Pat Smage is the 2011 champ! Photo by Rebecca DuVal
Patrick Smage collected his fourth national title in five years and along with it claimed the prestigious Geoff Aaron Achievement Award with a 1-1-2 performance at the final three rounds of the 2011 AMA/NATC National MotoTrials Series held at the Trials Training Center, in Sequatchie, Tennessee, topping defending champ Cody Webb to do so.
The Sherco USA-backed rider came into the weekend riding a wave of momentum after having won the previous three rounds in Texas and Pennsylvania, and by doing so started the finale weekend with a 10-point advantage over the American Beta-backed Webb in the series standings.
Set in the rugged mountain terrain of central Tennessee, the three-round finale was technical and tough, and featured numerous sections set in an extremely slippery rocky creek bed, which claimed instant fives from any rider venturing off his intended line.
The event would also use a modified format, which saw the Pros ride two laps of 12 sections in the morning, instead of the normal three, and then in the afternoon the top five riders would tackle four exhibition-type sections, set in a location easily accessible by spectators. This portion of the event was called the “Shootout” and these sections were much more difficult and spectacular than those ridden in the morning.
On Saturday, Smage got the ball rolling by cleaning the first four sections. Meanwhile, Webb put himself in a hole right off the bat when he carded a two in the second section and then a five in the third. From that point on Smage held the upper hand and needed only to match Webb ride for ride for the rest of the day to take the win.
Heading into the Shootout, Smage held a 10-point lead over Webb, and while Smage finished out the day with a pair of fives, the Wisconsinite took the win by an 11-point margin, finishing the day with 11 points compared to 22 for Webb.
Gas Gas USA’s Keith Wineland rounded out the podium with 52 marks, followed by Karl Davis Jr. (Shr) with 56 and Bryan Roper (Shr) with 61.
“Any day you can beat Cody it’s a good day,” said Smage. “He made a small mistake that allowed me to get ahead of him and I was able to turn in a good ride to take the win.”
Sunday’s event started off with Smage cleaning the first seven sections of the trial and finishing the opening lap with just three points. Webb came in with 15 marks, which included two fives. From that point on, the cast was set and Smage again cruised to a relatively easy win, finishing the day with a total of 10 points compared to 19 for Webb. The win locked up the title for Smage with one round remaining.
“It feel really good to get the title back,” said Smage, who won three-straight titles in ’07, ’08, and ’09, before Webb beat him out in 2010. “This has been a stressful and exhausting year, but it all paid off in the end.”
Surprisingly, Will Ibsen, who has been retired from national competition for two years, decided to give the Tennessee rounds a go and finished Sunday’s round with a solid third on Gas Gas after taking a total of 36 points.
Wineland was fourth with 57, with Davis taking fifth win 69 points.
During Monday’s final round, Webb was finally able to get untracked to claim his second win of the year, his first coming at the series opener in Texas. With the title already in the hands of Smage, Webb rode with virtually no pressure and easily headed an obviously depleted Smage, who afterwards admitted that it had taken all he had to win the previous two days.
At the end of the day, Webb turned in a nine-point card, while Smage struggled to finish the day with 32.
“I just made too many mistakes this weekend, but Pat rode well,” said Webb. “On Sunday afternoon, I decided to just ride and have fun and I started riding better, and I was able to get the win on Monday. I was able to ride for the crowd, which was pretty cool.”
Roper finished out Monday’s ride by taking his first-ever podium finish, the rookie Pro from Arizona dropping a total of 41 points to edge out Wineland, who also had 41 points, on the number of ones.
Smage finished the year with 200 points to take the title, with Webb accumulating 185 for second. Wineland was third in points with 141, while young Roper beat out Davis for fourth, 126 points to 111.