Thu, Jun 13 2013 09:42 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
The 2012 London Olympic Games weren’t especially user-friendly for the contingent of five American riders who competed on the expansive — and what proved to be, rather treacherous — course.
After earning three medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics — the first in which the sport was contested — the United States was surprisingly shut out in London.
The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games are now on tap, and the eye had turned to another prize.
“It was tough, both the selection process and competing there,” said Lakeside’s Nic Long, who was the final American selection to the 2012 U.S. men’s team. “The course actually turned out to be a little easier than the replica course on which we trained here at the (Chula Vista) Olympic Training Center. It was long but in some stretches it narrowed almost to single-file.”
Long didn’t have the greatest of races at last year’s U.S. Olympic Trails at the CV-OTC but was added to the team as a late coaches’ selection.
“The period of not knowing whether you’d be picked was a little nerve-racking,” Long admitted.
Like many of his fellow 2012 Olympians, Long has now turned his focus to qualifying for the upcoming Brazilian Games.
And he’s resumed his racing career with a vengeance if the result of this year’s USA Cycling Elite BMX national championships is any indicator.
Long earned the coveted Stars-and-Stripes jersey after topping an elite field that included 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials champion Connor Fields at the May 18 event held at the Chula Vista venue.
It was Long’s second national championship and his first since 2010 in the men’s elite field.
“It was great,” the 23-year-old Long said. “I just hit the gate fast.”
Long was among 19 entrants in the men’s elite field.
The Lakeside resident, who rides for Haro Bikes, used a quick burst out of the gate in the final and never relinquished his edge on the hard-charging Fields (Henderson, Nev.) throughout the race.
Fields (Chase BMX) finished second, followed by Victorville’s Jared Garcia (Speedline/Supercross), Alabama’s Barry Nobles (DK Bicycles), Tucson’s Corben Sharrah (Haro Bikes), Fresno’s A.J. Hiatt (AnarcyBMX.com), Tustin’s Nick Koehler (Factory GT) and Santa Clarita’s Alex Anthony (Diamondback/Dotfit/Fly).
Among those missing the final was Colorado’s David Herman, a 2012 Olympian.
Also, Fields was coming off double victories at the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup in Argentina the previous weekend to make Long’s victory that more impressive.
“It was a super long pause on the random gate and I was sitting there thinking about it and followed through and had a good start,” Long stated in a USA Cycling press release. “I don’t know if Connor messed up or he just was late, but I beat him down the first straight and moved over a little bit so he couldn’t come up alongside of me and just held on the rest of the lap.”
The win had to serve as a boost after Long, who finished second to Fields at last year’s national championship event, also held in Chula Vista.
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to competing for Rio,” Long said with a well-deserved smile.
Herman had reached the podium in each of the last two national championships, finishing with the silver medal in 2011 and the bronze medal last year.
Mike Day, a silver medalist at the 2008 Beijing Games and three-time world championship medalist, also was in the entry field.
“The top guys have been there for a few years and that top level has kind of hit a plateau,” Herman said. “Really, any of these guys can finish anywhere in any particular race. I made some mistakes out there but you have to give credit to the other guys.”
On the women’s side, CV-OTC resident athlete Arielle Martin returned to action after experiencing a horrifying accident on the center’s London replica track just days before she was scheduled to leave for England.
Martin, a native of East Spanaway, Wash., underwent extensive surgery and was relegated to watching the London Games on television from her hospital bed.
She finished second to 2012 Olympian Alise Post (Redline) in the women’s elite field of seven riders. The national championship title was the third consecutive for Post, a native of St. Cloud, Minn.
Palmdale’s Dani George (Factory Supercross) upset Visalia’s Brooke Crain (Haro Bikes), a 2012 Olympian, for third place.
“It was good racing, all the girls were on point,” Post stated in a USA Cycling press release. “For me, it just felt really great to win three in a row. It’s a great accomplishment.”
The men’s junior field included 10 riders.
Maliek Byndloss (Factory SSquared) of Cape Coral, Fla., took home the Stars-and-Stripes jersey, followed by Penryn’s Alden Volle (Dan’s Comp), Hunter Pelham (Haro/Promax) of Conroe, Texas, Moreno Valley’s Shane Harlow (Fullerton Bikes), Layne Gainer (FBN/Supercross) of Waudonda, Ill., Santee’s Sean Gaian (Factory GT), Tyler Whitfield (Factory Ssquared/Answer) of Rockford, Ill., and Cole Tesar (Factory Felt/SC ActionSP) of Huntersville, N.C.
The women’s junior field included just two riders: Shealen Reno (Hyper Bicycles) of Plano, Texas, captured first place over Norco’s Shay Glynn (Profile/Monster).
© 2009 The Star-News