The opening round of the Vancouver Island CMRC Fall series brought everything you would expect from a season opener in August; blue skies, dust in your eyes, and sunburnt skin! It was the hottest weekend of the summer, and the riders felt it. I saw one rider pull off the track midway through his moto and head straight for a garbage pail to vacate his stomach, and I witnessed many riders fade to trail riding by moto end. Days like this separate the fit and determined from the casual riders. Several racers brought their game up a notch from the spring, and a few seemed to have gained super-human powers! Noteworthy performances were put in by a number of riders, including Wyatt Youland, Steven Galey, Jesse Ryan, and Dylan Hansen, but two riders really stood out for their performance on the track and one for his performance off the track. If you attend our races, or follow this blog, you know that Joe Nikirk has been dominating the 85cc Island races for a while now. True, Wyatt Waddell came over from the mainland and consistently beat him in the spring, but with Waddell apparently not riding the fall series, you would think the world was Joey’s. You would think. My first pleasant surprise was during 85cc practice when it appeared that Nolan Egeland was able to match Joe’s speed…but it was only practice. Come race time, however, it turned out he really had it! Nolan came within one lap of beating Joe in the second moto on Saturday before he tipped over and his joy spilleth out upon the dirt! Nolan was sensational, but I want to be clear that Joe is just as sensational. We all know how fast he is on the track, but not everyone knows what a fantastic kid he is. After Nolan’s fall I was walking back through the pits and I saw him (Nolan) sitting in a lawn chair looking very dejected and disappointed with himself. I yelled out what a fantastic ride he put in, and then someone who I hadn’t noticed sitting beside him leaned forward, patted him on the back and said, “See man, you rode great!” It was Joe! He must have come into the pits and gone straight to the Egeland’s trailer to commiserate with his buddy! Someone else later asked Joe if he was having an off day or if Nolan was really riding that fast. Joey didn’t hesitate to say, “No man, he’s riding great!”. You won’t hear excuses or whining from this kid. He is a superstar on and off the track, and he deserves credit for it. If anyone out there in charge of the ‘Sportsman’ award is listening, Joey earned my vote this weekend. He demonstrated the best of what this sport is all about.
The second big surprise at the opening round really wasn’t much of a surprise at all. I would get on my high horse and mention that last year when I saw Ryan Lalonde win his first ever Intermediate race I predicted he would be the fastest rider in the island series within a year or two, but really it was like seeing a freight train coming; and blowing its horn! His style is impeccable, his determination second to none, his head is on straight, and he has one of the best coaches available; his dad, Darcy, is a former top-ten National type guy. So this weekend when he beat Nick Syrotuck straight up I can’t really say I was surprised; it seemed inevitable. Coleton McLean may still be a tad quicker, but he is a family man now and only attends occasional races. Corey Cardinal wasn’t racing this weekend, but it will sure be cool to see these two go at it when Corey shows up. All I can say is that Corey better start practicing if he wants to remain the young superstar on the island!
I want to say one more thing before I dive into the racing. Motocross is a physical sport, and things happen fast. Sometimes bikes come together. I’ve been hit from behind, from the side, cut off going into a corner, coming out of a corner; hell, I’ve even been hit from above! I can honestly say I have never been particularly upset by any of it; its racing. If you aren’t prepared to do some bumping and grinding you probably shouldn’t be racing. Likewise, if you are a parent and you aren’t prepared to see your kid bang bars occasionally you probably shouldn’t be coming to the races. Why am I mentioning this you might well ask? This weekend a racer was sent packing after his father apparently made threatening physical gestures toward another dad. To put it in the current vernacular, “Really, dude?!” It isn’t fair to the kid (who, by the way, is not really a kid; he’s about 20 years old!), and there is no room for it in this sport.
With that said, there was some great sport this weekend! So lets get to it!
It was great to see a few new riders on the line for the start of the 50cc class. This is where it all begins. There were nearly twice as many riders lined up to start the fall series as there often was in the spring; its a healthy indicator when new young riders are showing up to race. Plus, its just heart-warming to see a little 5 year old racing his first race! Ryder Roth rode into the fall series with a Spring Championship to his credit, and he just kept on rolling at the opening fall round. He won every moto, both days! In the older class Cameron Bradley did the same thing; I still haven’t seen this kid lose a moto all season! There were two little, little guys (Spencer Whitcomb, and Adam Polichek) riding around on their CRF50′s this weekend. It just brings a smile to my soul to know these kids will never forget this occasion; their first CMRC race! In the older class Joseph Jenkins was really charging, and collected a bucket full of second places. Also impressive was Kyron Ketch who was hitting the jumps hard and getting several feet more air than any of the other riders. His determination paid off with a solid podium finish on Sunday.
The Bradley family is a fantastic asset to racing on the island, but their boy’s constant winning tends to make this blog a little repetitive! Seriously though, I talked in my introduction about good and bad attitudes in the sport, and the Bradleys epitomize what the sport is all about. When I watch the Bradley brothers race now I envision a day when they are like the Allison or Medaglia brothers; they are all that good. David Bradley stomped out three moto wins this weekend in the 65cc class, and was only beaten in one moto by a hard-charging Colby Egeland. Speaking of fast brothers, how about the Egelands!? Colby won the 65cc class on Saturday, and Nolan was on fire in the 85cc and Supermini classes. We have some serious talent coming up through the ranks at the moment. I often hear people talking about watching Dusty Klatt, Darcy Lange, and Colton Facciotti battle it out here on the island (before my time) in the 65cc and 85cc classes, and I feel like someday we might be talking about the Bradleys, Egelands, and Joe Nikirk in the same way. While David and Colby battled it out for the win, Andrew Bradbrooke, Justin Daniels, and Michael Masters continued their ongoing struggle over the final podium position. Daniels won the prize on Sunday, and Bradbrooke won it on Saturday. Micheal Masters did sneak in a podium finish in the first moto on Sunday, and tied Daniels in points for the day, but unfortunately was beaten in the all important second moto.
Things are really starting to heat up in the 85cc class! Joe Nikirk has been dominant for a while now, and he continued to dominate this weekend with a perfect 8 for 8 win record, but the gap behind him is closing up. Talent often starts to pool up in the 85cc class. Supermini, where they all go head to head, has an age range of 8 years (7-16) as opposed to the 50cc and 65cc classes which have a four year spread at the most. The 85cc pool is starting to get pretty deep on the island! There are now ten kids in the 85cc class showing at least flashes of brilliance! Yes, Joe is still almost always at the front of the pack, but the pack isn’t as far behind as it’s been in the past, and there’s more riders in it! This weekend Nolan Egeland, in particular, seemed capable of running right at Nikirk’s pace, and Harrison Bradley is only micro-seconds off the pace (and he is in the younger 85cc class!). As mentioned earlier, Egeland came to within a lap of beating Joey straight up this weekend, and I’ve seen Bradley do the same thing. He actually beat Joe a couple of weeks ago in Victoria, but Joe had crashed really hard in the previous moto and was pale as a ghost, so I have to put an asterisk beside that one! It would be exciting if that was the end of it, but it gets better. Steven Galey didn’t ride the spring series, so I’m not sure if he has gotten faster during his time off or if I had just forgotten how fast he is, but he was right there in the mix in the older 85cc class (he didn’t ride Supermini). Galey wasn’t alone chasing the fast three. Wyatt Youland had a dismal fall series; if he didn’t crash he got a flat tire. Like some old blues singer sang, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, he’d have no luck at all!” This weekend he showed just how fast he can go when it all comes together for him. He won the first 85cc 7-11 moto on Saturday (Harrison Bradley did crash), and backed it up with a second in the first moto Sunday and then two solid 4th place finishes in Supermini. Youland looked fantastic this weekend. Austin Gregg is riding the last of the CRF’s in the class; he and Steven Macdonald are right there with Youland most of the time. Both of them scored a podium finish over the course of the weekend. Not far behind them you can usually find Austin Archer, Wyatt Scheres, and now David Bradley, who is quickly becoming a contender in the 85cc class! Its just so exciting every time the 85cc class take to the track with so much talent. The racing is intensely close; the smallest mistake can cost a rider several positions when the competition is this fierce. I have said before that the 85cc class is where it all starts to get ‘real’. The class is real close, real exciting, and real racing! Love it!
With many of the faster Beginners moving up to Junior for the fall series, competition was a little light in this class. One new-comer did stand out though; David Hill won all four of the motos he raced and was clearly the class of the Beginner field. He won MX-1 Beginner and Beginner GP both days. Dallas Bradshaw won Beginner MX-2 on Saturday, and Nathan Watt won it on Sunday. Joshua Norman raced his first race on Saturday, and got his first ambulance ride on Sunday. I hope his injury is not too serious, and doesn’t deter him from giving it another whirl when he’s all healed up.
In the Ladies class I was anticipating the great duels between Jodie Stokes and Lindsey McLean to resume, especially when I saw Lindsey had gotten herself a spiffy new CRF! Watching practice though, I saw Lindsey get a little sketchy a couple of times and a bad feeling washed over me. I know riders often seem to have a good crash or two when they first make the jump from a 2-stroke to a 4-stroke. They are just a little bit heavier and carry their momentum with a little more umph; they also hook up faster, which is not always a good thing if you aren’t used to it. I hope I didn’t jinx Lindsey, or send out some negative vibes or something, when it occurred to me that she was going to crash before the weekend was done! I’m sorry to report that she did crash, and she did a pretty good number on her ankle. It required surgery to put it back together. Hope you get well soon Lindsey, I’m really going to miss the friendly rivalry you and Jodie were developing on the track! Jodie Stokes did go on to win the overall both days, but Tracey Marshall gave her a little challenge in each moto on her little KTM105. Jodie was too fast and too solid though, and the big wheels prevailed.
The Ageless Classes
The Vet and +40 classes have become the domain of Bryan Whitcomb of late, but this weekend Paul Sprentz didn’t give him anything for free, and in fact won the +40 class on Sunday with two solid wins! James Latham also showed up on Sunday and put his bike ahead of Bryan in one moto, but a DNF in the other moto didn’t help his overall finish. James informed me he had a really great time on Saturday night visiting with his moto friends, or at least he said he was still recovering from it and I presume he had a good time! He was a little green looking. Anyway, the three Masters had some great battles throughout the weekend, and Chris Stokes was on the track to! Chris usually has something for these guys, but he’s a little out of moto practice at the moment. His mind is all wrapped up in his new ‘Bed and Bikefast’ . Chris’ house is right in the middle of some fantastic trails and he’s offering up a suite for people who want to come and do some serious trail bashing. He’ll even give you a tour if you think you’re man enough to hit the trails with him! Matt Kerrigan won all four Vet Jr. motos; I can’t get over how much this guy has improved in a year or two. At the rate he’s progressing he could be a Pro by the time he’s 50! Mark Ellis put in some solid rides, he finished on the podium in Saturday’s +40 event. Mark got some new gear for the weekend which really pops in his photos. I appreciate it when people think of me when they’re getting geared up!
With the two riders who won most of the races in the spring (Jason Abernathy and Chase Krompocker) not in attendance this weekend, the door was wide open for other riders to step up and steal the thunder in the Junior class. Dyan Hansen and Jesse Ryan did just that! If it wasn’t for a couple of crashes I’m pretty confident they would have been 1-2 in every moto. The only rider who looked capable of running their pace was Eli Titus. Eli started the fall series right were he left it at the end of the spring, out front! He got the holeshot and finished in 2nd in the first MX-2 Junior race on Saturday, but went down in the second race and broke a finger or two! Too bad, Eli has been really coming on strong of late. While Ryan and Hansen held sway at the front of the pack, several other riders went to work trying to secure the remaining podium positions. Zack Mix, Alex Haley, Kyle Klaric, and Nick Coburn all succeeded. Zack Mix did it three times, and looks to be ‘the best of the rest’. There’s a whole swack of riders riding at close to the same speed in this class; the racing action is sick! Also starting to make an impression is Nick Coburn who moved up from the mini ranks part way through the spring series. Nick is apparently coming to terms with the big wheel bike and was right in the mix most of the time. Alex Haley was also very impressive. He put himself on the podium Sunday, and spent a lot of time near the front of the pack throughout the weekend. Brandon Williams started the weekend off great with a third in the second Junior GP moto on Saturday, but apparently had some problems and wasn’t racing Sunday. Also of note is Nathan Donohue-Bragg who just made the jump from the Beginner class. Nathan also crashed out during the weekend, but before he did he looked right at home, finishing as high as 4th overall his first time out in the faster class.
At the end of the day, weekend actually, there was really only one headline story in the fast guy class; the headline reads, ‘Ryan Lalonde lives up to promise!’ Ryan was methodical and perfect all weekend. He did the previously undo-able and took down Nick Syrotuck straight up. I didn’t get to talk to Nick, who appeared to be a little off his game, so I don’t know if there is any other explanation aside from Lalonde is just getting that fast. I do know that as recently as this spring Ryan and Connor Barnes seemed to be on relatively equal ground, but this weekend Ryan was able come from behind, stalk Barnes, and then pass him when the moment arose. He doesn’t panic, didn’t get crazy, and didn’t make any dumb moves. He just races his race, and outraces his competition. He is fast, determined, and rock solid consistent. Remember, this is a 15 year old kid who very nearly earned his first National points in his first National race! By-the-way, if you want a little of his magic to rub off on you, he and his dad (who I’m sure has a lot to do with Ryan’s skill) will be teaching a riding course in September. Watch for details to come. Behind Ryan, Connor Barnes and Shawn Miller had some epic, bar to bar battles. I’m happy to report that, aside from one moto, Connor kept it all together in the heat of the battle and won 3 out of 4 of the duels! Miller pushed hard to beat Barnes, and ended up beating himself twice. Shawn has all the talent in the world and he appears to be getting his head back in the game. I really hope he sticks with it because the kid has got a ton of talent. Just off their pace, but still riding great, were Damon Riesach and Daniel Vanderbasch. Both of these kids are new to the Intermediate class this year, and both of them are showing they have what it takes to run with the fast guys. Vanderbasch showed up this weekend on a CRF. When I asked him about it I learned that he has two blown up bikes in his garage, and that the Scott family lent him a bike to race. Graham Scott broke his leg in Victoria a couple of weeks ago, so he graciously lent his bike to Daniel. Again, you gotta love the spirit of this sport! Daniel rode his borrowed bike to two 2nd overalls in the Youth class and podium overall in MX-2 on Sunday; he wouldn’t have been riding if it weren’t for the Scott family. Coleton McLean was also in attendance and was the only rider signed up for the Pro GP class. I don’t know why they didn’t just tell him he had to ride the Youth class, since there actually was one! Anyway, he won the class! He was also probably the only guy who might have been able to beat Lalonde this weekend.
And that about wraps up the action from this past weekend. The fall season is officially underway! I can’t wait to see how it all plays out in Port McNeill this weekend. I know a few of the fast guys are heading over to Kamloops for the Provincials so the door should be wide open for some new first time winners. See you there! Oh, and for those concerned, my sunburnt calves are healing up nicely.
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