BMXers Mix Friendship, Competition
Saturday, June 21, 2008
BALTIMORE, June 20 -- This past Christmas, Samuel Bestwick asked for his first BMX bicycle. That's not too surprising when you consider that Samuel's dad, Jamie, is arguably the best BMX vert rider in the world.
But the now-3-year-old asked for a neon orange bike, just like the one Bestwick's friend and protégé, Steven McCann, rides.
"I think he wanted Sam to have a yellow bike like the one he had last year," McCann, a native of Melbourne, Australia, said with a laugh. "But he was happy to know Sam liked me and wanted to ride. That he got Sam the orange bike was like clarification that Jamie does like me."
McCann, 25, and Bestwick, 36, met in 1999 when McCann first came to the United States and dirt was his primary focus in competition, along with street or park events. But when McCann moved to Woodward, Pa., a year later so he could train at the action sports haven there, he began experimenting on the 13-foot, U-shaped ramp. That's when he started riding with Bestwick.
Bestwick immediately saw that the young rider executed new tricks with a smooth style not all that different from his own and soon began bugging McCann to take vert seriously and enter a few competitions.
After several years of pestering, McCann made a deal with Bestwick before the 2007 Dew Tour. He'd enter the open qualifying round at the first stop in Baltimore and if he made it to the finals he would ride vert all season long. McCann finished fourth at last year's Panasonic Open and wound up taking third overall in the tour's final standings.
"That kid can ride anything," said Bestwick, whose fluid style and ability to carve tricks into the ramp have made him legendary. "I really wanted to see how far he could take his riding. It's interesting, I don't have a brother but I always wanted one. I guess I unknowingly adopted a young Australian."
McCann, who finished sixth in Friday's vert finals at the Camden Yards Sports Complex, made a strong name for himself last year as the only BMXer to compete in all three disciplines, but he was as surprised as anyone when his vert riding excelled at a faster rate than the other two disciplines.
Perhaps the easiest rider on tour to spot because of his fluorescent orange bike, McCann incorporates elements of his dirt and street training on vert and his style is beginning to resemble Bestwick's as well. Both strive for effortless trick execution and seem to float above the ramp as they perform spins and flairs while others will punch the open sky with a more abrupt style.
"I love the fluid style Jamie has. The way he does everything really high and as smooth as possible and that's the way I like to ride too," said McCann, adding that he does occasionally pick up a trick or two from the three-time defending Dew Cup champion.
"He'll say: 'Lets try this' then realize '[Gosh darn it] why did I show you that?'" McCann joked. "But Jamie has backups for all of his backups. He has so many tricks that are just ridiculously amazing that other people can't do. So I don't feel bad if I steal one of his 'easy' ones."
Bestwick snagged another Dew Tour victory with a flawless first run in Friday's finals and doesn't mind that McCann adopted a few of his tricks, but said although they're close friends, McCann won't get him to divulge the secrets behind his most intricate moves and combinations anytime soon. "Stevie's getting rather good at the old vert ramp," Bestwick warns, and won't cut his protégé any slack as he chases podium spots.
Unmistakably grateful for the guidance and friendship Bestwick has offered him, McCann still isn't quite sure he should be mentioned in the same breath as the BMX legend. One thing McCann does believe, though, is that the competition will never overwhelm their camaraderie. Bestwick agrees.
"In years gone by, all the top riders that have ever ridden together have all parted ways because the competition has become that fierce," Bestwick said. "For me it may just be a case of handing the torch over to the new guy and I don't have a problem with that at all.
"When it's my time to bow out of the sport, I wouldn't want anybody else to step into my shoes other than him."