The Title Breakdown
2022 USA BMX Pro Championship
By Connor Fields
As a BMX kid, you dream of one day being a pro. You dream of being a champion. You dream of putting your name on the champion's banner and going down in BMX history. That lifelong dream is going to come true for two athletes this month. What started ten months ago in Okeeheelee, Florida, comes to a conclusion on November 25th in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with the final round of the 2022 USABMX Pro Series. There are so many ways this can go, so get your scratch paper and calculators ready, and let’s dive into it.
How It Works
I presume many of you reading this know how this works, but for those who do not, here is a refresher. The USABMX series champion is decided by a points system. Your best eight national results count, plus the final round (Grands). The pro series has limited rounds, with only ten (two-day) weekends being part of the pro series. That means you have 20 shots to max out your eight scores, but that also means there is no dodging competition. Pretty much everyone is there every weekend. The main difference between the pro title chase and the amateur N.A.G. (national age group) title chase is that the R.O.C. (Race of Champions, a one-day event) counts for the pros as a national score. That means there is ONE final chance for riders to move up the rankings before the Grands. In most years, it doesn’t mean much. This year it means A TON. More on that later.
Every series from 2019 and before was decided by taking your ten best scores plus the Grands result. In 2020 it was a one-shot race for all the marbles due to Covid, but in 2021 the requirement for scores was reduced from ten to eight. This was done in an effort to tighten the title chase, and after reviewing this year’s points, it is safe to say that it worked. Theoretically, now you can now win the championship by competing in less than half of the races, which might actually happen this year in the women’s class. Historically, only two or three riders per class would even be mathematically up for it. Typically a rider or two would get hot and go on dominant streaks. This year has been a season of parity with no one rider proving overly dominant in the men’s class, and the result of that is the men have SEVEN (7!!!) riders mathematically up for the overall championship. Let’s take a look at how the points work.
Just like in amateur, National points break down with the following set amounts per position:
*riders also receive one point for every rider in the class that day. For example, second place with 25 riders in the class is a 225 point score.
For the Grands, those numbers are doubled. Making the Grands the single most important points race of the season.
So what does that mean? That means the magic number is 80. You want to have 80 point increments on your competition.
The Grands is the only race of the year run using the “old school” three main events “total points” (best of three) format. Everything is the same to get you into the main event, but once in the main, you have “total points.” That means you have to get the job done from an inside gate, a middle gate, and an outside gate. Consistency plays a part, but usually, the fastest rider will rise to the top and win at the end of three mains. The strategy does matter, though, as you might not go for a divebomb-type pass in the first main and just take the second place to keep your points low.
And Still or And New?
There are two possible outcomes for both the men’s and women’s classes. Either the winningest USABMX champions ever continue to win more, or a first-time USABMX champion is crowned. Nothing in between, just the two extremes.
For the first time ever, I truly don’t have a feeling for what is going to happen. Usually, it is easy to pick who you think it will be, but if the Vegas sportsbooks had betting available, I have absolutely NO CLUE who I would put the chips on.
How I Will Break It Down
The points will definitely change after the R.O.C., so what I will do is format it like this:
Title scenario as things currently stand
What can happen at R.O.C. and how will that affect points
The argument for why they can win the title
The argument for why they can't win the title
Let’s start with the women’s class as it will be a little bit easier.
1 LAURA SMULDERS. (8 1st) (0 2nd) (0 3rd) 8/8 mains made. 2047 points
2 ALISE WILLOUGHBY (9 1st) (3 2nd) (0 3rd) 12/12 mains made. 2024 points
3 FELICIA STANCIL. (0 1st) (6 2nd) (4 3rd) 13/13 mains made. 1582 points
As things currently stand, Felicia is BARELY within the 480 point window keeping her alive. With the points like this, Felicia would need to win AND have both Laura and Alise miss the main event. Statistically, with a combined 100% main-making rate for those two, that seems unlikely.
At the R.O.C, Felicia has the most to gain. If she can win and replace a third, she would move up roughly 80 points (plus/minus a bit, depending on rider points) which would mean she would only be 385 points back. That means if Alise and Laura missed the main, a win OR a second would get the job done. If Felicia wins the R.O.C., her odds would increase by .01%.
Felicia can win, but she needs a lot of help, and some things are beyond her control. However, there is a scenario where Laura and Alise take each other out in a semi, and Felicia makes the main. She then has a shot and controls her own destiny.
Winning will be difficult because an unfortunate injury at the season opener set Felicia back in her title defense. Laura and Alise are almost guaranteed to make the main, and even if they don’t, Felica would need to win her first USABMX race of the year. All scenarios that seem unlikely based on this season. Even if she is unable to defend her USABMX title, she still ends the year wearing a rainbow jersey, so 2022 was a success for “Flyin” Felicia.
1 LAURA SMULDERS (8 1st) (0 2nd) (0 3rd) 8/8 mains made. 2047 points
2 ALISE WILLOUGHBY (9 1st) (3 2nd) (0 3rd) 12/12 mains made. 2024 points
I will lump these two together because they are as simple as it gets.
As it stands, it is whoever finishes ahead of the other at the Grands.
R.O.C. for these two will not help their points situation, but with a win, they can block Felicia further.
This is a classic battle with two of the greats going head to head. Winner takes all. If they both go down, it’s whoever gets up first. As simple as it gets.
Alise can win because she has boatloads of experience. And not just experience, experience winning. She knows the mental game, she knows how to prep, and she wants the title back after losing it last year.
Alise has not looked her best in recent months. A couple of big crashes recently may have set her back injury-wise a bit too. When they have raced this year, Laura has beaten her consistently, albeit off the Olympic-sized big hill. Reminder – the Grands will have a traditional small hill.
I imagine Laura read the rulebook last December and saw you needed eight scores. She said, “ok, I will do eight races.” She then went on to win every single day she raced. All I can say about that is WOW. She has been outright dominant. Although she has never battled for a USABMX title, she has World Cup series titles, World Titles, and an Olympic bronze medal, so she is no stranger to handling pressure.
Laura has not even raced off the small hill this year. All of her domination was done off the big SX hill. Only time will tell if she will adapt to the small hill, dirt turns, and smaller jumps the USABMX Grands will provide. There is a massive difference between traditional American tracks and SX/European tracks. I also don’t know if she has ever raced a three main event format before.
Who is your money on? The Dutch woman in her first USABMX title fight, or Alise going for it 15 years after she won her first USABMX title? And yes, that is not a typo. I checked.
I am going to stop here quickly. I have to mention that our current #7 ranked rider Sylvain Andre IS mathematically alive, but he would need the following to happen:
Win the R.O.C.
Win the Grands
Josh Mclean, Izaac Kennedy, Niek Kimmann, Joris Daudet, Cameron Wood, and Corben Sharrah all do not podium and advance their points further at the R.O.C.
Josh Mclean, Izaac Kennedy, Niek Kimmann, Joris Daudet, Cameron Wood, and Corben Sharrah all do not make the main at the Grands
*There is possibly a scenario where perhaps Corben (current rank #6) gets 3rd in the R.O.C. then proceeds to get 8th in the main at Grands, and no one else on this list makes the main at Grands, and Sylvain’s two wins are enough to get ahead of him… but I am not going to map out those hundreds of super specific scenarios.
If Sylvain does not win the R.O.C., then he is eliminated from contention.
Sylvain is an awesome person and rider, but let’s be real all of these required scenarios are not going to happen. Let’s focus on the six with more realistic chances.
Before we dive into this, let’s arrange the top six a couple of ways based on statistics to get a picture of the season as a whole rather than just the best eight scores. I love statistics, as they don’t lie. They typically paint a pretty black-and-white picture.
If we arranged the top six based on wins, it would go:
Joshua Mclean (6 wins)
TIE Niek Kimmann, Joris Daudet, Cameron Wood (3 wins)
TIE Izaac Kennedy, Corben Sharrah (2 wins)
Josh won twice as many races as anyone else this year. Everyone else was pretty close.
These six riders won 19 out of the 20 races. Current UCI World Champion Simon Marquart was the only other rider able to grab a win this year.
If anyone other than Josh wins, I believe it will be the least amount of total wins EVER taken to win the title. Need to confirm this stat with the HOF archives. In recent years, it has ranged from 6-18 season-long wins for the champion, with the majority of the time between 6-10.
If we arranged the top 6 based on podiums, it would go:
Izaac Kennedy (9)
TIE Joshua Mclean, Niek Kimmann (8)
Joris Daudet (7)
TIE Cameron Wood, Corben Sharrah (6)
Izaac was the podium king this year, but everyone was in the same range. No one really stood out.
Of an available total of 60 podium spots on the season, these six occupied the podium 44 times.
Main Making Percentage:
Izaac Kennedy – 93%
Joris Daudet – 92%
Niek Kimmann – 81%
Joshua Mclean – 77%
Cameron Wood – 72%
Corben Sharrah – 65%
Izaac and Joris both missed one main a piece this year and were almost automatic at making the main. Interesting here, despite Josh winning more often than the others, he also missed a handful of mains.
With all that said, none of it matters. What matters is the top eight scores. I just like taking a look at it to see if it can help paint a picture of what to expect in Tulsa.
Here are the actual points, and buckle up as this gets complicated:
(Side note, as I got a headache trying to work all this stuff out, it hit me – hey @ USABMX, can we make a simpler points structure for the pros that is easy for riders and fans to follow? Call me.)
1 JOSHUA MCLEAN (6 1st) (2 2nd) (0 3rd) 14/18 mains made. 2063 points
2 IZAAC KENNEDY (2 1st) (5 2nd) (2 3rd) 13/14 mains made. 1966 points
3 NIEK KIMMANN (3 1st) (1 2nd) (4 3rd) 13/16 mains made. 1853 points
4 JORIS DAUDET (3 1st) (1 2nd) (3 3rd) 11/12 mains made. 1797 points
5 CAMERON WOOD (3 1st) (1 2nd) (2 3rd) 13/18 mains made. 1725 points
6 CORBEN SHARRAH (2 1st) (1 2nd) (3 3rd) 13/20 mains made. 1629 points
Here are the gaps from the current leader, remember 80 points per position
1 JOSHUA MCLEAN 2063
2 IZAAC KENNEDY 1966 + 97
3 NIEK KIMMANN 1853 +210
4 JORIS DAUDET 1797 + 266
5 CAMERON WOOD 1725 + 338
6 CORBEN SHARRAH 1629 + 434
This is all subject to change after the R.O.C., which, as you will see below, is going to be very important.
Let’s break these boys down in the same format as we did the women above.
Title scenario as things currently stand
What can happen at R.O.C., and how that will affect points
The argument for why they can win the title
The argument for why they can't win the title
1 JOSHUA MCLEAN
(6 1st) (2 2nd) (0 3rd) 14/18 mains made. 2063 points
Josh is in the driver’s seat here. As it stands, he has a one-position buffer on Izaac, meaning a win or a 2nd seals the deal for Josh no matter what. If Josh gets 3rd and anyone other than Izaac wins, he wins. If he gets 4th and anyone other than Niek, Izaac, or Joris wins, he wins. This goes on and on, but you get it, he is in a good spot.
The R.O.C. doesn’t help Josh much at all other than he can act as a blocker. If he wins, he keeps anyone else from advancing their scores.
Josh has won more races than anyone else this year, and many of those have been off the small hill. He set out at the beginning of this year with the clear goal of chasing this title, and now he has a chance to finish the job.
Josh has had the worst period of his season in the past few months. He has only made 1/4 mains in the past two weekends. He also has not landed a good finish since Salt Lake City in August. He will have to turn the ship around at the biggest race of the year.
2 IZAAC KENNEDY
(2 1st) (5 2nd) (2 3rd) 13/14 mains made. 1966 points
As it stands, Izaac only needs one person to get between him and Josh (assuming Izaac wins).
Izaac can conceivably bring control to himself with a win at the R.O.C. With a win on Thursday in Tulsa, he brings the gap to within 80 points, meaning a “heads up” race and meaning a win will guarantee him the title. Trust me, it is nice going into a race being able to control your own destiny and not rely on others beating certain riders.
Izaac has been the most consistent rider overall this year, and in his last four races, he had a win and two seconds. So he is hot. The three main event format favors consistency. Izaac is young, hungry, and looking to take his #CFGrips to the top. Shameless plug, sue me.
Izaac has two career USABMX wins, and both came off the big hill. He would need to get his FIRST small hill win in his FIRST three main event format while up for his FIRST title. That is a lot of firsts that need to happen to get first.
3 NIEK KIMMANN
(3 1st) (1 2nd) (4 3rd) 13/16 mains made. 1853 points
As it stands, the Olympic Champion needs to win, needs Izaac to finish 3rd or worse, and Josh to finish 4th or worse. The scenario is not super crazy. The main event could very conceivably end up Niek, Joris, Izaac, and Josh top four in that order, and if that happens, Niek is your champion.
Niek can help himself at the R.O.C. by getting a win or a 2nd. A win would replace a 3rd, bumping him up 80 points, and a second would bump him 40.
Niek can win because he is one of the winningest BMX racers of all time, so the pressure certainly won’t get to him. He is also smart, so the three main event format will suit him. Niek has finished on the podium at the Grands before, so he knows what it takes.
Niek has more World Cup wins than anyone in history, but he has never been known as a small-hill guy. He has a total of zero wins off the small hill this year. He was 0/2 on even making mains in Bakersfield at the final round of the season. He will have to make massive improvements off the flat hill in just five weeks to make it happen. I watched him train in Vegas on a couple of the flattest hills around, so he is working hard at it. He also won the Olympics with a broken kneecap, so definitely don’t count him out.
4 JORIS DAUDET
(3 1st) (1 2nd) (3 3rd) 11/12 mains made. 1797 points
As it stands, Joris needs to win and needs help. He needs Josh to get 5th or worse and for Izaac to get 3rd or worse if he wins. He is heads up with Niek, so if Josh gets 5th or worse, and the podium is Joris, Niek, and Izaac, then Joris is your champion, again, again, again, again, again. That is five “agains” – one for each title he would have.
Here is where it gets tricky, and you can bet that Joris will know exactly what he needs to do because you don’t win four titles without knowing. Joris has seven podiums and a 5th as his current scores. If he is able to win at the R.O.C., he will replace his 5th with a win. This would bring his total to around 1950, meaning he is heads up with anyone other than Josh, who would have a one-spot buffer. Essentially putting him in the same spot as Izaac.
Joris can win because he has won more USABMX races than the rest of these guys combined. By a lot. He has won four titles, but in addition to those four, he has also contested for three others, which means this is his eighth rodeo of competing for a title. Experience is your friend in these situations. Does anyone remember the Grands last year? If not, here is a refresher – Joris destroyed everyone. #WinWithChase (another plug, sue me.)
This might sound crazy, but this is actually Joris’s worst year since 2014 (excluding a year where he was injured for part of the season). He has not looked like his dominant self all year and, by his standards, has been inconsistent. He has relocated to France, so all of the travel back and forth may have taken a toll. He is the last of an older generation fighting against young and hungry kids who want the throne.
5 CAMERON WOOD
(3 1st) (1 2nd) (2 3rd) 13/18 mains made. 1725 points
As it stands, Cameron would need to win, have Josh finish 6th or worse, Izaac and Niek finish 4th or worse, and he is currently “heads up” with Joris. If the Grands results went Cameron, Joris, Sylvain, Izaac, Niek, Josh… then Cameron is the champion.
Cameron has 6 podiums on the year and is currently carrying two 4th’s to replace. A top three at R.O.C. would move him up between 40-120 points based on how he does. If he wins, he would be roughly at 1845, which would put him in the current position Niek is in. A 2nd or 3rd helps, just not quite as much.
Cameron can win because did you just see Bakersfield? My goodness. Winning a race is hard. Winning two days is hard. Winning three days? That is a dominant weekend. He is a powerhouse, and the small hill suits his style more than anyone else on this list (IMHO). He is likely confident after the last few races resulting in USABMX wins and a World Cup win. He is hot at the right time.
Outside of the most recent race in Bakersfield, Cameron has been inconsistent in 2022, making less than 3 quarters of his mains and only winning once. Cameron will have to be more consistent than he was most of the year in Tulsa. He needs to string together two days AND all three mains AND stay out of trouble or crashing AND get a little bit of help with the other riders’ results.
6 CORBEN SHARRAH
(2 1st) (1 2nd) (3 3rd) 13/20 mains made. 1629 points
Corben is our last rider who has a somewhat realistic mathematical shot. As it stands, he needs to win, have Josh finish exactly 8th (or not make the main), PLUS he has to have Izaac place 6th or worse, Niek finish 5th or worse, Joris 4th or worse, AND Cameron 3rd or worse. A main event result of Corben, Sylvain, Cameron, Joris, Niek, Izaac, Larsen, Mclean would give Corben the title.
For Corben to better those odds, he needs to win the R.O.C. He has six podiums, and his worst score of his top eight currently held scores is a 5th. A win would bump him up 160 points to around where Joris is currently, which would move his title chances to the situation Joris is currently in.
Corben is one of two riders on this list who has done the double before – win the R.O.C. and Grands. He certainly has the speed and experience to get the job done, and when he’s on – he’s on. I have learned over the years to NEVER count him out.
Corben needs a lot of help and a lot of things to happen. He has been the least consistent of this group this year (statistically) and does not have the best track record of performing at the Grands.
In conclusion, have your scratch paper and calculators ready. We will have to tally up the points Thursday after the R.O.C. and then tally again after each main for the three main event format. Then if you carry the one, take the square root, and divide by X, we should be able to figure out the new champion by Friday evening in Tulsa.
The R.O.C. will have an impact on the points, but also on confidence. Who is going to start the weekend hot? Can the riders who have a bad day at the R.O.C. turn it around for the Grands? Who will rise to the occasion, and who will crumble under pressure? Will all six of these riders make the main at the Grands? All questions that remain to be answered. When you throw in Romain Maheiu, Jeremy Rencurel, Kamren Larsen, Jeremy Smith, Nick Adams, Justin Kimmann, Joey Leto, Jack Davis, Rico Bearman, Alfredo Campo, and the rest of the Men’s Pro class, I would bet that one or two miss out on the main event…
Buckle up; this one is going to get wild with things going on everywhere in the men’s class and a battle of the titans in the women’s. This is a rare and special chase with so many possible outcomes on the table. Let’s party. See you in Tulsa.