The resurrection of Eric Flagg’s career in his favorite sport has come full circle.
The 35-year-old Hampton Bays resident placed third overall in the Vet B/C 30+ division at the Red Bull AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship presented by Amsoil at the Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. It was a weeklong event that ran from Sunday, July 28, to Saturday, August 3.
After a 15-year hiatus in motocross, Flagg decided to get back into his favorite sport competitively back in December after seeing that an area qualifier would be held relatively nearby. To reach the national championships, he had to first finish in the top seven of the area qualifiers and then in the regional qualifiers.
Back on March 23, Flagg finished fourth at the Northeast Area Qualifier in Englishtown, New Jersey. He repeated that performance at the Northeast Regional Qualifier in Budds Creek, Maryland, on June 28.
“It was a dream come true,” Flagg said of finishing third overall at nationals. “I always try and be in the top five, so it was incredible just to be up [on the podium]. At the same time, I worked hard for it. A lot of guys were getting tired at the end of week and not staying consistent.”
Weather conditions in Tennessee didn’t exactly bode well for riders last week, with rain dampening a lot of the track. Flagg’s first moto, or heat, was held at 6:30 p.m. on July 30, about an hour and a half after a downpour came through. Still, he was able to finish third in 3:02.695, his best finish of the week.
“The rain slows the track down,” Flagg explained. “You have to be more consistent because the track will pull you down, so you have to be smooth and consistent throughout the race.”
Flagg’s second moto was scheduled for Thursday, August 1, at 3 p.m., but the weather pushed the race back to Friday at 7 a.m. Because of the rescheduling, riders only had 15 minutes instead of the normal 20 minutes to complete the race. Flagg finished seventh in 2:13.876, and he said it was because of the five minutes cut from the race that he wasn’t able to make his normal final push. He also said he wasn’t used to getting up that early to race. He woke up at 5:30 a.m. on Friday and tried loosening up by riding a mountain bike.
After two motos, there was a three-way tie for third place, making the third and final moto very exciting. Flagg was tied with Nathan Hale of Dover, Tennessee, and Montana Edwards of New Richmond, Wisconsin. All three had 10 points each.
Flagg was able to pull through with a fifth-place finish in the final moto in 2:20.915 on Saturday morning, putting him ahead of both Hale and Edwards and in sole possession of third place.
Flagg made up for what he described as a poor performance back in 1991, when he was 14 years old, at the same track at the Loretta Lynn Ranch. He finished 28th overall and his highest placement in a single moto was 20th.
“I always wanted to give it everything I had, knowing what the level of competition was going to be like,” he said.
Flagg plans to attend the 36th annual Kawasaki Team Green Motocross Race of Champions & Pro-Am Points on October 5 and 6 in Englishtown. He wants to continue riding as long as it fits his needs.
“I want to stay in certain shape and hit certain events,” he said.