After heading to Korea last year with Darryn Goodwin and getting to experience the Crown Haiti race, I knew we wanted to be back on the invitation list for 2012 and take a few more riders over to be part of the show. As soon as the dates were announced Stay Strong put a team in for the event and the flights were booked. The event is sponsored by a Korean confectionary company who’s owner is set on growing the sport of BMX in his country and recently a Korean BMX Federation was started to develop grass roots racing over in East Asia.
The Euro Stay Strong team including the UK’s Kyle Evans made the intense trip of 6 Flights in 5 days stopping off in Abu Dhabi on the way to Seoul and a day in Dubai on the way back from the race. Andy Shaw was the team “mechanic”, Scott Waterhouse came along as a guest to represent Clark and Kent Contractors and 2024 were also along for the ride to capture all the action for next issue. Getting the chance to race in Asia see a couple of cities, have some beach action and get a couple of stamps in the passport all in under 6 days made it an appealing trip.
Abu Dhabi Mosque with the Arabic crew!
The event schedule is pretty relaxed. There were only 50 riders total at the event so there was more than enough time for practice and plenty of downtime for the riders who were encouraged to get out and see the city and make the most of the experience.
The track has been there for 3 years now and believe it or not cost in the region of $1million USD when it was installed. It sits along the banks of the main river which flows through Seoul and is made 100% from pre fabricated concrete as in the rainy season the river has a tendency to flood the area. To set the scene, the track is unique to say the least. The transitions are flat, so to are the corners, the jumps are triangular shaped and the hill is very steep. The PRo gate is good and the hill has a “Helltrack” feel to it, most riders actually enjoyed the gate.. The problem is the track has a speed limit as the jumps are small, you need to try to get backsides which on the first straight are near on impossible and by the third straight you are required to bunnyhop and bump jump most of the steep obstacles. The fact that the track is different to the norm actually makes it fun to ride and a challenge for the riders to hit at speed.
With $6,000 USD up for the winner of the men’s class, the event managed to attractsome of the top boys include Maris Strombergs, Nick Long, Barry Nobles from the US, plus the Olympic latvian team and a host of Euro riders. Caroline Bucchanan was also in the house looking to take home the ladies prize. With Asian riders from Thailand, Indonesia, Korea and Japan making this a worldwide field. ESPN Asia were there filming the whole event and the emphasis was on making this a professional show for the Korean public and media.
Indonesian riders enjoying the experience:
The race kicked off on Saturday morning, the time trials were just for seesing which saw some riders throwing in style during their run, Darryn Goodwin 360’d the first jump and did a huge tailwhip on the third set which livened up the crowd to say the least.
Scott Waterhouse went out with a fifth in the quarters whilst Kyle Evans, Jordy Van Der Heijden and Leopold Tramier all went out in the semi’s. It was disappointing not to get one of our guys into the final but on a track like this where the racing is wide open you need a bit of luck on your side too. Come final time for the mens Maris lined up on the inside and looked to be the favourite to take the win. .
He got the snap but Nick Long cut over hard into turn one and lead the lap, Maris’s Latvian team mate Veide dived under him and took his line. Nobles had made the move passing both of them at the same time. Going into the second turn Nobles was in second but under pressure. Veide made yet another awesome move with a low low and took Nobles who wiped out. Tremanis had now railed the second turn and pulled past Veide at the start of the third straight. Maris had shut it down and Nick Long pulled away. For the win and his $6,000 birthday present. The Latvians rounded out the podium and also took home a decent amount of Benjamins. Caroline Buchannan also had her biggest payday in her Elite career with $4,000 USD ahead of Aneta Hladikova and Steffy Hernandez from Venezuela.
There were some happy faces on the podium, but the biggest smile was from the sponsor of the event who was happy with how the day had panned out. He came around the pits after the final shaking everyone’s hands and thanking us all for coming. He even grabbed some posters from us for the office wall. We were grateful for the opportunity to be at his event, the riders had all had a great time and people were already talking about coming back again next year.
These type of events really bring back the fun into BMX. Although there was big money on the line, everyone was chilled, hanging out together and enjoying the Korean culture and experience.
Stay Strong would like to thank EJ and Jun from the Korean Cycling Federation and Thomas Allier for the invitation to the event. The hospitality from the organisers and sponsors was top drawer and the riders had a good time at the race and checking out which Seoul is one of the best cities I’ve visted. We had a sharp exit after the race as we flew on saturday night, stopping in Dubai on Sunday was the icing on the cake. 6 flights in5 days, 3 cities and 2 passport stamps made this trip one of the best of 2012.
Travelling with BMX and seeing new places is what it’s all about. We had an awesome time and hope that we have the opportunity to go back in 2013 as the Crown Haiti Invitational race is one of the best events on the calendar regardless of the track, the effort made by the organisers and the hospitality out weighs the rest. See you next year!