2003 North American Trials Series Finals|
July 12, 2003
Report from BikeTrials.com Ambassador, Chip Crail
The final round of the North American Trials Series was held at the Trials Training Center in Sequatchie, TN on July 12th, 2003. It was the first ever national caliber trials event held in the state of Tennessee, and the event did not disappoint. A total of 38 riders (30 cyclists and 8 unicycle trials riders) competed, and trials legend Ot Pi was on hand to give riders advice and encouragement.
The sections at the TTC featured the immense rock formations that have made it a top moto-trials destination. Trialsmaster Mike Friddell laid out very challenging sections for all skill levels that often gave the riders a choice of lines.
The mod bikes rode in the morning and set a high standard for the afternoon's stock bikes to follow up. I mainly followed a group consisting of the 3 Expert mod riders plus Pro Mike Steidley. The competition between the Expert riders was very close. Stevie Morgan came all the way out from California to compete with Chris Pitts from Memphis, TN for the year-end NATS Expert mod title. With the title on the line, Chris and Stevie gave the sections their all. The other Expert mod rider, Peter Hellenbrand from Wisconsin, rode like he was in contention for the title as well. At the end of the day, just three points separated all three riders. Stevie took the win; Chris was second, and Peter took third.
Pro mod saw three competitors, including a first time pro. Banking on advice from Ot Pi himself, Norman, Oklahoma's Josh Cummins made his professional debut. He had a respectable day, coming in third place. Ryan Cecil from Asheville, NC brought home second place. I'm sure he would have made the competition much closer had he not taken a nasty fall in his first section of the day. He ended up with a big cut on his palm, making just gripping the bars difficult. He toughed it out and finished second. Mike Steidley made the 17-hour drive down from Connecticut worth it. Smoothness and style took Mike to the top of the podium.
Stock bikes took over in the afternoon, and I got to see a little bit more of the lower skill levels this time. In Beginner stock, Melvin Molder took the win on his Echo, and Lance Kleffman won Sport stock.
Expert stock was amazing. 5 riders competed, and all were fun to watch. Kurt Mason took a big spill on the first loop, and the resulting pains forced him to pull out of the competition, taking fourth place. Kyle Garrett brought home third. Kyle rode most of his last section of the day on a flat tire. Second place belonged to Oliver Ferrari, who rode smartly and took out a sapling coming out of the last section's downhill exit. Andy Listes of Memphis, TN claimed first place. Andy has been known as a big move rider around here, but he's now shown that he has what it takes in the technical stuff, too. You might have noticed I said 5 riders, but have only accounted for 1 through 4 placings. Tom McNeal, from Birmingham AL, is a former Pro rider. Tom is wee bit older than most riders, and now has a family to take care of, so he decided not to risk life and limb in the Pro class and entered Expert stock. His years of experience quickly became apparent, and he ended up beating Andy by 18 points. However, realizing he was, in his own words, "sandbagging," he declined his win. He refused to accept the win and the prize. Tom just wanted to have fun, and didn't care about the final standings. I knew it before, but Tom showed just how much class he has in doing that.
Pro stock featured 3 competitors. Adam Melvin and Gary Lessner duked it out for second place, with a slight advantage going Gary's way. Both riders had their individual problems with the difficult pro sections. Mike Steidley, however had no problems at all. Riding his second class of the day, he managed to match his score from the morning's mod round. 13 points. Mike is amazing to watch, simply because he never stops moving forward.
All in all, NATS #6 was an incredible event. I can't think of a more fitting way to end the series. Mike Friddell really upped the ante for next year's events. Big thanks to Mike and his family for running the competition, to the Trials Training Center for allowing the event to be held on their land, and to all the riders who showed up.
Photos by Chip Crail
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