The U.S. AMA Mototrials Nationals finished their tour this weekend with Pat Smage claiming his 13th National Championship. In addition, he was crowned the FIM North American Champion. Smage was able to sweep the weather-condensed season with P1 finishes at each round, although he had some tough battles with second place Josh Roper.
Iron Range OHV Park was the site of the final weekend where Smage had a 32 championship point advantage over Roper coming in. Mathematically speaking, all Smage had to do was start and finish each of the last two rounds to win the title, but that is not in his nature. He went for it and won round seven by 23 points with a total score of three. The score line was not indicative of how close the round was. Smage finished loop 1 with two marks against him to Ropers’ eight. Loop 2 saw Smage add a dab with Roper going clean. This brought the gap down to five which meant that one “off” could bring things to a tie. Loop 3, which was actually two “shoutout” loops of four sections, went the way of Smage with a clean loop to Ropers’ 18, giving Smage the round seven win.
“Saturday was a bit different from the usual national. It was a pro-shootout format with two loops of 12 sections in the morning and then two loops of four really difficult sections in the afternoon,” said Smage. “I don’t particularly like this type of format because it takes me out of my rhythm. You can’t just finish the section you are on and then continue to the next. You have to watch and wait for all riders in the section. It is great for the other riders (non pros) that don’t normally get to see you, as well as for the fans, but it puts a bit of pressure on me. That, and Josh was riding well and excels in this format on grippy rocks. I knew I had to ride mistake-free. I took two points on the first loop as sort of safety dabs to make sure I didn’t five [taking maximum points]. We rode late into the evening, so it was a very long and tiring day. You had to keep your focus, or else you could give up big points. I was able to clean the entire shoutout, so I was very happy with my riding and the result. That night, I didn’t think about the championship; it isn’t in my nature to shift my focus. I wanted to stay sharp and finish strong the next day.”
Day two (round 8) would see the traditional format return. Smage and Roper put up very low scores with Smage recording just a single dab on loop 1, which would be his total on the day. Roper kept it close with a three on loop 1, followed by single dabs on loop 2 and 3 for five total.
“Sunday went really well for me with just a single point on the day,” said Smage. “The sections were on the easier side, and that actually puts more pressure on you to go clean. On loop 1, I saw that there weren’t any areas that were going to trip up Josh. I knew every point was valuable, there was no room for error. The conditions got really loose, so I had to ride a different line on each loop. My point came when I landed on a rock that moved out from under me, so I put a foot down to ensure it was only a one and not a five. There were a couple of climbs that could easily have been fives with how loose and sketchy they were, but my Sherco helped make easy work of them. I was happy to finish strong and confident.”
Concerning his 13th championship win, Smage said, “It is pretty crazy to be in this position — to have had trials as my main focus for this long. I was 16 when I won my first title in 2007. I am so thankful that I found a team that has supported me throughout this time. I never thought I would be doing this for this long. It is such a great memory to have my name in the record books.”
As for his future plans, Smage added, “Right now, I am just going to enjoy the moment. I was thankful that the Colorado rounds got snowed out due to my wrist injury. I could have rode through it, but that helped me. I am going to recover a bit more and then I am going to race three hard enduros. RORR, Sugarloaf and TKO and maybe some others in the fall. I will finish out the year and then evaluate from there.”