The following is an industry press release....
Amarillo, Tex. (April 1-2, 2017) – Sherco USA’s Pat Smage took a giant step towards adding a ninth national MotoTrials title to his resume after taking the initial point lead in the SWM US National MotoTrials Series standings by virtue of second and first place finishes at the opening two rounds of the series near Amarillo, Texas.
Smage lost out to factory Montesa rider and former Spanish champion Marc Freixa on Saturday by a single point in the two-day event. However on Sunday, Smage rebounded with an impressive victory, while Freixa ended the day in third behind Sherco USA’s Andrew Putt. Smage’s 2-1 performance trumped Freixa’s 1-3 finish, giving Smage the provisional lead in the 2017 standings 55 points to 51.
The two-day event proved to be a nail-biter all weekend, but especially on Saturday when just four points separated the top four competitors. On Sunday, the organizers tightened up the sections a bit, which claimed more points and allowed the cream to rise to the top.
Light rain and temperatures in the upper 30s greeted the competitors on Saturday morning, as over 100 riders set out to test their skills on the three-loop, 12-section course set along the majestic Palo Duro canyon at an elevation of 3000 feet.
The opening lap gave an indication of just how tight Saturday’s event was going to be with both Freixa and factory Gas Gas rider Bryan Roper turning in clean cards. Meanwhile, Smage turned in a one-point card – the result of a stabilizing dab taken when he landed from an eight-foot drop off of a massive slab in section seven, easily the most intimidating section of the event.
Sherco USA’s Andrew Putt and Gas Gas USA’s Alex Niederer finished out the first lap with two points each, while Montesa USA’s Daniel Blanc-Gonnet and Sherco USA’s Sam Fastle each dropped three points.
Lap two was disastrous for Roper when the Arizona rider dropped a two in the tricky second section, not to mention a dab in section 10 when he lost the front wheel on a loose rock. Meanwhile, Freixa, Smage, Putt and Blanc-Gonnet all aced the second lap, leaving Freixa in the provisional lead by a single point over Smage with one lap to go. Putt sat in third place with two points, with Roper and Blanc-Gonnet tied for fourth with three points each.
Another clean card on lap three sealed the victory for Freixa, as Smage could only hope for a mistake from the Spaniard that didn’t come. Smage finished the day in second with a total of one point, while Putt also cleaned the final lap to grab the final step of the podium with a total of three points.
Blanc-Gonnet’s four-point performance was good enough for fifth, while Gas Gas factory rider Alex Niederer rounded out the top six with a total of seven points.
Sunday’s sections were slightly more technical than those used for Saturday’s event, but the event still boiled down to just one section, at least for the top three riders.
Section 10 featured an uphill off-camber approach to a root, which turned out to be particularly tricky for Freixa. Smage made a spectacular ride on lap one, stopping just short of the root and then ever so lightly hopping over the root as the crowd held it’s breath before proceeding to the rest of the section. Freixa, on the other hand, overshot the camber, and had to take a dab in order to get his front wheel back on line.
Quinn Wentzel was the last to ride section 10 on lap one and the Scorpa USA rider hit it perfectly for the only other clean on the lap.
Smage managed to clean section 10 on all three tries, while Putt and Roper were next best, each with a one and two cleans.
Freixa managed a clean on the second lap, but turned in a messy ride on his third attempt when he dragged his foot for a three.
Heading into the final lap, Smage held his fate in his own hands, and if he managed to clean the final lap there would be nothing Freixa could do to stop the Sherco rider from the win. Once Smage got through the tricky 10th section for the third and final time most of the pressure was off and the Wisconsin rider cruised through the final two sections for the win.
“It feels really good to get the win over Marc,” said Smage. “I knew since this weekend was going to be easy that this was a good chance for me to get a win and today it all went my way.”
When the sections are easy the event boils down to nerves and Smage proved he has the temperent to win under pressure.
“I’m happy with my riding this weekend, being able to stay consistent and not make any little mistakes,” added Smage. “I had a few close calls but I was able to fight and save those points.”
In addition to his one in section 10, Putt also had a point in section four when he hit a slanted rock a little too fast and had to take a dab to get back on track. The Pennsylvania rider finished Sunday’s event before Freixa did and had to wait until the Spaniard turned in his card to know where he finished. In the end, Putt’s two-point day was good enough for second.
“Everything went according to plan,” said Putt. “Just two mistakes; one was dumb and one was unavoidable.”
Freixa rounded out the podium in third with a four-point total, beating Roper’s four-point score in a “most cleans” tie-breaker.
Fifth went to Niederer with 14 points, while Blanc-Gonnet rounded out the top six at 22 points.
The SWM US National MotoTrials Series resumes action on April 7-8 in Sedan, Kansas. For more information go to www.mototrials.com.
1. Marc Freixa (Mon) 0
2. Pat Smage (Shr) 1
3. Andrew Putt (Shr) 2
4. Bryan Roper (GG) 3
5. Daniel Blanc-Gonnet (Mon) 4
6. Alex Niederer (GG) 7
7. Karl Davis Jr. (Sco) 7
8. Sam Fastle (Shr) 8
9. Quinn Wentzel (Sco) 13
1. Pat Smage (Shr) 0
2. Andrew Putt (Shr) 2
3. Marc Freixa (Mon) 4
4. Bryan Roper (GG) 4
5. Alex Niederer (GG) 14
6. Daniel Blanc-Gonnet 22
7. Sam Fastle (Shr) 28
8. Karl Davis Jr. (Sco) 33
9. Quinn Wentzel (Sco) 34