Oldsmar BMX event first step on the Road to Rio

The 2016 USA BMX Gator Nationals event in Oldsmar last weekend was the first step on the road to qualifying for the Summer Olympic Games in Rio.

Oldsmar's BMX Supercross track on Tampa Road was the site of the 2016 USA BMX Gator Nationals event last weekend.

Oldsmar’s BMX Supercross track on Tampa Road was the site of the 2016 USA BMX Gator Nationals event last weekend.

“Ready. Set. Rio.”

That slogan could be seen on tee shirts and banners all over Oldsmar’s BMX Supercross track last weekend, as the 2016 USA BMX Gator Nationals rolled into town with more than a thousand riders from 39 countries in tow.

The three-day event served as the first of five Supercross races where the winners are awarded points needed to qualify for the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil.

And thanks to a recent $2 million renovation of the Tampa Road track, making it an Olympic-qualifying level facility, the top international riders in the world made the trip to Pinellas County.

“Today was a whole new experience for me,” Mayor Doug Bevis told Oldsmar Connect on Sunday, which featured the USA Cycling National Championship races.

“To see all these world-class riders at our new track, competing for a spot in the Olympic games in Rio, it was pretty awesome.”

USA BMX riders Connor Fields and Alise Post pose after winning USA Cycling national championships on Sunday in Oldsmar.

USA BMX riders Connor Fields and Alise Post pose after winning USA Cycling national championships on Sunday in Oldsmar.

Awesome was the operative word when it came to describing the facility, and the picture-perfect weather, over the weekend.

“They’ve done an awesome job with this facility down here,” 25-year-old TEAM USA rider Alise Post, who won her 6th straight USA Cycling National Championship on Sunday and is a favorite to medal in Rio, said. “It’s definitely world class.”

“It was definitely a bit less technical when we came in October,” she noted of the changes that were made to the track after the 2015 Gator Nationals. “They’ve redone the surface and obviously had a bit more time to get the track prepared for this race, and it shows.”

“The surface was great, the weather was great. I definitely enjoyed it.”

Local rider Juan Marin, who lives right across the street from Canal Park, was beaming with pride for his hometown track.

“This is probably one of the top three tracks in the country and one of the best in the world,” the 23-year-old Marin, who has raced all over the world since turning pro in 2012, said.  “It’s very cool to have it across the street from me, to have it as my home track.”

Riders praised the changes that were made to Oldsamr's Supercross track during the 2016 USA BMX Gator Nationals last weekend.

Riders praised the changes that were made to Oldsmar’s Supercross track during the 2016 USA BMX Gator Nationals last weekend.

As the teams began clearing out after the championships on Sunday, city and track officials began tearing down the banners and planning for future events.

Oldsmar Parks and Rec Director Lynn Rives said the praise was appreciated, but there’s still some work that needs to be done to make the event even better.

“We heard a lot of great things about the facility, like the surface is really improved,” he said. “The tweaks were definitely in the right direction.”

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis talks to TEAM USA rider Connor Fields during the 2016 Gator Nationals on Sunday.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis talks to TEAM USA rider Connor Fields during the 2016 Gator Nationals on Sunday.

“We’d like to do a little better with the VIP packaging and the VIP area, as well as the camping area, and maybe add a few more Port-o-Lets,” he added. “But everything else went great.”

Mayor Bevis joked that other than a few broken bones suffered by riders over the weekend, the biggest complaints had to do with the weather.

“The feedback was incredible, but the bad part was the weather,” he deadpanned.

“Too much bright sunshine and clear skies!”

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