This weekend’s USA BMX Sunshine State Nationals had some challenges in the sunshine department on Saturday, as the remains of Tropical Cyclone Nestor curved heavy rains and wind over most of Florida.
Anyone who has raced in the F-L-A knows that rain is part of the deal…usually a few sprinkles, and back to sun & fun on the BMX track.
This one had people running for dear life at times, and tossed the pits like a bull at a rodeo.
USA BMX did what they do best in tough situations like: developed contingency plans to push the racing back, hoping for a hole in the clouds that would permit a few hours of dry racing.
As the afternoon wore on, there was a meeting at the USA BMX trailer with the riders of the Elite classes, to discuss how their race day might be scheduled.
As we understand it, there were serious concerns, on the part of the riders, for racing in the prevailing conditions (strong winds and, at least a the time, rain/heavy rain).
These were the conditions at 5:15PM
The UCI Commissaire (which is the “official” official, designated by UCI, as the shot-caller for Elite racing) offered the riders to race off the smaller five-meter hill, but the riders still felt the conditions were not safe to race under.
The Elite Women (three riders, with three Juniors, according to reports) decided to, one by one, line up at the registration window, and withdraw from the race.
The Elite Men then held their own circle-up meeting, which resulted in all of them lining up, in similar fashion, and canceling their entries. Result: no Pro racing for their day two in Sarasota.
This is significant because, in the history of Pro BMX Racing, it has only happened one other time that all riders decided not to race (Nashville 2013, but that was a protest).
The weather cleared, and the race got underway around 6PM. By then, the Elite racing didn’t run, due to withdrawal of all the riders. Junior Men, A-Pro, Vet Pro raced, as scheduled.
Now, there are a variety of angles from which you, as a BMX fan, can take this action. After all, as some said on social media, “the 5-Under Novices raced, why not the pros?”
One rider told News, in a call later in the day:
This isn’t some podunk track. It’s a world-caliber Supercross track, which is super-challenging for us, even under the best of conditions. A lot of the riders here are competing for a spot in the Olympics, which is less than a year away, and we need to be smart about the potential risks.
We were told we had until 5:30PM to pull out, and were not given an option to delay the decision to see if the weather cleared.
Pete Dylewski, Chase BMX Team Manager (among other roles), told News:
“I’d like to offer my view of the events at the Sunshine State (Ironic) Nationals.
While our main objective is always for the riders to race, promote the brand, and engage with the fans, their safety is always at the forefront. I’ve traveled to enough SX events to see how the weather can affect the worlds best racers at any moment.
Chase has a huge investment with our 2 riders traveling to this event, but also with our multi year long commitment to help our Pro riders not only have a chance at a USA BMX title, but as well as other future accomplishments, such as being ready for the Olympics.
I 100% supported their decision in not racing in such adverse conditions. Joris just returned from an injury that kept him sidelined for the last few months and Connor leads the 2019 Pro Title chase. The riders for sure could not win the 2019 title by racing in the unsafe conditions that were present when asked to make a decision, but they sure could lose all chances of winning a title by possible being injured in racing in such conditions.”
BMX News also reached out to John David at USA BMX, who said the following:
“Yesterday was certainly an unexpected situation created by erratic weather. USA BMX completely understands the concern of the Elite riders and supports their decision to withdraw from the event.
Additionally, we commend the UCI Commissaire running the UCI portion of our event for shifting the race from the 8 meter hill to the 5 meter hill.
Technically, the Saturday UCI event did in fact happen as the Jr Men’s event ran to completion.
Also to clarify, for several reasons centered around UCI regulations, hosting a third day of Elite racing at the Lone Star Nationals is not an option.”
So, why not move the race to Sunday? UCI races need to have a Commissaire on-site to be the “official” official for the race (as noted above). In the case of Sarasota, the Commissaire assigned to the race had a flight out of town early Sunday morning, making a move to Sunday impossible. (Insert all the “yeah-buts” here).
Stick with BMX News for more on this story if/when it develops.
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Top Photos: “Tossed Pit” photo courtesy of Bianca Felker, via Journal:BMX on Facebook (used with permission). “Trashcan” photo thanks to an anonymous BMX News reader.
Shout out to Chris Felker…hope you feel better soon, buddy! #Smile