The theme of this summer has been the Australian invasion on the BMX circuit. Kyle Baldock broke out in a big way on the Dew Tour circuit, while the Gatorade Free Flow Tour produced not one, but two, BMX champions from Australia. One of those Aussies was 16-year-old Luke Parker, who captured the tour's 2nd-ever BMX dirt championship back in Portland.
The Dew Tour course in Portland was certainly not one to be taken lightly. When TJ Lavin designed the course, his goal was to challenge even the top pro riders. The rollers, in particular, were an element that threw a lot of riders off their game. It appeared then that the ams riding in the Gatorade Free Flow Tour finals could end up struggling mightily, but that notion was quickly dismissed when the contest got underway.
Parker approved of the course. "I liked the idea of TJ's design," he said. "It was good to see pro riders have to change up thir tricks to suit the jumps."
The riders who excelled on the course were the ones who had a strong background in trail riding or BMX racing. Luke Parker, Luke Bowerman and Larry Edgar all had experience racing, and they clearly used it to their advantage, finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd, respectively.
Parker actually started his racing career off on a motorbike, which he received as a Christmas present at age 3. He made the transition to BMX racing shortly after, though. "There was a BMX race track across the road from our local motorbike track, and mum took me to have a look," he recalled. "It seemed like a lot of fun and more practical for how small I was."
Ten subsequent years of BMX racing gave Parker an edge in Portland. "We used the roller to benefit us and get speed," Luke explained in regards to all of the top-three finishers.
Towards the end of Parker's racing career, he began going to the skatepark more often. "Eventually freestyle took over, and it progressed from there," he explained.
On his first run in BMX dirt finals, Parker threw a tailwhip on the drop-in, then landed a double tailwhip and a frontflip on the jumps. The run scored Parker a 92.0 and put him into the lead. That's when it started to occur to him that he actually had a shot to win the whole thing. "I went into it with the attitude that I can ride with my friends and watch some amazing pro riders," he recalled. "After everyone finished their first runs and I was winning, I started getting nervous."
Parker would have to ride out the nerves for 2 more rounds, but no one was able to top his score.
Up until this past February, Parker had really just ridden in some occasional local contests. His first "proper" contest experience came at this year's BMX Games in Australia, where he placed 5th in dirt. A few months later, he made the decision to travel abroad and take a shot at the Gatorade Free Flow Tour.
"The idea of coming to America and doing the Gatorade Free Flow Tour came up after seeing a few other Australians really progress from it in the last few years," Parker explained. "I wasn't expecting to do any good this year. We planned the trip so I could travel and go to Woodward and figure out what I had to do to compete over here, but this year just turned out for the best."
Parker made his Gatorade Free Flow Tour debut at Da Compound, earning top-4 finishes in two separate disciplines (4th in BMX park, 3rd in BMX dirt). Third place was good enough to earn him a trip to the finals. Finishing just behind him was Justin Spriet, who also qualified for finals and would play a key role in Luke's victory.
"I was going to go home before the finals because I didn't have a place to stay and started to doubt myself. But thanks to friends and the Spriet family, they gave me a place to stay, and that allowed me to ride Portland," Parker said. "To have them there to celebrate it with was amazing."
After nearly two months, Parker will be back in action at the Dew Tour's final stop this weekend in Las Vegas. He's looking forward to makng his debut, telling us "I've riden with Chris Doyle and Dennis Enarson when they were in Australia, so it will be really cool being there riding with them. Kyle Baldock is such a nice guy and is amazing to watch, so it will be so sick up on the roll-in with those guys."
As far as Parker's goals for Las Vegas, he's aiming high. He says that success for him would be to qualify for dirt finals this weekend. To do that, he will need to place inside the top 9 in Thursday's semi-finals. (You may recall that last year's BMX dirt champion Alex Landeros was one spot shy of making finals in his Dew Tour debut.)
"It's a long way to come to not have high hopes and expectations," Parker added. "So hopefully I can live up to it."
Check out excerpts of our interview with Luke below.
Gatorade Free Flow Tour: What made you decide to travel from Australia to the U.S. to compete in the Gatorade Free Flow Tour this summer?
Luke Parker: The idea of coming to America and doing the Gatorade Free Flow Tour came up after seeing a few other Australians really progress from it in the last few years. I wasn't expecting to do any good this year. We planned the trip so I could travel and go to Woodward and figure out what I had to do to compete over here, but this year just turned out for the best.
GFFT: Back in Portland, TJ Lavin created a very unique course that challenged a lot of the pro riders... What did you think of the course? Did your racing background make the course better suited to your riding at all?
LP: I liked the idea of TJ's design. It was good to see pro riders have to change up thir tricks to suit the jumps. I know for a fact that myself, Larry Edgar and Luke Bowermen all raced, and we used the roller to benefit us and get speed.
GFFT: Before the contest, what did you think about your chances of winning the Gatorade Free Flow Tour finals?
LP: I didn't really treat the finals like a contest. I went into it with the attitude that I can ride with my friends and watch some amazing pro riders. After everyone finished their first runs and I was winning, I started getting nervous, haha.
GFFT: Can you describe how it felt to win the contest?
LP: Winning the contest was such an amazing feeling. I was going to go home before the finals because I didn't have a place to stay and started to doubt myself. But thanks to friends and the Spriet family, they gave me a place to stay and that allowed me to ride Portland. To have them there to celebrate it with was amazing. And celebrating with the Australian boys I ride with, and having pro riders coming up and congratulating me left me speechless.
GFFT: What have you been up to since competing in Portland? Have you done anything special to prepare for Vegas?'
LP: I've just ridden like I usually would, had fun with friends, and just enjoyed being on my bike.
GFFT: Has anything changed for you since winning?
LP: Not much changed. I got a lot of facebook requests.
GFFT: With your Dew Tour debut on the horizon, have you set any goals or expectations for this month's contest?
LP: I'm hoping to make finals in Vegas. It's a long way to come to not have high hopes and expectations, so hopefully I can live up to it.
GFFT: Are there any pros you're looking forward to riding with for the first time?
LP: Yer, I've riden with Chris Doyle and Dennis Enarson when they were in Australia, so it will be really cool being there riding with them. Kyle Baldock is such a nice guy and is amazing to watch, so it will be so sick up on the roll-in with those guys.
GFFT: What are your plans for 2012?
LP: My plans for 2012 are to spend a lot more time in America and try and qualify for park and dirt in Dew Tour. Also, travel with friends, keep riding my bike as much as I can, and have fun.
GFFT: Any sponsors you'd like to give a shout-out to?
LP: Big thanks to Elite Cycle Imports. They gave me my first bike sponsorship and have supported me ever since then. Stephen Taylor at Ridingway bike store; he takes my photos for ads and got me my first front cover of a magazine. Fitbikeco; they give me a great bike and great support. Mostly my mom & dad and my sister, who always support me in what I do. They put all their money into supporting me and believe in me no matter what. Thanks!!
Check back this week for our feature on skate vert champion Jonathan Schwan. And if you missed them, here's the links to our stories on Brendon Villanueva (skate street champ) and Brandon Loupos (BMX park champ). Good luck to all 4 as they make their Dew Tour debut this week!