On (the BMX) track
July 13, 2004
Nearly four years in the making, summer 2004 marks a turning point for the Truckee BMX Track; it has gained regional recognition and established itself as a formidable site to host American Bicycle Association (ABA) race series events.In addition, local riders are coming out to the track in bigger numbers to practice and train, and the track has provided one more outlet for young athletes not interested in traditional American sports.Over the last couple summers, track organizers have made improvements that have helped increase participation numbers locally and regionally.The track has added a trailer that provides a storage area and a sheltered booth for parents to sign up their children. There is also a generator and compressor that run the starting gate, essential to hosting Saturday races. The track also hosts Tuesday and Thursday practice sessions from 5 to 7:30 p.m. The bulk of the credit goes to volunteers, who not only maintain the track by watering and sweeping it, they also free up funding from the Truckee Donner Recreation & Park District, who donated the land on the west end of River View Park in Truckee where the track is located.Were kind of the overseers of the track, but its really being run by interested parents, said TDRPD superintendent Dan OGorman. Theyre doing the bulk of the work.The previous two summers, the TDRPD paid a staff person to supervise the track, so money made through rider registration fees was going toward paying that salary. Now, with volunteers offering their services for free, the TDRPD can put that extra money into maintaining the track.A major improvement dealt with the most important element of any BMX track the soil. Gaery Jones of Pioneer Commerce Center, whose son Randy is an avid BMX rider, collaborated with Halls Excavating Inc. last summer to bring in soil that would provide a more compact track for riders.Those guys spent a couple long weekends out here helping us out, said Tim Larson, a 10-year Truckee resident whose son Michael often practices and competes at the track.Larson and his wife Kelly are two parent-volunteers who have donated their free time to the track.Race day is the big day we need volunteers; we need at least six people to operate the track and do it right, said Larson, talking about the Saturday races.Kelly is currently the only volunteer that knows how to do race sign ups, which involves a tedious process of entering names and other information into a computer program. Larson said they are looking for more volunteers, especially people to help with sign ups.Other volunteers who have been instrumental to the tracks success are Ed Atkins and Stan Bennett. Bennetts son Bryce rides at the track often, and Atkins is an avid rider himself.Larson rides mountain bikes and motorcycles, so he can relate to BMX, and he understands that safety is very important at the track.ABA rules (require) pads on the bikes, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, helmets full-faced helmets are strongly recommended; we really monitor that, he said.Larson has noticed an increase in interest among children since he became involved at the track, but it has been very gradual. The kids drive by and they see the track and the park and rec. puts fliers up at the schools, Larson said. Its slow-going, but more and more people are coming out.For an idea that was spawned in November 2000, the steady growth is promising. Four years ago, a group of parents influenced a $10,000 grant from National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and soon after the TDRPD donated the land for the track.A Las Vegas excavating company was hired to lay out the construction of track. The TDRPD then paid for a fence and organized a few fund raisers, and the track opened in late summer 2002. Eventually, the ABA contributed by donating a timing system and starting gate that allowed the track to host sanctioned race events.The attendance for practices has been good, but its taken a while for the races to catch on, OGorman said. Were starting to get some out-of-town people.OGorman said BMX is another alternative sport that is catching on, and the Truckee track provides an organized venue where kids can build confidence and compete.With the X Games and things right now, those kind of extreme sports are really popular, he said. This allows them to (ride) in a safe, supervised setting and helps build their self-esteem. Theres a lot of kids that otherwise, through traditional sports, may not feel successful.To volunteer at the Truckee BMX Track, contact Truckee Donner Recreation & Park District at 582-7720.
Michael Larson is one rider that can be found at the Truckee BMX Track frequently, but he is not your average rider.Racing nationally in the ABA 17-18 Expert Division, he is currently ranked seventh (based on series points) in the nation in his age group. The 17-year-old rider will be a senior next year at Tahoe Truckee High School.Using the Truckee track as a training ground and local hangout, Larson sees his favorite sport growing locally.People see the track and think it looks fun, so they go out and try it, he said. Then (the popularity) kind of grows from there. People tell their friends and it gets bigger. Thats what Ive noticed this year.By competing in the ABA National Series competitions, Larson has gained respect among his peers at the track. Its evident that he returns that respect to his peers and the sport of BMX racing.I like the competitive part about it, but it (also) gets you out riding around and hanging out with your friends. Its almost like a relaxation away from work and school, he said.He has been racing seven years and just returned home from a three-week National Series road trip that encompassed the Midwest Nationals in Rockford, Illinois, the New England Nationals in Westfield, Mass., and the First State Nationals in Milford, Del.I plan on going pro in the next four years, maybe even the next couple years when Im bigger, Larson said. My main goal is just to keep training and being consistent with my finishes at nationals keep staying in the top five in my age group.Michaels father Tim volunteers at the Truckee track and also supports his sons aspirations to go pro in the sport he loves, but he realizes BMX is not the safest sport, either.Were always concerned that (Michael will) get hurt, Tim said. He has broken a collarbone which is fairly typical. Thats where the biggest danger is when they start going down, especially when they start wearing the clip shoes.For more information on the ABA National Series and points standings, visit http://www.ababmx.com/nationals.asp.