With his fourth double victory of the season (and eighth win in a row), Pat Smage claimed a record-breaking 11th US National MotoTrials championship title after winning the final two rounds of the 2019 AMA/NATC US National MotoTrials Series this weekend in Diamond Mill, Oregon. In addition, the FactoryONE/Sherco rider’s win on Sunday marked his 18th in a row going back to last year, which broke three-time champ Scott Head’s record of 17-straight wins.
Although he was pressed hard on day one in Colorado, Smage has dominated the series in 2019 and appears to be capable of winning for several more years.
“There are definitely times when I get a little burnt out and I wonder how am I going to keep pushing, but then when the results come it’s always worth it,” said Smage. “Right now, I can see myself continuing for a while, as long as I can enjoy it.”
The Oregon event was a change of pace from the rest of the events held this year in that it was set up in the spirit of traditional trials, with very little stopping and hopping and lots of long, technical sections. The nine-mile loop included lots of slippery rocky creeks and steep climbs.
In addition to his mastery of the “big sections”, Smage proved he is equally adept at the really technical stuff, too.
“The sections were very technical, for sure, and it was a little bit hard to adjust to the traction at first, just because the last couple of events have been dry and grippy, and I haven’t had a lot of time to ride the slick stuff pretty much since before Minnesota,” said Smage. “You’re not just wide open every section, hitting everything as hard as you could. You really had to think about all the angles, every inch of staying on your line, finding traction, and hitting everything exactly how you wanted to. If you hit it sideways or hit it too hard you’ll end up spinning and sliding out, so you really had to be smooth and precise.”
Like he has done at all of the previous three stops, Smage swept both days of the Oregon round, winning Saturday’s event by 36 points and Sunday’s round by 25.
“All my points were basically single dabs here and there, just either not knowing what traction was there and almost being a little bit on the safe side, or ending up spinning, getting slightly off line, finding myself in a bad spot and having to take a one just to make sure I got out of it without ending up with a five,” said Smage. “Even with the title wrapped up coming in here, for some reason I still felt the same pressure. I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case, so maybe that won’t change until I’m done riding the pro class. It’s just something I feel like I have to do to ride my best.”
FactoryONE/Scorpa’s Karl Davis Jr. and GasGas North America teammates Alex Niederer and Daniel Blanc-Gonnet came into the weekend tied for second place in the final series standings. Niederer left Oregon with the runner-up slot thanks to an impressive second place finish on Sunday, however, things were looking grim for the Florida rider after he finished fifth on Saturday.
“I was afraid I was out of the running after my finish on Saturday,” said Niederer. “Luckily, I had one of my best days of the season on Sunday and managed to pull it out. It’s definitely a dream come true. I worked my butt off all year and it paid off.”
Davis was second behind Smage on Saturday, but his sixth on Sunday dropped him to third overall in the final standings.
Blanc-Gonnet was consistent in the slippery conditions, finishing with a pair of fourths, leaving him fourth overall in the standings.
Rookie Pro Josh Roper turned in his best performances of the season with a pair of third place finishes, putting him in fifth overall in the final standings and top rookie.
“These were definitely more my style of sections even though it was a little bit slippery,” said Roper. “I was able to find a groove and find traction.”
Having wrapped up the Expert title on Saturday, FactoryONE/Scorpa rider Will Myers (brother of Alex Myers) moved to the Pro class where he finished ninth.
British rider Oliver Smith, of Oset fame, attended the event and finished ninth on Saturday.
1. Pat Smage (Shr) 8
2. Karl Davis Jr. (Sco) 44
3. Josh Roper (Shr) 47
4. Daniel Blanc-Gonnet (GG) 62
5. Alex Niederer (GG) 64
6. Sam Fastle (Shr) 69
7. Alex Myers (Sco) 75
8. David Avendano (Ver) 75
9. Oliver Smith (Shr) 88
10. Andreas Niederer (Bet) 97
1. Pat Smage (Shr) 10
2. Alex Niederer (GG) 35
3. Josh Roper (Shr) 42
4. Daniel Blanc-Gonnet (Shr) 46
5. Alex Myers (Sco) 53
6. Karl Davis Jr. (Sco) 55
7. David Avendano (Ver) 57
8. Sam Fastle (Shr) 64
9. Will Myers (Sco) 70
10. Andreas Niederer (Bet) 102