Pat Smage Doubles Up In The US National MotoTrials Series
Pat Smage continued his domination of the 2018 AMA/NATC US National MotoTrials Series by sweeping rounds 3 and 4 of the schedule in Texas Creek, Colorado. As he did the week before in New Mexico, the Sherco USA-backed rider easily won both days of the two-day event, extending his lead in the championship standings to 28 points after four rounds.
The Colorado event featured much bigger and more intimidating obstacles than the riders faced at the first two rounds. Power-sapping elevation, estimated at around 6,500 feet, was an additional factor keeping the riders on their toes.
Smage was solid from the start, scattering four single dabs across 12 sections on his opening lap. His total first-lap total of four might have been one point less had he not experienced a problem in section four.
“When I entered section four I knew something was wrong once I hit the first rock,” Smage said. “I had to take a dab to keep going and I noticed that my bike felt like it was starving for fuel. I had experienced that one time before and it ended up being that the one-way valve on the fuel tank overflow had stuck. I reached down and pulled the vent hose off the gas tank and that fixed the problem so I was able to finish out the section. The only problem was that fuel was now shooting up into my face. Luckily, I was able to get through the section with just the single point.”
GasGas North America’s Alex Niederer came next, posting a total of 25 points for the first lap. Niederer’s teammate, Daniel Blanc-Gonnet, was 10 points back in third at 35 points. Niederer and Blanc-Gonnet traded runner-up finishes the previous week in New Mexico, and it was clear the two teammates were headed for another two-way battle in Colorado.
Sherco USA’s Sam Fastle sat in fourth after the first lap with 51 points, despite suffering a nasty crash in the first section of the day. Meanwhile, Scorpa USA’s Quinn Wentzel and Beta USA’s Andreas Niederer rounded out the top six with 54 and 56 points, respectively.
Smage’s relatively mistake-free ride ended on the second lap where he suffered a pair of five-point rides.
“I just felt a little off on the second lap and I ended up taking a five at the exit of section four,” Smage said. The Wisconsin rider took another five in section eight, perhaps the most difficult of the trial, and added a safety dab in section nine for a total of 11.
Unlike Smage, the rest of the Pro class bettered their scores on the second lap, with Alex Niederer shaving eight points off his first lap for a total on 17 marks for lap two. Blanc-Gonnet dropped 13 points off his first lap for a second-lap score of 22. Fastle followed with 38 points, while Andreas Niederer (51) and Wenzel (53) jockeyed for fifth and sixth.
Smage sealed the win with an impressive one-point third lap. The Sherco rider only needed a safety dab in section nine to complete the lap to claim his third win of the season.
“I was kind of frustrated with the two fives on the second lap and so I did a reset and went out with a little more focus on that last lap,” Smage said.
Continuing to better his loop scores, Blanc-Gonnet turned in a 21-point scorecard on his final lap—seven points better than Alex Niederer’s 28-point lap, however it was not enough to edge Niederer for the runner-up slot. Alex Niederer’s grand total of 70 points put the Florida rider into second for the day, with Blanc-Gonnet settling for third at 78 points. Fastle finished fourth for the day with a total of 129 points, with Wentzel (155) and Andreas Niederer (161) rounding out the top six.
Other than one point in section seven, Smage took all of his points during Sunday’s event in section 12, a section that featured a steep, sandy downhill that left little room at the bottom for stopping. Most of the riders ran over the ribbon at the bottom of the drop, however, Smage managed a three on his first two rides.
At the end of the day, Smage’s 3-3-6 loop scores were more than good enough for win number four on the season.
“Overall, it was a good weekend,” Smage said. “I had a lot of clean rides during the two days, so overall I feel like I’m riding well. There are a few little things I need to work on to improve for the remainder of the season, but the factory Sherco is working really well and I’m really looking forward to the East Coast rounds.”
Blanc-Gonnet got his revenge on Niederer on Sunday, holding off a late charge by his teammate to take second place by virtue of a tie-breaker after the two riders tied with a score of 47 points after 36 sections. Blanc-Gonnet was disappointed that it came to a tiebreaker after getting off to such a good start to the day. In the end, Blanc-Gonnet edged Niederer by one clean to take the runner-up spot, as the two riders continue to trade finishes.
“Today was the first time all season that I’ve had a strong first loop—I had an 11-point lead over Alex after one lap,” Blanc-Gonnet said. “I was definitely feeling the effects of the altitude on the second lap and I started to get a little sloppy. Alex made a charge and came back on me during the final lap, so it came down to the last few sections, and I feel lucky to get the win. It was a real eye-opener for me and I know now I need to work on physical fitness.”
Fourth for the day went to Fastle with a total of 96 points. Andreas Niederer was fifth with 104 and Wentzel was sixth with 113.
Sherco USA’s Josh Roper topped the Expert class on both days, beating Alex Myers by 12 points on Saturday and by 17 points on Sunday.
In the Women’s Pro division, GasGas North America’s Maddie Hoover remained perfect with a pair of wins, beating Sherco’s Kylee Sweeten on both days.
David Wickersham and Ron Hensley traded wins in the Clubman class, the biggest class of the weekend, with Wickersham getting the win on Saturday and Hensley doing the honors on Sunday.
The AMA/NATC US National MotoTrials Series resumes on June 9–10 with rounds 5 and 6 in Sequatchie, Tennessee. For more information on the event, please go to mototrials.com.