Off to the races |

Off to the races

Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra SunMike Sylvestri catches some air at Prosser Pits on Tuesday.

Mike Sylvestri is confident, but not overly.

Despite his faith in his ability, the 16-year-old motocross racer from Truckee is not taking for granted the golden opportunity he earned at Honey Lake Motocross Park on May 7, the regional qualifier for the 2005 Amateur National Motocross Championship at country music legend Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Tennessee.

“I’m really excited that I qualified, but I’m kind of nervous,” Sylvestri said, before swapping the word “nervous” for “anxious.”

“I’m pretty confident, though. I’ve been riding a lot and training real hard. But there’s going to be a lot of good kids there ” kids all my speed, and even faster probably. There’s a lot at stake.”

Qualifying for the biggest amateur championship of the year is a big deal, and with the feat in the back of his mind ever since he learned of the event several years ago, Sylvestri is making sure he’s prepared.

“I’ve been steppin’ it up a lot since the first qualifier,” Sylvestri said, referring to the race that preceded the May 7 regional at Honey Lake, near Susanville, Calif. “I try to get out (and ride) at least three times a week.”

The extra training paid off when Sylvestri placed third at the Loretta Lynn regional qualifier in the 125 C class, where the top five competitors ” from California, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Idaho and Nevada ” advanced.

Now, with a brand new Yamaha YZ 250 F that his dad, Mike, purchased on Wednesday, Sylvestri will traverse the country with his family and their new motor home and trailer for the Aug. 1-6 event. The race will feature the top amateur motocross riders in the country ages 13 to 35 ” most of whom are between the age of 15 and 22, Sylvestri said.

In addition to the added “seat time,” Sylvestri has been working out at a local gym, running on treadmills and riding the stationary bikes. He also has been focusing on maintaining a healthy diet.

But when it comes to training, which Sylvestri said is the obvious key to winning, it’s all about seat time.

“There’s no substitute for riding,” he said. “The more you ride the better, so I’ve been getting as much riding in as possible.”

Sylvestri splits his seat time mainly between Prosser Pits in Truckee and RMX in Mustang east of Reno. During the countless hours of practice, he has acquired multiple motocross acquaintances, including world-class skier Daron Rahlves, whom he met at Prosser.

“I recognized (Rahlves) and went over and introduced myself,” Sylvestri said. “He’s real nice. I ride with him occasionally. He’s not a bad rider. He knows what he’s doing actually.”

Sylvestri began riding dirt bikes at the age of 7 and started racing off and on about a year later. After switching to BMX racing at the age of 11, Sylvestri went back to motocross when he was 13. That’s when he started getting serious about it.

“Ever since I started racing motocross again I’ve wanted to go pro,” he said. “It kind of just came to me. Now I just want to pursue my goals and get faster.”

While Sylvestri has always been competitive, his racing success has been inconsistent in the past. But now things are coming together, he said.

“I never got any credit before,” he said. “But now that I’m calming down and relaxing more, I’m racing a lot better.”

And racing is what it’s all about: “It’s competitive, and I’ve always been competitive about everything.”

Every ounce of competitiveness will be needed at Loretta Lynn’s. Until then, excitement and anticipation will have to hold Sylvestri over.

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