Pro riders set to compete in national race at South Park BMX
2012 Olympic BMX cyclist David Herman is a Colorado native, but he's been familiar with South Park virtually all his life.
“Even before I went there as a little kid, I always knew about the BMX track in South Park,” Herman said. “It was really famous for having a really big jump. It was probably one of the most famous tracks around the country.”
Herman will join many of the world's other top professional BMX riders for the USA BMX Stars & Stripes Nationals running Friday through Sunday at the South Park BMX track.
Events will feature professional racers from around the world — including nearly half of the 48 competitors from last year's London Olympic Games — as well as more than 1,100 amateurs representing more than 30 states. Men, women, boys, girls of all ages will be represented in competition.
“There's a whole lot of racing,” said Craig “Gork” Barrette, USA BMX chief communications officer. “It's pretty nonstop.”
During the weekend, hundreds of motos — BMX-speak for qualifying races — will be conducted. Admission will be free, and spectators can watch by finding a spot along the fence that lines the track.
Practice will begin on Friday afternoon, with pre-races starting at 5 p.m. National racing will begin at 11:30 a.m. Saturday with Strider — balance bike — racing for 2- to 4-year-olds, followed by the first rounds of pro racing. Sunday's schedule will kick off at 8 a.m., with the main events starting in the early afternoon.
“It's high-speed, there's some contact — and there's some big jumps,” said Herman, who ranks fourth on the AA Pro season points list. “So that's the initial appeal. Something else would be to be able to watch a ton of Olympians out there compete in an Olympic sport.”
Though there are 30 national-level stops on the USA BMX schedule, South Park hosts one of just 12 designated PRO series races. This is the final PRO series event in advance of the UCI BMX World Championships later this month in New Zealand.
“This is the last tune-up race, so it's really important,” Herman said. “Everyone should be close to peaking there and at their best, so it'll be a good race.”
Although men's series points leader Sam Willoughby of Australia will not compete at South Park, those who rank second through fourth are expected to: Nic Long of San Diego, Connor Fields of Las Vegas and Herman. Each competed in the 2012 Olympics.
Long won the season-opening PRO race, and Fields is considered by many to be America's best hope for winning Olympic gold in Rio 2016.
Latvia's Maris Strombergs, who won gold in 2008 and 2012, also is scheduled to be at South Park this weekend.
Among the top women in the world, American Brooke Crain (third in the PRO points standings), Colombia's Mariana Pajon (gold medalist from 2012 Olympics) and New Zealand's Sarah Walker (bronze medalist in 2012) are among those expected to compete at the Stars & Stripes Nationals.
“Because of its reputation just as being fast and the layout, the South Park track is just really one of the pros' favorite courses,” Barrette said. “It's fast, it's downhill, it has a lot of features that are different than other tracks. So a lot of those Olympians, they always look forward to South Park.”
Chris Adamski is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.