The racing was over, but neither Drew nor Devin Walz was ready to get off his bike.
The brothers, one 6 (Drew) and the other 8 (Devin), both from Boise, snatched their BMX bikes and continued riding the upper portions of Eagle’s BMX track located off Horseshoe Bend Road. Both already had ridden the track several times in competitive races and had been at the track for around 5 hours.
By now, riding bikes is second nature and is as easy as walking but they still needed their father’s help to decode questions peppered at them by the media. Despite their youth, the two will race next month in Belgium at the UCI World Championships after qualifying among the top 16 U.S. riders in their age group and classification this year in Albuquerque.
“I don’t ever expect them to be an Olympian,” their father, Derek Walz, said. “It’s life experiences. Half of their friends are here in the Treasure Valley and half of them are either in Texas or California, and we meet up at these events. ... I’m essentially buying life experiences for my kids.”
The sport already has taken the brothers to as many as 30 states and Canada. This summer’s trip will be the first to Europe and Devin’s second world championship, while it will be Drew’s first. In 2017, when Devin last qualified, the event was held in South Carolina. Next year, the event will be held in Houston.
The Walzes’ young BMX careers began by riding strider bikes, which are bikes without pedals, at the age of 3, four years earlier than Jeff Upshaw, a regular at the Eagle track and BMX pro. Upshaw said he plans to try to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Games but some injuries have slowed his 2019 season.
“This sport is one of those things where you can dive into it pretty heavily,” Upshaw said. “The community here is really heading in that direction and we are spending some time out here to work on those small things and get better each and every day. I would say the Walz boys are on that track.”
Both brothers were instant successes and began racking up wins. By the time Drew was 5 he was considered an expert by his sport’s standards. Devin reached his expert status just after his sixth birthday. A rider becomes an expert by winning 30 events. Riders start as a novice and then proceed to intermediate after 10 wins.
The Walzes race on the Eagle-based FLY Racing team, which was the only Idaho team to send racers to one of the two qualifying events for the world championships. The team sent six racers, and five of those qualified for the world championships. Four will go.
Matt Britain, who runs the Eagle track, qualified but his son, Owen, missed the world championships by one spot. Since he wasn’t planning on racing in the qualifier anyway, Britain decided not to make the trip.
“I wasn’t even planning on racing because I just got released from a surgery and Derek signed me up without even talking to me about it,” Britain explained. “So, I entered the race and I qualified.”
Derek Walz estimates that his family will spend $10,000 on the trip but figures his kids will gain life experiences that simply cannot be found elsewhere.
“We will get to go to Europe this year,” he said. “They will get to see different foreign languages, different foods, all of those life experiences are priceless.”