASE - CA
- 3 ERIC RUPE, ELITE - CA
- 4 FRANK NUCCIO, THRWDN -IL
- 5 RON MARKARIAN, LIBERTY - OH
- 6 JAMES DAVIS - WI
- 7 MARK MELTON, KEGEL'S BICYCLES- IL
- 8 ALFONSO GIGANTI, SRT REDLINE ODI GOPRO- MO
By the end of the weekend, the Brazililan blaster took home six wins; as he was also on board a cruiser an annihilated that class as well. Looks like Silva will be one of the biggest threats to a Team USA victory in the old mans Challenge class. Right now, he is ON point.
Sidenote: This was Eric Rupe's 25th straight year of racing The Rock. Rupe, the 9-time National No.1 Champ, loves the Rockford track and overall atmosphere here, and was having as much fun this weekend as he did 25 years ago. "I will always come here," he said. "Anybody who has never been to Rockford needs to put it on their list."
Sidenote 2: Rockford legend Mark Melton was BACK! We haven't seen him for years, but the former Kegel's Pro has been seen hangin' out at Rockford a lot more lately and was spotted in the 46x main.
Sidenote 3: Frank Nuccio - another Midwest BMX legend in his own right, is now on Throdwn and was spotted in the main in a full kit, looking all factory - as if he was back on Sundance. Flat pedals? Check. One footed start? Not this time.
IMPRESSIVE THING No.7: TEAM THRODWN
I'm not quite sure, but I can imagine somebody telling TM Jim Buchanan and Throdwn owner Charlie Janke "Go big or go home." And they took it literally. With a nearly 40-rider roster and team pits that seemed to stretch half a mile long, you can't help but notice Team Throdwn.
Once mains rolled around, it was not unusual to see two or more Throdwn riders in a loaded gate of eight. Of them all, I'd have to pick 19-27x as the ultimate showing of Throdwn throwin' it down:
19-27 EXPERT - SATURDAY
- 1 JUSTIN RICHMOND, THRODWN, ROCHELLE, IL
- 2 RYAN ZINZOW, THRODWN, ELKHORN, WI
- 3 DYLON VAUGHN, HARO/PROMAX, TUCSON, AZ
- 4 JARRED JOHNSON, EXTREME, CARLISLE, OH
- 5 COLLIN SCHMIDT, FACTORY FREE AGENT-BOX, COLUMBIA, IL
- 6 DOUGIE BUTCHER, GT, SCOTTSDALE, AZ
- 7 BRENDAN OBRIEN, FASTHOUSE, PHOENIX, AZ
- 8 TRENTON DUVALL, FACTORY YESS, LINWOOD, MN
From the get-go, "The Juice" - Justin Richmond, looked like he'd been shot out of a cannon. On Friday, Zinzow had scored the win, and Haro-Promax's Dylon Vaughn had been giving the Throdwn dudes fits all weekends in qualfying. But for both Saturday and Sunday, it was all Illinois-local Richmond, with his hometown advanatge, rulin' it like a rockstar.
Sidenote: Following Sunday's grand finale', and another win in 19-27x, Richmond shocked the national circuit by quitting Throdwn and accepting a factory ride with Chris Chudzik's Powerlite squad. After everybody had gone home, Richmond was spotted doing his first-ever hot-laps around the track on a freshly-built-up P-Lite, and was looking just as fast as he did on his old bike.
IMPRESSIVE THING No.8: FULLTILT RACING
It's never been hard to spot the turquoise team based out of Minnesota - FullTilt Racing. But now, they will surely be impossible to miss and have upped the ante' in the Factory ranks even more with their new race rig.
This was the second showing of the tricke-out, turquoise trailer (it made its debut in Nashville). And with a spot right up frront on pit row, everybody was stopping in their tracks with jaws hitting the ground. TM and owner Fritz didn't hold back on any specs when he ordered up this bad-boy. And the entire FullTilt factory team is feeling the love, and paying him back with a streak of wins.
First up for the finals, comes a non-stop barrage of girls wins and podiums finishes - from the Voight sisters - Callie and Madison, up to Alexis Newark in 15-16girls, followed by Olivia Armstrong in 17-21. Then came the experts, starting off with the untouchables: Eli Staton in 6x and Cole Frederick in 9x. By 11x, we had two twin turquoise terrors fighting for the lead, with Ronnie Kim and the stylish Kian Grabinski in tow. Peter Choat was The Man all weekend in 12x, while Logan Matteson seemed to be only one of a few who came close to catching Langford in 15x. Race Lee had his moments in 17-18x, but never got on the box, while Adam Welter battled hard all weekend long with Doublecross' Adam Scott in 36-40x.
The wins just kept on coming and they will no doubt be a factor in the Factory team chase this November.
IMPRESSIVE THING No.9: ROCKFORD'S TRADITIONAL OLD SCHOOL SHOW
Way back in 2000 (I think it was), Rockford BMX hosted THEE very first, ever Vintage BMX Bike show & swap meet. And it has been a Midwest Nationals tradition ever since. The atmosphere at Rockford BMX, and the plush green carpet where hundreds of collector's bike can be displayed for all to see between motos, is perfect. While there are old school BMX shows nowadays, all across the country, all year long, Rockford's is still one of the bast. This year, there seemed to be more mid-school bikes (90's) than ever, which just goes to show how much the "old school" bike scene is growing.
It's like a walk back into BMX history for many of us.
Like I said at the beginning of this story - you can not help but be impressed when you come to Rockford. It's why the USA BMX national series keeps coming back, year after year (and likely will continue to do so for decades to come). TO's Jake & Candy Karau and their hard-working crew are a finely tuned, well-oiled machine that knows how to put on a great show and a good race - whether it's the Midwest Nats or just a local single-pointer.
As we say every single year, if you've never been to The Rock, you must put it on your bucket list. It's one of the most fun races you'll ever go to; I promise.