Treasure Valley BMX riders get down and dirty

More than 100 racers compete each week at tracks around the Treasure Valley

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.com © 2013 Idaho StatesmanJune 29, 2013 

Michael Newgen, a 15-year-old rider, hits a jump while practicing at the Caldwell BMX park. Newgen is a four-time state champion in his age group.

A phalanx of trucks and SUVs pulls up on a dusty parking lot, unloading bikes and anxious children. The whirring of gears soon buzzes consistently through the night at Kuna's Indian Creek BMX Park.

Onlookers walking on the nearby Greenbelt stop and to take in a routine that occurs almost nightly at tracks from Caldwell to Mountain Home as part of Treasure Valley BMX - kids as young as 2, and adults who had initially ditched their bikes for four wheels decades ago.

"You can't really go out and play soccer with your kid, but it's cool out here, seeing moms and daughters, fathers and sons, all doing the same thing," said Eagle 15-year-old Michael Newgen, a four-time defending state champion in his age group.

Treasure Valley BMX races four nights a week in Eagle (Tuesdays), Kuna (Wednesdays), Caldwell (Thursdays) and Mountain Home (Sundays), and riders can compete as many nights, or as few, as they wish.

Riders each night are split into groups of similar ability and age, each competing in two "motos." Depending on the number of entrants, the top finishers in the motos compete in what is called "the main event."

Riders gain district points as they compete, and the more points, the higher the rank, which at the end of the year is reflected with a new rider number on the plate in front of their bike for the next year. Newgen's plate, for example, is No. 1. Riders begin as novices, and move up to intermediate and finally to expert as they rack up wins.

"It's all self-motivated," said Boise's Michael Boyle, 16. "You can come out every night, you can just come out for fun once a week. No one will beat you up at school if you skip a race."

Like many involved in Treasure Valley BMX, it's a family affair for the Boyles. Father Sean serves as a track announcer, while mother Rebecca occasionally rides herself. The family also has hosted BMX clinics the past few years. As for the Boyle boys, 14-year-old Jason finished last year ranked No. 4 in the nation in his age group, while Michael departed Sunday as one of eight riders from across the country earning a week-long trip to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.

"I started when I was 4, and this has been the goal for a long time," Michael Boyle said. "It ticked me off that my brother was always beating me, and being older, I had to go out and try to be better."

Though most races are boys' battles, the girls flex their competitive muscle nightly, racing against boys if there is a lack of entries in their age group or skill level.

Khy Clever, 12, was moved up from novice to expert this week after picking up her 10th main event win. She has been competing for a year, and has two younger brothers who also ride.

"Sometimes it can be scary, but that makes it fun, too," Clever said. "I play soccer and basketball, too, and it helps with balance and leg strength, and competing against boys sometimes makes you push harder."

Like the Boyles and Clevers, Jesse Sexton of Boise's children are getting involved early.

Sexton, 35, and his 7-year-old son, Clive, often can be spotted most nights dressed in matching gear. Sexton's 2-year-old son, Arlo, has begun to ride on what are called "Striders," which are toddler-sized bikes without pedals the kids use on a shortened portion of the course.

"It's like nothing else hearing your boy cheer for you as you go past - there are very few sports where you can do this," Sexton said. "Then when you finish, you get to cheer him on."

Sexton had not been a BMX rider when he was young, and when Clive gained interest in the sport, his father initially just watched. Then he decided he should take the chance and get back on the bike himself.

"I didn't want to just sit around," Sexton said. "I didn't have any experience, but that didn't matter, which is pretty cool."

The Sextons trekked to Idaho Falls for a state qualifier this weekend - each track holds a state-qualifying event during the season, and riders take their top three finishes to jockey for spots in the state championships Sept. 6-8 in Coeur d'Alene. Most also compete in national races across the West, which pulls in competitors from multiple states. Some make a summer road trip to one or two races, while others try to hit as many as possible.

"It can be pricey … but that's how it is with a lot of sports when you get serious about it, with all the traveling," said Newgen's mother, Tia, also a track operator at Eagle Foothills BMX.

For many involved in Treasure Valley BMX, the culture involves the entire family, parents volunteer to keep the track maintained, run concessions or keep track of results. The Newgens were the driving force in getting Eagle Foothills BMX built in 2011, while Michael Newgen took up the sport seriously about five years ago after attending one of the Boyles' seminars.

When he tried to play soccer when he was little, Newgen ran alongside the ball, and had to be bribed just to kick it. When he started BMX, there was no bench, no being cut from the team - and that's what riders from 2 to 62 love about it.

"Everyone that wants to ride, does," Michael Newgen said.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

www.treasurevalleybmx.com

www.indiancreekbmx.com

www.ef-bmx.com

www.caldwellbmx.com

www.facebook.com/RockyTopBmx

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