Text: François “Fan” Debroux.
Photos: Glenn Mehltretter & Robert & Ruben Castillo, Kevin Cunningham.
Massive thanks to François for reaching out with this awesome repo following on from Barre’s Oya Street Jam repo. So good to have people all over the world contributing towards Flatmattersonline!
Earlier this year, Flatland Assassin’s Chris Young (Shameless plug: if you don’t know or need a reminder of who he is, go listen to episode 37 of the Hang 5 podcast) mentioned he was putting together an event in Cleveland, Ohio in Sep. Over the next few months, details started to trickle through social media and word of mouth. I was definitely intrigued and eager to go even though Cleveland is a bit out of my way from here in Vancouver, BC.
As luck turned out, I was in Europe for work and visit family and friends this Sep (Shout out to my Belgian homie Barre BMX Neirynck with whom I rode for a couple of days at his homespot and who motivated me to write this event repo after he told he was writing one on the Oya Street Jam). This allowed me to take a side trip out of Toronto on my back to Vancouver and catch a short flight to Cleveland.
The man behind the repo, with the man behind the Battleground event. François “Fan” Debroux & Chris Young!
Thu Sep 21st.
I landed in Cleveland late that night and Chris picked me up in his giant truck.
Alongside him was Robert Reilly of Reklamation Bikes and Laetitia from Global-Flat who was in the US for vacation and would be covering the event live on IG. We went straight to the spot.
Upon arriving, I was impressed with the size of the riding area. It must have been 15m by 15m, whatever that is in feet. Much bigger than most events I have been to recently. This would easily accommodate 4 riders practicing at the same time. The floor had a thick layer of OSB sheets. Chris made a deal with a local church and was able to set up shop in a big clean hall. There was a small stage for the judging table. High up, 2 giant video screens were playing a loop of recent flatland footage from various events and videos. These would be used on contest day to display the clock. Tunes were blasting, and a few people from Chris’ crew were in attendance.
Style cat, Omari Cato put in work throughout the weekend.
I met John Stettler from Philly who will be the official filmer of the event as well lending a hand whenever needed. I wasted no time and put my bike together to test the spot. I don’t often ride on wood, but I have to say it was fast and grippy. Chris was going back-to-back to the airport as more people were arriving. Pete Brandt from San Fran showed up (he is on the Flatland Assassins roster) along with the Castillo bros (Robert and Ruben). Cesar Rangel and Jim McKay drove in from Texas. It was nice to meet old and new friends. It was 1 am when I finally got to the hotel and at that point jetlag started to kick in (I was coming from Europe remember). Time for some ZZZ!
Friday Sep 22nd – Practice Day:
Bumped into Jon Dowker at the hotel breakfast, had a nice cuppa and some waffles. The hotel is conveniently within walking distance of the venue, so I took advantage of that to get some fresh Ohio air. I showed up around 10am, ready for action. More people were showing up. Terry Adams arrived, JF Boulianne, Dub who brought along Ben Hudson all the way from Santiago, Todd Carter and Joe Cicman and a very strong contingent of Cincinnati area riders, Omari Cato, Tony and Bri, Paula Hesler and Bert Williams from Ontario, Ron from Groundwhip and plenty others. Everyone was sessioning and chatting indoor and on the adjacent parking lot. I had a dope practice with Robert Reilly busting his multiple smith decades variations and JFB’s technical front wheel trickery.
Every era of riding was represented. Things were going well and the riding intensified. People started to notice the OSB sheets were moving. After a few discussions, the decision was made to add a second layer and Chris Young took a trip to the local Home Depot to order an additional 66 sheets which were promptly delivered to the door. What happened next really defines our community of riders: Everyone lend a hand and 2 by 2, riders and friends picked up sheets and started to lay them down according to the clear instructions of Pete Brandt and Dub. It was like witnessing an ant colony all working in unison. Truly a sight to see. There is some timelapse video of this somewhere.In less than an hour, we had an almost perfect floor that satisfied everyone. More riding ensued!
Paula Hesser made the trip from Canada, skills to pay the bills!
MC duties fell to Robert Castillo who did an amazing job at keeping us up on tight schedule (Running 5 different classes + best trick on a single contest day is a feat!). When was the last time you went to a BMX event that ran on time!?!?! Robert was also really good at hyping the crowd, introducing riders, managing time during the occasional music blank. His knowledge of the sport and dope attitude not to mention experience running BMX Freestyle Team shows are only some of the reasons Chris Young asked him to hold the mic!
Plywood Hood, Mark Eaton got down on the decks!
The DJ providing the beats this weekend needs no introduction! Mark Eaton did a stellar job at keeping the crowd entertained and hyped with his smooth blend of oldschool Hip-Hop, rock, electro and everything in between. He was also taking requests. A real professional and such a legend!
Dub set up an IGI booth with shirts and some of the latest tech for us to drool over or purchase.
Ron had a Groundwhip booth as well with shirts.
Chris had Event shirts and Flatland Assassins hats made to purchase. You know an event is good when there are shirts!
There would be 5 classes: Soon to be, Oldschool, Midschool/legend class, Expert and Pros + an open best trick.
2 runs, best run counts. Soon to be, Oldschool and Midschool were 2 min runs, Experts 2.5 min runs and pros 3 min runs.
Chris Young selected 4 experienced riders for judging duties. They were Robert Reilly of Reklamation Bikes, Jon Dowker of Freestyle connection, Brandon Fenton Whiplash master from Toronto, Canada, and Ruben Castillo, 3 X times National Champ and ex GT rider from back in the day. Chris also decided to use Chase Gouin’s judging system which consists of assigning a judging category to each judge: Originality, difficulty, flow, consistency. I didn’t watch every run, but it sems to be working well.
Bill Nitschke (the inventor of the whopper no less) was in town and celebrating his 53rd bday. Didn’t see him ride his titanium machine but in true Bill fashion, he brought his usual energy to everyone. Happy birthday again Bro!
Chenga’s Scott Powell also made an appearance on Saturday to cheer the riders.
As the Friday drew to a close, people retreated to their accommodation to rest for the big day.
Saturday Sep 23rd – Contest day!
I showed up to the venue around 8am to get some practice in before the crowds arrived.
It was open practice and last-minute registration until 10am. Robert Castillo was running around to get more people to enter the comp. Chris Young had arranged for some bagels, cream cheese and hot coffee for everyone, a nice touch.
10 am rolled around and the comp started with the soon to beclass. I was pleased to see a few young ladies in this class. Hopefully with their parents riding they ll stick with it and develop more skills. 3rd place went to Bri Welsch who rode in her usual smooth style and pulled some nice balancing tricks. 2ndwent to Andy Pandemic who is a ball of energy and would later cheer very loudly during the Pros runs. Andy was working on his whip to decade! 1st of the class went to Cincinnati ‘s Glenn Mehlretter on his Neon Yellow Haro Master. He pulled a nice Whiplash! Glenn also shot super dope action shots this weekend, some of which you can enjoy with this repo.
Matt Veach, on his way to a second place finish in the Old School Class.
Next up was the oldschool class. That class was stacked. Weapon of choice: Repop Haro Master or Hoffman Bikes Big Daddy. The guys were seriously killing it with tech links. 3rd place went to Ron “Groundwhip” Seay. He was working on smooth forward and backwards Hitchikers. 2nd went to my new buddy Matt Veach on his big Daddy with impressive Funky chicken, lard yard and locomotive links. A well-deserved first went to Ron Metzger who edged out Matt with similar impressive tricks.
After that, we had the Midschool/Legend class. Only 3 riders in this class. 3rd went to the man with the best “stache”. Toronto’s Bert Williams worked through his stylish lardyard combos. In second place, riding to a requested 80s song as always, semi-local Todd Carter impressed the judges with his ultra-smooth whiplash combos and one footed spinning lardyards. 1st went to none other than the Austin local, stronger than the energizer bunny, Ruben R-Dog Castillo who left the judging table for 2 two minutes runs and literally killed the floor with his blend of aggressive hang 5 turbine whips combos while Mark Eaton was blasting some hard rock!
Dope trophies and goodies from sponsors were awarded to the top 3 riders of each class.
After the break, it was time for the expert class. Some serious talent in this class. Flowy and tech is what comes to mind. 6 riders in the class. I won’t be able to give you too many details as this was the class I rode in and I tried not to watch other people’s runs to stay concentrated. If what I witnessed during practice is any indication, this would be though. 3rd place when to Wisconsin’s Anthony Schneidewind. Tony is a seasoned contest rider and always a threat. His bag of technical style tricks is impressive and if he is on, he is tough to beat. Tony also filmed for an edit during the weekend. Second went to Tucson’s Andrew Graziano. It was the first time I met him and he was killing it in practice. Both of these guys run brakes and took full advantage of them to pull some seriously hard links. I managed to pull most of what I wanted during my first run including a brakeless decade at the end of my run which I was really stoked on, and this allowed me to edge out Andrew for 1st place.
Mr Hang 5 Podcast, Francois Debroux stomping brakeless decades to first place in the Expert Class.
After this, it was time for the Pro show! 8 riders made the trip to Cleveland.
In 8th place, Joe Cicman from the Flatland Assassins crew wasworking on puling his crazy combo: Steam to no handed crakpacker to leap of faith jump to hopefully land into a no handed rolling 2 footed backyard. He is getting closer but it was not to be this time… yet.
7th place went to San Antonio’s Cesar Rangel. A bit of new guy to the pro class. Also supported by Flatland Assassins, Cesar’s specialty is variations of spinning backwheel tricks. He is more consistent than the last time I saw him ride in Texas. I believe if he manages to link some of his tricks together, he’ll finish higher soon!
6th place went Majide rider Omari Cato from Houston. Working is ultra-impressive list of turbining and spinning backwheelcombos, standing not only on the peg but also sometimes on the seat, Omari is progressing really quickly. He will place higher soon no doubt. Omari will also be featured in an upcoming episode of the Hang 5 podcast (second shameless plug, sorry).
Landing in 5th was Montreal’s JFB who went through his palette of frontyard whiplashes, karl cruisers, steam, halfpacker and bar flips combos. JF is one of the nicest guys and always a treat to watch.
Just missing out the podium, in 4th place, was Louisiana’s Terry Adams. Terry had a bit of a rough first run, missing some of his uber original links but calmed himself down, refocused for the second run and pulled most of his tricks. He had to save one combo by hoping on the front wheel higher and farther than I ever seen him do but hey he didn’t touch!
No one flows like Dub!
3rd place finish went to the man of many talents, competitor, business owner, promoter, Jean William Prevost aka Dub. We all know how seriously hard Dub’s links are. I am not even gonnatry to explain what he did. What I will say is that Dub also had some hard time on his first run and missed quite a few things. This does not happen very often but just like Terry, as a true professional, he was able to refocus and put together a good second run.
2nd place went to NorCal legend and spinning demon Pete Brandt. Pete doesn’t compete very often these days and focuses on shows, but he still rides hard and spun faster than anyone this weekend. Sometimes maybe too fast haha. It was dope to see him on the podium. He was stoked!
Nor Cal Flatland Legend, Pete Brandt Pedal Steam and a massive second place finish.
That leaves one man. By now you have seen the results, so you know that Chilean style cat Benjamin Hudson took the top spot. Lots of spinning and turbining on the front wheel usually with hop boomerangs to pedals to end the link. Steam to hop lardyard. Ben also runs his seat low and does most front wheel combo by holding the back wheel rather than the seat. He runs more of a street set up with very wide tires and a bigger frame. Seems to be working quite well for him. I am sure Dub was happy he made the decision to fly him over!
Great to see Style Master, Benjamin Hudson back on the contest scene!
Terry Adams, stomping the Adams Bomb!
With $500 up for grabs for best trick, a group of 12 riders entered the fray. 2 groups of 6. 15 min session, 2 tries each then go to the next rider. There were a few close calls but when it was all said and done, Terry Adams walked away with the cash + an extra $53 that Bill Nitschke put down for his bday. Terry pulled Hitchhiker then jumping to the back pegs, rolling lawnmower, and his hybrid decade.
Special mention to Omari who pulled a dope backwheel link to bike flip out!
At the end of the day, most people ended up at a local restaurant. Drinks were flowing, and good times were had. It was a super nice way to cap a dope weekend.
I want to give a huge shout out to Chris Young, and everyone involved one way or another.
It makes me real proud to be part of this tight knit community. As somebody told me during the weekend, there aren’t many sports were beginners and top pros are on first name basis and cheering each other.
This was to be the first of many Flatland Assassins Battleground events. We’re pushing Chris to announce a date for next year ASAP. Do yourself a favour, as soon as the date is set, make plans to attend, you won’t regret it. Flatland Family.
THE STOKE IS REAL.
François “Fan” Debroux