MotoTrial madness hits Donner Summit |

MotoTrial madness hits Donner Summit

The nation’s top MotoTrial riders descended on Auburn Ski Club last weekend for the final two rounds the national series.
Justin Scacco /

The Truckee-Tahoe area is home to hundreds of competitions throughout the year, but few can compare to the skill and daring that was on display this past weekend on Donner Summit.

Grabbing a handful of throttle before deftly hopping between granite boulders, dozens of the nation’s top MotoTrials riders competed Saturday and Sunday during the final two rounds of the American Motorcycle Association — North American Trials Council MotoTrials National Series.

Riding modified, seat-less dirt bikes, the riders competing in the pro division attacked boulders, tight corners, and up steep granite along the area near Auburn Ski Club. Using the lightweight bikes, the riders are able to balance — often by sticking a leg straight out — atop boulders, often with just enough room for each tire.

Perched several feet off the ground, the competitors remain balanced while hopping their bikes into position, before shooting across the next gap or off a ledge. Riders are judged on the difficulty of their route on one of 12 sections and are penalized for putting a foot down, stalling or crashing.

The two days of competition attracted more than 100 riders, ranging from experts down to children’s classes. The weekend also marked the first year the annual competition has been held on the ski club’s land.


The level of skill displayed in the pro class easily highlighted the weekend as dozens of spectators crowded around the obstacle areas to watch a handful of the nation’s top riders attempt to maneuver their bikes from boulder to boulder, with a 4- to 8-foot fall often the consequence for a mistake.

The crowd would often be packed within arms reach of the pros, close enough to feel the punch of the exhaust. The riders’ spotters were often balanced inches away, giving directions through headsets as the teams moved from obstacle to obstacle.

Throughout the day and for the entire 10-part series, no rider was better than Wisconsin’s Pat Smage, who won every event in the series for his 10th US National MotoTrials title. Smage’s 10 national titles tie him with Geoff Aaron for the most in the history of the series.

“After all these years we had our best AMA/NATC season yet winning all 10 rounds!” Smage posted to his social media pages following his win on Sunday. “I am already signed up and ready to keep pushing for next year.”


During Saturday’s event, Smage made it through each of the 12 sections flawlessly for a low score of zero points. Florida product Alexander Niederer was second with 10 points. Smage was even more dominant the following day, picking up one point en route to a 22-point victory over second place, Daniel Blanc-Gonmet.

No women pros were on hand for the series finale, but Madeleine Hoover, of North Carolina, took this year’s national title with first-place finishes in eight of the competitions during the year.

The event also served as the opening two rounds for the International Motorcycling Federation North America series.

For complete results visit

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at

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