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Preview- 2024 Pro Opener

Presents are gone from under the tree, family dinners have cleared the table, and the time has come for a new year of BMX to kick off an unprecedented year. From the 2024 USA BMX district season to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, all levels of BMX are gearing up for great action all year.

As we look at the start of the USA BMX National Series, the season opener jumps to the east side of the country, where we celebrate 50 years of racing at Sarasota BMX! The legendary track kicks off not only the start of Amateur racing but also the Pro Opener, where Professional BMX racers start their journey on the US series and look to earn Olympic points through Sunday UCI C1 competitions. With all eyes on USA BMX Top 5 from ‘23 and Olympic Hopefuls from around the world, the beginning of 2024 has fans, racers, and sponsors excited about the possibilities.

Every Pro Opener on the USA BMX circuit has an extra bit of buzz to the race weekend. Excitement for new kits, seeing old friends, and watching the battles. That excitement in the pits travels to the top of the hill, where the track awaits. Sarasota BMX has come a long way from its once tire-lined track, and for the Sunshine State Nationals, Sarasota BMX will test the best in the sport if they want to make an impact at the Pro Opener. The Pro first straight brings power and ability to a head with good backside and as many pedals as possible at the forefront of every fast lap. With a triple leading the big hill racing into turn one, pack-wide boosts will cross paths with pull-on jump-in lines in all three pro classes. 

The fast front straights and the technical back straights mean every section is critical to beating the pack. And as the track holds one set of obstacles, the field of competition holds one of its own.

Florida has been the chosen training ground for Pros across the globe for almost half a decade, and Sarasota BMX has been home to one of the best. 6x National No.1 Pro Joris Daudet knows the track like the back of his FLY Racing gloves, as he has called the area and the track home during some of his peak training periods. Currently, in Australia training in the Aussie summer, we hope to see Daudet at his home away from home rocking the iconic 33, with a certain Aussie teammate in tow.

The racing world hasn’t seen Izaac Kennedy since his injury at the BlackJack Nationals in Reno, making the 2024 return that much more exciting. A key part in an exciting storyline in the previous season, Kennedy makes his return as the first step to his run at the World Cup, World Championship, and Olympic goals. The traveling Chase kits will be on the hunt and joined by Mongoose’s Cam Wood in the Men Pro class. 

The Montana native has been back to work around the desert of Phoenix, including the newly rebuilt Black Mountain BMX. As the No. 2 from 2023 and Team USA hopeful for the 2024 Paris Olympics, Cam Wood comes into the season hungry. Landing on the podium 11 times throughout the 2023 season (6 of which were wins), Wood needs to hit the season hot to set himself, and the USA Country points for a successful summer. Making the trip from AZ with Wood is the crafty veteran and Mr. 24 himself, Corben Sharrah.

The Daylight Cycles ride out of Tuscon, AZ, has been a staple on the USA BMX circuit for more than a decade, and 2024 has his name written in the stars. Finishing out the previous season at the No. 5 spot, Sharrah knows how to get it done in Sarasota, sweeping the weekend back in 2020 before the year’s Pro series was suspended, Sharrah is in a similar situation with early season points and Olympic implications on the line. While the traveling Men Pro have been preparing for the weekend, the Floridians are ready to defend their training grounds when the Sunshine State Nats roll into town.

A strong group of racers have flocked to the Floridian winter in preparation for the Pro Opener. From Rookies looking for gates with the hardened racers of the class to those hardened racers perfecting their form and skill, the Sarasota Sessions have been popping off. At the forefront of the Men’s side are the State’s regulars, Kam Larsen, Joey Leto, and Jeremy Smith. 

Debuting his new team just a few weeks ago, Kam Larsen and his new Answer BMX ride look to bring big things to the brand in 2024. As a fast gate specialist, Larsen has shown steady growth in the past two years and has made himself a new fan favorite. Just a single spot behind him in the ‘23 rankings is the Sarasota local Joey Leto. A podium animal, Leto brings the young speed and determination to the class once again. In his fourth year as Pro, Leto kicks off the season in his backyard, on the very hill that he asked the city to build. A full circle moment for the Staystrong racer has photographers and fans excited to see what 2024 will bring for “Joe Dirt”.

While he may have a track in his backyard, J-Smooth Jeremy Smith has his eyes on Sarasota BMX with his Aker Brand training partners. Smith’s effortless riding style finds him in the hunt at a lot of stops along the Pro series, however it’s the Sarasota BMX third straight where you can see him shine. Staying smooth and protecting the third turn line is a must for the Pros, and Jeremey Smith will be there to capitalize on any mistakes from his competitors. 

You might be thinking to yourself, “What about the ladies?” Well, the Sarasota training sessions have been packed with some of the fastest ladies on the circuit, and at the helm is Answer BMX’s Felicia Stancil. Landing at the No. 2 spot in the 2023 Women Pro ranking, Stancil has been hunting for consistent top spots, and the home state race may be exactly what ignites her winning ways. Joined by Rookie Pro Ava Corley and Tulsa local Payton Ridenour for the last of their pre-season prep, Stancil, Ridenour, and Corley take on 2024 with big expectations at home and abroad. 

Taking the jump into the pro class is no easy feat, however back in 2006 one racer took the leap and didn’t look back. 11x USA BMX National No.1 Women Pro, Alise Willoughby, has had plenty of racing experience in her time in the sport. However, 2024 brings a jam-packed schedule that she and her training partner are ready for. “The Willoughby Girls” Alise Willoughby and Lauren Reynolds take on the year for themselves and their respective countries with a US World Cup and US World Championships leading them into the Paris Games. At their battleground in Chula Vista, CA, Willoughby and Reynolds have been joined by the desert speedsters Daleny Vaughn and Lexis Colby, who have brought their power to the world stage and back as they get ready to fight for their place in the 2024 rankings. 

Only 37 days since the 2023 battles ended, some sponsor news is still on our minds. The largest one is the Pro roster built by Daylight Cycles. With Molly Simpson taking home the Grand Nationals win, Alise Willoughy winning her 11th Pro title, and Corben Sharrah solidifying a payday with fifth overall, the Daylight Cycles Pro roster got even more stacked over the Thanksgiving weekend. Molly Simpson, Curtis Krey, Corben Sharrah, Tommaso Gasparoli, Josh McLean, Zach Van Kammen, Robbie Spanyard, and Alise Willoughby are all ready to see Daylight in 2024 and beyond.

While excitement and speculation are fun leading into the season, storylines and domination will become clear after Friday’s race day. Here’s what we’re keeping an eye out for at Sarasota BMX.

  • Alise does Alise things.

  • Payton Ridenour excels on the first straight.

  • Joris Daudet has the fastest lap time of the weekend.

  • Joey Leto makes a turn-three pass for the podium.

  • Anthony Bucardo has the best style in the second straight.

  • Kam Larsen Podiums Friday/Saturday and wins on UCI Sunday.

  • Jeremey Smith makes 4 passes on the third straight.

  • Ava Corley and Drew Polk make an A Main in their Pro Debut.

  • Felicia Stancil earns an Answer Holeshot

  • Zach Van Kammen podiums 2 of the 3 days.

  • Cam Wood and Corben Sharrah split wins on Friday and Saturday

Sarasota BMX is starting to fill up, hill times are getting faster, and the 2024 season looks to be one for the ages. See you soon 2024

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