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BMX Tour Starts at Arco Arena

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Sixteen of the top BMX riders in the world, including contest veteran Ryan Nyquist, competed in the Megaramp ASA Triples Tour at Arco Arena Saturday night to the delight of about 5,000.

Fans oohed and aahed and occasionally screamed incomprehensible gibberish as riders from Australia, Mexico and the United States dropped in from a 25-foot-high ramp and flew over two 25-foot-long ramps, flipping and whipping their bikes to advance to the next round in a ladder-style competition.

Winning a competition like this is as easy as clapping your hands behind your back while inverted 20 feet in the air. Brett Banasiewicz, 15, from South Bend, Ind., found that stunt to be no problem and took first place. Pat Casey, 16, from Yorba Linda took second place.

One rider who was getting a lot of love from the crowd was A.J. Anaya from Chihuahua, Mexico. He was eliminated five minutes into the competition.

“I’m the first loser!” Anaya shouted excitedly.

In the second-chance “lucky loser round,” Anaya had the chance to get back into the competition and broke out a big superman, the biggest front flip he could muster and a 180 double tailwhip, bringing out the biggest cheers of the night. As soon as he stuck his third trick, he shot up to the top of the second ramp and started playing the cheerleader, pumping his fist, shouting and smiling. The crowd was loving Anaya.

The judges loved him less and eliminated Anaya a second time, a decision met with great waves of booing from the crowd. Anaya gave the judges a mock-surprised look and then laughed.

He later said the judges made the right decision in eliminating him because he did tricks that pleased the crowd but weren’t as technically difficult as his opponent’s that round.

“A lot of times, if you can win over the crowd, you can win over the judges,” he said. “For me competition is like 30 to 40 percent competition and like 70 percent fun. I always have a good time — that’s why I ride a bike. If I didn’t have a good time, I wouldn’t come.”

Nicholi Rogatkin, 14, the youngest competitor that night, was also quickly eliminated after failing to land a backflip tailwhip three times, sprawling across the Masonite sideways with each attempt.

“I got hurt pretty bad during practice, so I didn’t get a chance to practice much,” Rogatkin said. He didn’t seem too bothered about being eliminated.

After the show was over, fans jockeyed for position to get closer to the riders for an autograph or conversation. Children wearing oversized baseball hats held out posters and trinkets to be signed while parents and older fans seemed just as eager to get a piece of the action. It’s not exactly Bieber-level fame—these athletes have thousands of fans, not millions—but it’s a spectacle just the same to see two boys without driver’s licenses held up as the object of so much adoration and excitement.

That extreme sports such as BMX are such an equalizer where age is concerned didn’t escape Casey, who seemed happy with second place. He was competing with—and had just triumphed over—men who had been riding bikes since before he was born.

“It’s definitely a dream come true to be competing with guys I watched as a kid,” he said.

 

The tour will continue across the country next month.

Photos by Marc Mclaughlin.

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