Five Aces from B.C.

B.C. boys bring home five Championship titles from the Walton Canadian Amateur Nationals in Ontario

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A young boy on a mini bike flying through the air.

B.C. boy Julien Benek is your new 50-cc 7-8 National Champion. — Jim Muir photo

There are so many ways for it to go wrong and really only one way it can go right. There are thousands of kids in this country at every level and only one at each level will be named “The Champion.” For every other kid, there is an example of another way it can go wrong. What happened this year at the Walton Canadian Amateur Nationals in Walton, Ontario, was, for our competing B.C. boys, a bit like drawing five Aces and a King in a game of five-card poker. It never happens.

Three Aces and a King

If you have read my articles covering the winter arenacross series, from which I drew the photos for this article, you will know how impressed I have been with several of the up-and-coming B.C. riders that I have been chronicling. I have openly stated that I thought Casey Keast might be the fastest mini rider in Canada, and of Jacob Piccolo I have said that he is the most impressive mini rider I have ever seen (and I’ve seen eventual National Champions when they were on minis).

Well, Piccolo and Keast both showed at the World Mini Grand Prix earlier this year that they are among the best on the continent. Then at the Western Canadian Nationals, Piccolo won both the 65-cc and 7-11 85-cc titles, and Keast won both the Supermini and 12-16 85-cc titles.

Julien Benek, another B.C. boy I have chronicled, won the 50-cc 7-8 and 65-cc B titles, and Wyatt Waddell was second in MX2 Junior behind Kyle Biro. The Raymond Western Championships produced three Aces and a King for B.C. It seemed unlikely the Amateur National Championships in Walton would produce a result this good; there are just too many ways for it to go wrong, and the competition is even tougher.

The Big One

Walton is “The Big One.” If there is only one race to win in Canada, it’s gotta be Walton. Top riders in every class, in every region across the country, plan their season around Walton. If you want to be recognized as the best in the country, you have to win at Walton.

This year, six amateur B.C. riders decided they were ready for the challenge and made the cross-country voyage to Ontario. Four of them, it must be said, sent their bikes together in a container supplied by Big Steel Box. Kudos must be given to this company for stepping up to support our local heroes.

Also travelling to Walton from B.C. was Ryan Lockhart, recent Pro National contender turned +25 Ace, and Intermediate sensation Jesse Pettis, who is already working with the Leading Edge team that won both Canadian Pro titles this year. Against overwhelming odds, all six riders are bringing hardware home; five are champions and one is a runner-up. The B.C. motocross Renaissance has officially begun!

Beating the odds

There are just so many ways to lose a three-race championship like this that the odds of five of six winning are astronomically high. Piccolo went 1-1-1 to win his primary (65-cc 10-11) class, and Benek also went 1-1-1 in his primary 50-cc 7-8 class. Piccolo was second in his secondary 85-cc 7-11 class and Benek was third in 65-cc 7-9.

Keast won Supermini, but it must be said that it took some bad luck on Joey Crown’s part for this to happen. As I’ve said, there are so many ways it can go wrong. At Walton it went wrong for Crown in Supermini, and Keast was the benefactor who held it all together and stayed consistent. Then in his 85-cc class, it went wrong for Keast and he DNF’d a moto, ultimately going 4-DNF-4 for ninth overall. Crown won.

After being beaten by Kyle Biro at the Raymond Westerns, Waddell had something to prove at Walton. Waddell has suffered throughout his Junior campaign from a series of mechanical issues and a couple of falls and nagging injuries, but he has continued to improve through it all. He has looked susceptible at times, but he always has that style and fluidity on a bike that just make you know he can go fast. I have seen it in him since the first time I saw him ride, and apparently so have his myriad supporters. I think it’s important to realize the value of this support.

A key to their success

Kids don’t just magically become champions anymore. Racers with potential require a lot of support and assistance to make the leap from local rider to National Champion. Without teams like the ones that support Waddell and these other talented riders, it’s unlikely that any of them could have the kind of success they are having. This supportive environment is a big part of how our boys are able to be so competitive and a key to success in the region.

I already mentioned the support of Big Steel Box, but I have also been impressed with the level of support Kourtney Lloyd from Cycle North has invested in Waddell and many other riders.

Ryan Lockhart and the B.C.-run Matrix/Atlas/100% crew also support Waddell and several other teams. Lockhart has also coached Waddell for a while now, and Chris Buckrell, who has been a factory mechanic and currently works at Fox Canada, has been helping out with Waddell’s motor work. Waddell also gets support from Parts Canada, Kawasaki Canada, CTS Suspension and Risk Racing. Several of the mini riders also get a lot of support from GoldenTyre, another B.C.-run distribution company.

Up-and-comers

Motocross is not just about one guy blitzing around a field anymore. It’s about team building and having a plan. Waddell has assembled a great team and it finally all came together for him at Walton, which was the plan all along. Waddell went 1-4-1 in MX2 Junior to claim the National Championship title. He also finished second in MX3 GP. That’s a stunning five out of six B.C. riders in attendance winning National Championships.

The sixth member of the B.C. contingent, Jesse Pettis, was also right in the mix, and if not for a spectacular Intermediate season by Dylan Wright (who placed a record-setting third place as an Intermediate in a Pro National!), he might also have won a National title. As it is, he was runner-up in the MX2 Intermediate class.

If you’re counting, that’s five championships, four runners-up, 10 podiums, and 11 top 5s among six riders! This is the future of B.C. motocross. I believe we will be watching all these riders work all the way up to the Pro ranks—as long as nothing goes wrong.  

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