There’s really not much for visiting 16-year-olds to do in Las Vegas, especially activities that can result in huge financial gain. But Brett “Mad Dog” Banasiewicz isn’t the average teenager.
The South Bend, Ind., native is leading the BMX Dirt standings heading into the Dew Tour Championships, which is the crowning event of the world’s largest professional action sports tour. Besides the BMX disciplines of park (performing tricks on a skate-park course), vert (doing jumps while riding in a half-pipe) and dirt (riding on a track with dirt ramps), the Dew Tour Championships, set for Oct. 14-17 at the Hard Rock Hotel, also will feature the finals of skateboarding park and vert.
Banasiewicz, who just turned 16 last month, was the youngest rider on the 2009 Dew Tour circuit and quickly made his mark, improving his position at every stop, capped by a third-place finish at Salt Lake City in September, and finishing 11th in the season-ending standings.
He continued his progression this year, becoming the youngest BMX athlete in the six-year history of the Dew Tour to top the podium with his victory in the dirt final in Chicago in July. He followed that up with another first-place finish in August in Portland, Ore., where he became the first rider to successfully land a “cash roll” in competition.
In describing the trick, which was created by fellow Dew Tour competitor Daniel Dhers, Banasiewicz says, “It’s like a 180 forward spin but you flip backwards, too. So you, like, front flip and back flip. It’s pretty hard to explain.”
And even harder to do. Video of his Portland ride can be found on YouTube, and he will attempt to duplicate the feat at the Hard Rock.
The high-flying Banasiewicz, who graces the cover of the November issue of BMX Plus magazine, also became the first athlete since 2007 to make the podium in two different disciplines at one Dew Tour event in Portland, with his dirt victory and second-place finish in BMX Park.
Banasiewicz closely resembles Justin Bieber, but he probably has stronger staying power then the teen pop star. He started riding with his older brother at age 6 and was competing in events by the time he was 8, earning his “Mad Dog” moniker for his fearlessness on his bike. It was around that time that he started attempting tricks, beginning with footers, one-handers and 360s.
“I got good from basically just riding my bike all the time,” he says. “I would come home from school and just hop on my bike.”
Banasiewicz modeled his riding style after BMX stars Anthony Napolitan and Scotty Cranmer, who now trail their much younger rival in the standings. Banasiewicz says he still can’t believe that he is not only competing against his heroes but beating them, as well.
“When I look on the deck and see that they’re right beside me, that’s pretty cool,” he says.
Banasiewicz describes many aspects of his success and life as a professional BMX athlete as “pretty cool.” He still attends school in South Bend, and practices each day for about five hours after getting out of class. He promised his parents that he will finish high school, but knows that competing on the Dew Tour is where his future is.
“I love riding my bike. That’s what I do all the time and I don’t plan on stopping,” he says. “I want to try and ride as long as I can.”
Banasiewicz carries a 30-point lead in the standings over Brandon Dosch in BMX Dirt heading into the Dew Tour Championships. He remains confident that he will maintain his advantage in Las Vegas, but with his early success still coming unexpectedly, being overtaken for the season title isn’t of primary concern to him.
“I wouldn’t be too disappointed,” he says. “I’d be missing out on probably 75 grand, but no big deal.”
With or without a victory in Las Vegas, the rising star of the BMX world plans to hit the foam pit after the season ends to work on new moves. Because for Banasiewicz, learning bigger, better and more outrageous tricks is simply the next step in what promises to be a long and successful career.
“There’s always room for improvement,” he says, “and that’s what the sport is about.”