Smage Continues MotoTrial Win Streak in Colorado
Pat Smage (FactoryONE/Sherco) extended his win streak to six-straight wins in the AMA/NATC US National MotoTrials Series after claiming a pair of victories at rounds five and six of eight-round series at the Turkey Rock Trials Area near Howard, Colorado. Unlike his previous four wins, however, Smage’s victories in Colorado were a bit harder to come by.
On Saturday, Smage trailed GasGas North America’s Daniel Blanc-Gonnet by four points after two laps. However, the Wisconsin rider tightened his belt on the third and final lap and cleaned all but two of the difficult, technical and somewhat daunting sections to take the win. Smage’s final-lap heroics moved him four points ahead of Blanc-Gonnet in Saturday’s final results (an eight-point swing), with FactoryONE Scorpa’s Karl Davis Jr. finishing third, 31 points behind Blanc-Gonnet.
Most of the Pro riders agreed that the Colorado sections, which were set at about 7000 feet in altitude on the eastern slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Range, were the most difficult and most intimidating of the season. The power-robbing altitude didn’t help matters.
“When I first saw the sections I wasn’t excited for the weekend,” said Smage. “There were a couple of sections that I just couldn’t figure out on the first two laps, and that’s where Daniel was getting me. Going into the final lap I knew I had to at least try to turn it around. I had to try everything I could think of and finally I started riding a little bit better. It was definitely a tough day, but Daniel rode really well. It was cool to have him pushing till the end and I’m happy to come away with the win.”
Disappointed at missing out on his first overall win, Blanc-Gonnet was clearly happy and excited about pushing Smage to the limit.
“I felt like I had good rides, moments of brilliance, but then just stupid mistakes, but I’m super excited with the day,” said Blanc-Gonnet. “I kind of tried to just keep it out of my mind that I was winning. I was pretty nervous but I felt like I held it together pretty well. I improved on my last lap, so I was consistently getting better, which is good. For me it was like these ticky-tack dabs everywhere which add up pretty quick. Pat doesn’t make those mistakes, but I think the difference was that there were one or two sections that I just had the extra power in this altitude with my bike.”
Six fives on the opening lap of Saturday’s event put Davis in a deep hole, but the Florida rider was able to clean things up on his second and third laps to post an overall score of 80 points for third.
“The sections were very intimidating – some of the most intimidating sections I’ve seen in quite a few years,” said Davis. “Sections six and twelve gave us the biggest problems; they seemed pretty impossible. The rest of them were still intimidating but rideable.”
Davis had a couple of nasty crashes but managed to finish in one piece.
"When you go into every section kind of nervous it’s hard to really get motivation to keep going,” added Davis. “I’m not the happiest with my riding, but we did the best we could.”
A pair of Pro-class rookies, FactoryONE Sherco’s Josh Roper and FactoryONE Scorpa’s Alex Myers, rounded out the top five. Myers finished fourth with 91 points, edging out Roper by just two points.
Myers was an impressive second overall at round two of the series in Nebraska, and his fourth overall in Colorado just confirms his arrival in the class. Meanwhile, Roper, the king of fifth place, has been uber-consistent in his debut season in the Pro class. Roper’s fifth overall finish on Saturday was the fifth time in a row he has finished fifth.
The sections were equally challenging (and intimidating) on Sunday and Smage led the way with a 17-point opening lap. After finishing seventh overall the previous day, Alex Niederer elevated his game on Sunday and put his GasGas North America-backed GasGas TXT 300 into provisional second place with 34 points. Davis was one point back with 35, while Blanc-Gonnet was next with 38.
Smage trimmed his second lap down to just nine points, while Niederer came in at 19. Meanwhile, Vertigo USA’s David Avendano had 26, Blanc-Gonnet had 29 and Davis had 36.
Smage sealed the deal on the final lap, where he dropped a meager seven points for a total of 33 for the day.
“Early on I wasn’t confident in the more dangerous sections and I was a little bit worried about trying them,” said Smage. “I just wasn’t quite feeling it early on, but about midway through the first lap I kind of really tried hard to turn that around and started riding like myself again and having confidence in the sections and with the bike. There were a few that were on the edge for sure, and some really difficult ones, but overall I’m happy with the way I turned things around.”
Alex Niederer’s 23-point lap was one point less than Avendano’s 24 and put the GasGas rider solidly into second overall for the day with a total of 76. Avendano rounded out the podium with a total of 91 points in the extremely high scoring event. The seven-time Venezuelan champion DNFed Saturday’s event with an electrical problem.
Blanc-Gonnet and Davis rounded out Sunday’s top five, with Blanc-Gonnet missing the podium by a single point with a 92 total for the day. Meanwhile, Davis was further back at 107.
Myers dropped to sixth overall with 119 points, while Roper missed out on a sixth-straight fifth place finish by placing eighth overall at 124 points.
FactoryONE/Sherco’s Sammy Fastle and Beta USA’s Andreas Niederer both turned in spectacular rides over the weekend, but suffered with consistency. Fastle was seventh overall on both days, while Andreas Niederer finished eighth on Saturday and ninth on Sunday.
Smage remained a perfect 6-0 in this year’s series and will most likely clinch a record-breaking 11thUS National MotoTrials Championship title next weekend in Oregon.
GasGas North America’s Maddie Hoover took a pair of wins in the Women’s Pro class, beating former Women’s champ Louise Forsley each day, while
FactoryONE/Sherco’s Kylee Sweeten had two third place finishes.
“I never beat Louise Forsley before, so that was a new experience,” said Hoover. “She rode really well too, and we were only a couple points apart.”
The AMA/NATC US National MotoTrials Series returns to action on June 22-23 in Diamond Mill, Oregon for rounds seven and eight of the series. For more info on the series go to www.mototrials.com.
1. Pat Smage (Shr) 45
2. Daniel Blanc-Gonnet (GG) 49
3. Karl Davis Jr. (Sco) 80
4. Alex Myers (Sco) 91
5. Josh Roper (Shr) 93
6. Alex Niederer (GG) 94
7. Sam Fastle (Shr) 105
8. Andreas Niederer (Bet) 133
9. David Avendano (Ver) DNF
1. Pat Smage (Shr) 33
2. Alex Niederer (GG) 76
3. David Avendano (Ver) 91
4. Daniel Blanc-Gonnet (GG) 92
5. Karl Davis Jr. (Sco) 107
6. Alex Myers (Sco) 112
7. Sam Fastle (Shr) 119
8. Josh Roper (Shr) 134
9. Andreas Niederer (Bet) 140