Eagle County BMX Club goes to the Greats
Thanksgiving is associated with the National Football League for many Americans. On the American BMX calendar, however, the vacation week is reserved for the bike motocross version of the Super Bowl. After 11 months of racing, the nation’s top BMX athletes gather in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the annual five-day USA BMX Grand Nationals and Race of Champions.
At stake: The prestigious Race of Champions (ROC) and National Age Group (NAG) plaques, and this year 19-year-old Izzy Sargent paved the way for the 12 Eagle County BMX athletes in attendance, winning the most top honors in the two-day Race of Champions. After a day off, she continued the performance with even greater accomplishment, ending her national calendar season by competing in the two-day Grands event, ultimately winning 3rd place NAG.
“She killed him,” Jay Lucas, founder of Eagle County BMX track, said of Sargent, who started BMX under his leadership before focusing more on mountain biking in high school. Now, the star bounces between the two with equal passion.
“She is still doing well and she has just had an exceptional year,” said Lucas.
“You want ROC Plate 1 – the number one, in your class, in the country – and she got it,” said Christie Noteware, one of the many parent volunteers who are pushing the Eagle County program forward. .
“It’s a big deal for her. It’s incredible.”
Noteware’s two children, Reagan, eight, and Tegan, nine, also participated in the four days in Tulsa. Competing against well over 100 other riders, Tegan advanced to the quarter-finals in the nine-year-old cruiser category.
Noteware manages the logistics of race planning, clinics and volunteers for the club. His passionate work in advancing the vision of Eagle County BMX stems from a shared desire among the fully volunteer staff to provide the best experience for their enthusiastic athletes. Regardless of age, everyone is keen to develop their skills.
“The children want it. They want to do better. They want to know more, ”she said, noting Rio BMX 2016 gold medalist Connor Fields’ club lineup as a clinician next June. Fields suffered what Dr. Jonathan Finnoff, chief medical officer of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee described as “the worst injury of the Tokyo Games”. The first American to win BMX gold, the 29-year-old suffered a head injury from a fall in the 2020 Olympic final. He erased his memory from several hours before the accident until about five days ago. after. Fields’ visit to the Vail area will not be his first; he was operated on by Randy Viola at the Steadman clinic ahead of the 2016 games.
Noteware herself has no previous experience in the sport, but when her son started wandering the course behind their backyard – and steadily staying for longer periods of time – she knew she had better take care of herself. familiarize yourself with motocross by bike.
“I didn’t even know what it was until my kids ran outside,” Noteware admits.
“He just fell in love with it,” she said of her son Tegan’s love for the sport. “I can’t get him off that bike.”
The family started out just shopping locally. Soon after, they were competing in various state competitions hosted by one of Colorado’s 14 tracks. Now it’s an 11-month commitment involving travel for races on the national calendar, provided they are within driving distance.
“12 hours – that’s about all I can take,” Noteware said, his family’s increasingly serious approach embodying a single point along the 75-100 child engagement continuum and of their families who participate in the Eagle Valley BMX Club. The weekly gates practice on the track offers beginners as young as five years of age guidance on learning to balance and turn and older veterans the opportunity to practice more technical skills such as running in a peloton, fieldwork. the rhythm section and learning the manual. For families who wish, a race can be organized almost every weekend of the year, especially in warmer areas like Grand Junction or states like Arizona or Nevada. In January, a group will travel to Las Vegas to participate in an event that will take place inside the Southpointe Casino.
“Kids love it,” Noteware exclaimed of the trip. “They go up to the hotel room, go down on the track. My son would ask me, ‘When are we going to Vegas mom!’ “
The nature of the events, with campers and vans lined up in large parking lots, promotes a family feel within BMX culture.
“I love it because it’s like family. We spent Thanksgiving with people from our trail, in a parking lot, on a trail, in Tulsa, ”Noteware described. “You become good friends and you participate in national races, and you spend three or four days in a row together. Everyone gets along great, helps each other out and picks up the pieces where someone else needs them.
Izzy Sargent, the performer of the competition at Eagle River Valley, echoed the sentiment of the community, saying, “I really love how nice they are. Everyone is so supportive; parents especially. As a 19-year-old surrounded by kids aged 5 to 12, Sargent is like an older sister to many of her teammates. On a trip to Florida, she traveled with one of the club’s families. “I basically fit in like their older sister – harassed them into doing things,” she recalls. “They’re all really great – all kids and parents and everything.”
Sargent, whose third place on the NAG plate surpassed her season goal of simply being in the top 10 in her age group, also provides the leadership and guidance of an older sister to accompany the occasional playful jab. .
“I just like children. I always try to help them, ”she said.
“When they’re not having a good day on the track, I just try to remind them that we’re here to have fun. Nothing will be perfect every time. You’re going to have a bad turn, you’re going to have a bad door, but it’s okay. I’m just trying to tell them to have fun – if you’re not having fun, why are you here? “
A talented mountain biker, recent graduate Sargent is uncertain whether or not she will enter the college racing scene. “I just love going out and running, having fun and spending time with everyone and trying to make a difference in the sport, really,” said Sargent.
“It would be great if I could possibly turn pro. “
His heart for children leads him to debate a future in training, ultimately. “Just being there for the kids is what I really love. “
Sargent’s prowess in the mountain biking scene is a testament to the transfer of skills from BMX to other sports common in the Vail region, from mogul skiing to snowboard cross to mountain biking. The carry over to the tracks, in fact, is what inspired Jay Lucas to start the track in the first place.
“To have a good summer training sport other than soccer or something like that,” he said of the track’s genesis, which began with talks between Lucas and Jamie Ziegler before to become a reality in 2009 thanks to the help of Yuri Kostic. , Chris Spiegle and Don Summers specifically.
“It’s a movement sport – a sprint type thing,” he said.
“It promotes and accompanies ski and mogul races. We started so my kids could train in the summer when not training for ski racing or mogul skiing.
Lucas also owns and operates the Ski Base ski and snowboard store in Vail. His two sons competed at Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, Nash placing fourth overall at the 2021 US Nationals in moguls last season. The high school student is currently ranked 12th in the country for parallel moguls and 22nd for singles. His older brother Halsey is the captain of the Colorado Mesa University ski team and competes in ski cross competitions. Their father observed the many impacts of a BMX education on their ski racing.
For bumps, he says a major component is amplitude management. “First, it takes some air,” he said. “His (Nash’s) ability to skip jumps is huge,” he said of his youngest son.
The second major aspect is more physiological. “The other thing is power,” he said.
“So while you’re sprinting, you’re using your core, your legs, and your lower back. BMX is something that helps them develop that power. This is the same power you use when you are mogul skiing or downhill skiing.
The third aspect, however, might be the most critical: standing up early and not losing your mind. “It’s the only thing my two sons say,” Lucas revealed.
“They can walk into a gate with another runner – duels, cross country skiers or whatever – and they learn to be a balanced kid and not to be discouraged.”
Even though Sargent stays at the top of the game locally, in addition to the time spent in the weight room and on the bike, it’s the aforementioned mental side of the sport that she believes is paramount for top performance.
“BMX is a super mental sport,” she said with sudden gravity in her tone. “Being positive is really important. Not letting things get into your head is really important. So I’m still working on it.
The cross between ski racing or mountain biking and BMX allowed Lucas to notice an ever-growing trend of local skiers spending the summer months on his track.
“One thing we are seeing – and what we are seeing more and more – is that kids who enjoy alpine skiing and other types of skiing events are coming to the track. We’re really starting to have a lot of these kids that are in SSCV and using it as cross training, which is great, ”he said.
“We want to be there to help those type of people and also help them switch to mountain biking when they get older, but we’re seeing a lot more of these kids on this track becoming great athletes.”
For Noteware, Sargent, and Lucas, the Eagle County BMX theme seems to do what’s most fun for kids and help them grow. Navigating a bend, befriending a competitor for several seasons, and going from a hotel room to a race under the lights in Las Vegas are just a few of the fun things to do for kids. Watching and cherishing their progress is what makes it enjoyable for parents.
“My biggest thing is that over the years we watch these kids go from little kids riding bikes to fierce BMX bikes, going mountain biking to going to college and mountain biking,” recalls. Lucas.
“It’s just great to see.”