Gary Ellis and Pete Longcarevich. That’s it! That is the list of male BMX racers who have earned four total USA BMX (then ABA) Pro titles. However, that statistic is not without an asterisk. Before many of the Pros racing today were born, Gary won the title in 1995 despite not finishing the series with the most points. What? How does that work? Well at that time, the ABA (American Bicycle Association) had a rule in the rulebook stating that the title could not be won by a non-American born rider. No non-American had even come close, so it wasn’t an issue. However, in 1995, Frenchman, Christophe Leveque, the current owner of Chase Bicycles and US-Probikes, finished the year with the most points but was not declared the winner due to that rule. The ABA changed the rulebook the following year, opening the title to winners born outside of the United States. Since then, there have been 25 titles awarded, and foreign-born riders have taken advantage of the rule change. Fourteen titles have been won by foreign born racers compared to eleven by American born racers. Christophe made up for 1995 by winning two overall titles, 1998 and 1999, and although his trophy shelf only has two cups, it should really have three, as should Gary Ellis’s. If you count Gary and Christophe as holders of three cups, they would be joined by Bubba Harris, Sam Willoughby, Joris Daudet, and myself as 3-time champions. At the 2021 Grand Nationals, there are two riders mathematically up for the chance to become a 4-time champion and write their name in the history books as the second person, or third depending on your opinion, in history to earn four overall championships. They are Joris Daudet, and me. I can guarantee with 100% certainty that I will not be winning this year’s championship, so that leaves only one person with the opportunity, Joris Daudet.
There are not many things in the world I can say with certainty that I am one of, if not the foremost expert on. However, I can say that the USA BMX Grand Nationals and overall title chase does fall into that category, and I would consider myself as knowledgeable as it gets. 2010 was the last time an AA Pro main event was raced in Tulsa without me on the gate, and since 2012 I have stood on every AA Pro Grand National podium. Both, I believe to be record streaks. Every season except one since, (I only raced one race in 2016) I competed in the series finishing no worse than 3rd overall, amounting to eight overall series podiums with three overall titles. All this experience has led me to amass a large amount of knowledge on the topic, and my goal with this is to give anyone reading this a better understanding of how this title works, what to watch for in Tulsa, and how the championships are won …
The Pro Men’s title …
To fully understand this, you must understand how the series points system works. Your 8 best finishes plus the Grands count as your series points. Each position at a national is a 40-point difference. 240 for a win, 200 for 2nd, and so on. However, finishing 7th or 8th nets you 30 and 20 respectively. You also get rider points. What are rider points? You also get 1 point for each rider signed up to race. A win with 25 riders in the class is worth 265 points. The idea here is that the races with more riders are more valuable. A win with 40 riders (280 points) is worth more than a win with 10 riders (250 points.) Grands is worth double points, 480 for the win.
Each spot at Grands represents an 80-point differential until you get to 7th and 8th which will be worth 60 and 40. Everyone will get the same rider count points just for signing up. As it stands now, if Josh Mclean was to win the Grands and earn the full 480 points, Joris would only need 3rd overall and the 320 points that comes with to clinch the win. Josh winning would mean Joris needs 4th or worse to give Josh the title. As it stands, Joris has a two position buffer. This can change however, with the R.O.C. being a last chance for points. Joris has maxed out his wins this year with eight so he cannot improve his position. Josh however, only has four wins so he can improve his position with a win, moving him to within 160 points, meaning Joris drops to a one position buffer.
Here is where it gets tricky, and I would assume Josh/Joris may be doing a bit of math on Thursday morning. I know I would. Josh could theoretically replace a current 2nd with another 2nd if the rider count at the R.O.C. is more than the score he has now. For example, if he has a 2nd with 20 riders currently in his points, and the R.O.C. has 32 or more, a 2nd place could replace that, and it would be enough to bring him within the 160 points needed to cut Joris’s buffer to 1. At this point there is no way Josh can bring it to within 80, meaning a ‘heads-up’ whoever beats the other race.
So Joris or Joshua for the title …
It is BMX racing, and anything can happen. If Joris unclips in the Semi or just gets an outright 5th place in a semi, and Josh makes the main, Josh only needs a 4th or better to leapfrog him. 5th or better if he can cut the lead to within 160 at the R.O.C. It is unlikely, but we have seen things like this before. In 2014 Sam had a similar lead over Maris to what Joris currently holds over Josh, but failed to make the final and Maris was able to capitalize and win both the Grands and the title.
In the past year Joris and Josh have raced each other at Grands (2020), Phoenix, Alabama, Rock Hill, Atlanta, South Park and Louisville for a total of thirteen times head-to-head. Joris has finished the day ahead of Josh at ten of them. Josh was able to finish ahead of Joris three times. Let’s take a look at those three as an example and see if those results would be enough to overcome the current points deficit Josh faces at the Grands if they happened again Friday night in Tulsa. On day one in Rock Hill Josh finished 6th to Joris’s 7th. Not enough. In Atlanta day one Josh Finished 2nd to Joris’s 4th. Not enough. In Atlanta on day two Joris got a flat tire while in the lead, finishing 8th to Josh’s 5th. None of these would be enough to overcome the points gap if the same result happened in Tulsa. In the past year, even when Josh beat Joris, Joris holds a perfect 13/13 rate in staying close enough to Josh to hold the buffer if the same result happened at the Grands. For Josh to win the title he will have to do something he has not done in the past year.
The Grands is run with a 3 main event format, leading to consistency paying off and less randomness. Based on the statistics above, this would seem to play into Joris’s favor. While statistically it seems unlikely Josh will be able to pull this off we have to remember it is BMX and anything can happen. Joris makes one mistake in a quarter or semi that can be all it takes. There is also the possibility of a take-out happening, which can affect the outcome. It has happened before. In 2002 Danny Nelson won the title over Warwick Stevenson after Danny’s teammate escorted Warwick off the track. Joris tried this on me in 2017 in the second main event (Video HERE). When upwards of $30,000 or more depending on bonuses are on the line, these things should be expected, and I don’t blame anyone who tries. In my opinion, this would be Josh’s best bet. Keep an eye on this in the Quarters or Semis if they are in the same moto together …
Is Cameron Wood to far back to influence the title outcome …
Currently he is 449 back on Joris, and 277 on Josh. Remember, he does have the R.O.C. opportunity to improve his score and cut these down a bit. As it currently stands, he would have to win to have any shot at the title. A second or worse and he would not catch Joris even if Joris didn’t race. If Cameron is able to win and Joris misses out on making the main, Cameron still needs to beat Josh by four positions to pass him. So, Cameron could win the title by winning, Josh 5th or worse, and Joris missing the final, as it currently stands. In his first two seasons as a Pro, Cameron has one win to his name and it happened at his home track. He would need to get his first win away from his home track to have a shot at the title.
I would think he would be more focused on trying to leapfrog me (currently 197 points back) by getting 4th or better and then hoping Josh doesn’t make the final and passing him as well. A lot must happen for him to win, but it is BMX and like we have already established, anything can happen, and he has a chance.
The Euro Pro effect …
There are a few effects the Euro pros will or can have. Especially when it is two experienced and fast riders like Simon Marquart and Romain Mahieu. What could turn out to be the biggest effect they will have in the outcome of the 2021 USA BMX Grands and overall championship may have already happened though. It happened in Tokyo …
There are a couple other ways they could have an effect. First off, by being fast and making the qualifying rounds harder to advance through for Joris, Josh, and Cameron. If Simon finishes 4th in a semi and Joris 5th, he essentially just took Joris’s spot in the main. They also could offer riders to fill the buffer Josh is looking for. If Josh wins, Simon and/or Romain could be the riders who get in-between him and Joris to give him the spread needed. Although, I think it is unlikely with those two, and here’s why.
When I would go into the Grands and have an ‘ally’ in the gate we would be aware of the points. If the title came down to Trent Jones or Izaac Kennedy (my training partners and close friends) beating me or not in the 3rd main I would expect them to help me out. As I would do the same for them. This hasn’t happened in BMX in recent memory, but this happens all the time in Supercross/Motocross, F1, and other racing sports with teammates helping each other. Romain is close with Joris, often staying at his house, … if Joris needed a bit of help in the main events, you would have to think there is a chance Romain may help out…
Will the Euro Pros adapt to the USA BMX track …
Off the top of my head, since Randy Stumpfhouser in 2009 the overall title winner has only lost the Grands race twice. 2016 and 2019. In both years the overall title winners (Joris and myself) finished 2nd overall at the Grands. Most of the top Euro’s (European based, I don’t count Joris as he is American Based) over the years have come and raced the Grands and many have done well, but none have been able to win. Kimmann, Whyte, Evans, Andre, Rencuel, Mayet, Mahieu, Mir, and more, have raced the Grands at some point in the past few seasons. The tracks are slightly different but at the end of the day fast riders that are capable of winning, are capable anywhere. Randy who won in 2009 was the last rider to win that didn’t also race SX. Since then, from 2010 through now, the Grands winner has won at least one SX race in the same year that they won the Grands every year except for 2015, Joris, and 2016, Anthony Dean. Joris is proven on both SX and flat hills. Anthony, although he has never won an SX, had a handful of podiums proving he could do it on both. Romain has been to the Grands a number of times so he knows what it is all about, but this will be Simon’s first time I believe. It will be interesting to see how he does. I expect he will do well.
Pro Women, the Alise and Felicia battle …
Right now, it’s a 76 point differential. Alise could extend it above 80 if she wins the R.O.C. and it can improve her rider point score by 4 riders. Keep an eye on that because if Alise wins the R.O.C and gets that buffer, then if Felicia wins the Grands with Alise in 2nd, there will be a lot of confusion as to why Alise won the title.
I think it is safe to say Felicia was faster than Alise at the Grands last year but being faster isn’t everything. Alise outsmarted Felicia on her way to what was her seemingly 100th USA BMX title. Since Tokyo, Felicia has been on a roll, and Alise has been taking some well-deserved time off, at least from what is shown on social media, so we don’t know just how prepared she will be. Alise has all the experience and knows how to win championships while Felicia is hungry for her first. Get your popcorn ready as this could go either way.
Psychological advantage to winning the R.O.C. …
I have already detailed how important it is points wise, but as far as psychologically I think that comes down to the individual. I don’t think it will affect Joris or Alise one bit, as they are experienced and older. In 2015 it was a heads-up race with Me, Sam, and Joris all within 80 points. I won the R.O.C., Sam got 2nd, and Joris got 5th. 24-hours later Joris came and won the Grands and the title over Sam and me. In that case, the R.O.C. didn’t mean anything either way. Perhaps it could with some of the other riders, particularly the younger ones, but in BMX we have all developed a short memory and the ability to move on to the next race.
Academically speaking, how would a fit Connor approach Tulsa in his current points position …
I have never actually been in this position where I would need a specific set of things to happen. I am lucky that the four times I was realistically up for the title, I was always in front or within 80 so it all came down to who beat who on the day. Other years I was more in a similar position to what Wood or Reynolds are in now. If I was racing though, my main goal first would be to win the R.O.C. and close the gap. However, if it stayed like this and I would do whatever it took to win the Grands and close the gap. Like I mentioned earlier, there is some real money on the line for this championship If it came down to escorting someone off of the track in a quarter or semi, I would do it. I was 100% ok and understood questionable moves being done to me, so I would do the exact same thing if that was what it took to get the job done. The check clears either way!
I hope this has given you a better understanding of what to watch for in Tulsa. Get your popcorn ready!
USA BMX Pro Rankings Going into the 2021 Grands
1 Joris Daudet – 2163
2 Joshua Mclean – 1991
3 Connor Fields – 1911
4 Cameron Wood – 1714
5 Kamren Larsen – 1575
6 Corben Sharrah – 1501
7 Anderson Filho – 1100
8 Jeremy Smith – 1072
1 Alise Willoughby – 2046
2 Felicia Stancil – 1970
3 Lauren Reynolds – 1697
4 Ashley Verhagen – 1609
5 Daleny Vaughn – 1575
6 Rachel Mydock – 1112
7 Olivia Armstrong – 985
8 Brooke Crain – 877