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Motorcross Madness

Local track gaining popularity along with sport

David Pressgrove

Hidden in the hills south of Craig, sandwiched between the landfill and the power plant, is an attraction to Northwest Colorado that is quietly making a name for itself in the state. Actually, when the Yampa Valley Sportman’s Rider Club hosts a race at its track on Ranney Street it is loudly making its name for itself.

“I hope you brought earplugs,” said racer Mike Martin, who was out practicing on the track Tuesday night. “I’ve got one of the loudest bikes out here.”

The Craig track is the only publicly owned course in Northwest Colorado and one of seven tracks that hosts races for the American Motorcyclist Association’s sanctioned Rocky Mountan Motorcross Association spring and summer seasons.

“Riders like this track because it is one of the safest and technically challenging on the circuit,” said Martin, who is one of the more active local riders on the circuit, attending all but one race during the 2002 season. “From my experience the track probably is the best groomed on the series.”

“It is also one of the more friendly tracks for spectators,” said Cass Thompson, 14, who has raced at the local competitions. “They can pretty much see the whole race, where at other tracks you only get to see half of the race.”

The track has been in existence “for around 23,24,25 years,” according to Martin. So it has been providing a venue for local motorcross riders for a while, but recently it has been attracting a bigger crowd.

A host of three RXMA races a year, the Craig track’s second race on July 14 brought more than 550 riders to the Yampa Valley.

According to both riders, the sport is growing in popularity throughout the country. Boosted by a television contract with ESPN2 and pro riders receiving more mainstream attention, the dirt devils are increasingly getting more of a following.

“The increase in numbers at our races is similar to the growth in the sport as a whole,” Thompson said.

Martin and Thompson agreed that a sport that used to be primarily passed down through families is becoming popular for younger generations that had no prior experience or roots in the sport.

“People who are watching on T.V. that have never seen it before are getting interested,” Martin said. “There are several riders who are becoming pretty popular in the mainstream.”

Martin has been riding on motor bikes for 10 years. At a race last weekend in Erie, Colo., he finished with two fifths in the 125b, 25 and over division. The 125 is the motor classification, “b” is the class he is in (“a” is the highest level) and the number that follows is the rider’s age.

Thompson wrecked on his bike at the last local race and is currently not racing as much as he would like because he is hoping to upgrade to a bigger bike. Wrecks and injuries are common in motorcross.

“I went three years straight with having some sort of broken bone,” said Martin, who once broke his pubic bone, collarbone and shoulder blade in one wreck. “While statistically it is one of the safer sports, you come to accept the possibility of injuries.”

“One of the hardest parts about the sport is regaining confidence after a wreck,” Thompson said.

Martin said that it took him a whole racing season to regain confidence after his three-bone-breaking wreck.

“Wrecking is a part of the sport just like the jumps, noise and dirt,” Martin said.

The next race hosted by the YVSRC will be Sept. 8. THere is a $10 fee at the gate.


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