Pat Smage etched his name in the US MotoTrials record book by claiming an unprecedented 11th national title, breaking Geoff Aaron's record of 10 titles. Smage closed out the season this past weekend with a pair of wins at the final two rounds of the 2019 NATC/AMA US MotoTrials Series in Tillamook, Oregon. The FactoryOne/RYP/Sherco rider dominated both days.
On Saturday, Smage took the win with a total of eight points, while FactoryOne/RYP/Scorpa’s Karl Davis Jr was second with 44 points. Rookie pro rider Josh Roper (FactoryOne/RYP/Sherco) rounded out the podium with 47 points. The Oregon event was held in the Tillamook State Forest and featured two days of 12 “old school” sections (sections that flow better, less stopping and hopping) on a 9-mile loop that featured slippery rock creeks and mossy logs, and the conditions took a bit for most of the riders to adjust to. “It was a little bit hard to adjust to the traction at first, just because the last couple of events have been dry and grippy, and I haven’t had a lot of time to ride the slick stuff pretty much since before Minnesota,” Smage said. “The practice area was actually pretty dry and grippy, and some of the sections were more slick, so it took a little bit to know what traction we had available.”
Sunday’s event featured sections in pretty much the same locations as Saturday’s event, and Smage once again came away with the win with 10 points, while GasGas North America’s Alex Niederer was second with 35 points. Roper repeated his third-place performance with 44 marks. “The sections were very technical, for sure,” Smage said. “You’re not just wide open every section, hitting everything as hard as you could. You really had to think about all the angles, every inch of staying on your line, finding traction, and hitting everything exactly how you wanted to. If you hit it sideways or hit it too hard, you’ll end up spinning and sliding out, so you really had to be smooth and precise. All my points were basically single dabs here and there, just either not knowing what traction was there and almost being a little bit on the safe side, or ending up spinning, getting slightly off line, finding myself in a bad spot, and having to take a one just to make sure I got out of it without ending up with a five. Even with the title wrapped up coming in here, for some reason I still felt the same pressure. I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case, so maybe that won’t change until I’m done riding the pro class. It’s just something I feel like I have to do to ride my best.”
Niederer’s second-place finish was good enough to give him second overall in the final standings. Coming into the weekend, Niederer was tied for second with teammate Daniel Blanc-Gonnet and Karl Davis Jr., and a fifth-place finish on Saturday for Niederer almost put the Florida rider out of the running for second overall. “I was afraid I was out of the running after my finish on Saturday,” Niederer admitted. “Luckily, I had one of my best days of the season on Sunday and managed to pull it off. It’s definitely a dream come true. I worked my butt off all year and it paid off.” Davis missed out on second in the final championship standings by a single point to Niederer, while a pair of fourths in Oregon landed Blanc-Gonnet in fourth overall for the year. Roper’s podium finish moved him to fifth in the series point standings.