Vail Valley bike racers have dirt-track visions
EAGLE, Colorado –A metal gate drops and eight men on single-speed bikes with 20-inch wheels burst onto a dirt track. Elbow to elbow, they fly through bumps, jumps and banked turns for top spot. This … is a BMX race.
Jay Lucas, 44, has been riding a bike for 40 years and BMX racing for nearly as long. These days, his family life is even largely centered around bicycle motocross tracks throughout the region. His wife and kids race with him in their own divisions as they travel around the state.
“BMX is a family sport,” Lucas said. “Unlike ski racing or baseball, it’s one of the few sports where the whole family gets to participate in. We race together and work on bikes together.”
That’s one reason why he’s working with the town of Eagle and others to get a BMX track in the area. The project already has the town’s backing. At this point, what the effort needs most is money and volunteers.
If and when the track is built – at the Bike Skills Park adjacent to the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink – it will be the only one between Grand Junction and Denver.
“It’ll be about $10,000 to put the thing together, start to finish,” Lucas said. “Eagle’s going to chip in a little bit.”
Lucas and others, such as Eagle Town Board member and Eagle County environmental planner Yuri Kostick, believe the track will draw riders to the area from all over the region. That, of course, means more tourism dollars for the local economy.
“I’m excited at the opportunity to get another amenity in town, especially one that is available to such a wide age group,” Kostick said. “It’s going to serve a big population. Grand Junction sees between 150 and 250 kids and adults every weekend during the summer. With this track, we’re getting an extra draw for people.”
Lucas can attest to the roving nature of BMX racers.
“My family traveled about 8,000 miles to race last year,” he said. “If we get this track, racers will come from other areas.”
So far, it seems like everyone supports the idea.
Charlie Brown, co-owner of Mountain Pedaler in Eagle and one of the people who helped make the original Bike Skills Park a reality, said his 10-year-old boy is “raring to go.”
“He’ll have a full-face helmet before the track is done,” Brown said. A full-face helmet is mandatory for BMX racing and costs about $60.
One thing that will factor into how quickly the vision manifests is when Lucas presents a proposal at the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District Board meeting April 21. The meeting is slated for the Gypsum Recreation Center. Then the Eagle County BMX group will have a better handle on its financial situation.
When the rec district contributes money, the funds generally go toward property upgrades and maintenance.
“I’m sure the group will put together a good plan and I’m anxious to see it,” says Steve Russell, the rec district’s director.
The BMX race track would go inside the mountain bike practice loop at Bike Skills Park, where there are currently some ill-maintained dirt jumps.
The jumps aren’t the safest, Lucas said, because no one is in charge of keeping them in good condition and kids often alter them or ride them when it’s too muddy.
“The jumps haven’t been maintained properly,” Brown said. “A BMX track will help with that because you have to maintain it. You can’t let it go.”
Lucas hopes a fleet of volunteers would ensure consistent upkeep. Additionally, there are no plans for a fence and gate – nothing more than a sign with rules – so he also hopes the community will follow a code of honor, wear helmets and refrain from riding when it’s too muddy.
“The dirt has to be hard for traction … if people ride when it’s muddy, it could be bad,” Lucas said. “But we do want the kids to ride as much as possible.”
Lucas envisions holding weekly races at the Eagle track, which would be built to American Bike Association standards. A likely time for those races would be 1:30 p.m. every Sunday from spring to fall.
To do that, efforts are under way to fabricate a steel starting gate with an air ram. The air ram drops a gate after a mechanized countdown and props it back up for the next heat. A volunteer would have to go through official qualifications to operate the gate.
Full-face helmets are another racing requirement. Lucas wants to have about 10 “loaners” available for first-time racers who want to try the sport. That’s what the Grand Junction’s track does. He wants the sport and track to be inclusive for the community.
“Being able to borrow required gear like a helmet helps someone try it out and then decide if they want to keep doing it,” Lucas said, adding that BMX is relatively affordable. “The sport costs about $400 to get into, about $300 for a bike – and that’s a nice bike – and the rest is long-sleeved shirts and pants and a helmet.”
The point is, anyone can race. There’s even a Tiny Tot division, where toddlers on training wheels and babies pushed in strollers speed along the final bump straightaway of a track.
What: A dirt race track for bicycles that features bumps, jumps and banked turns
Where: Bike Skills Park, by the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink, 1700 Bull Pasture Road
• Track would be free and open to the public.
• Project needs volunteers, money and some supplies.
• Want to help? E-mail email@example.com or contact Charlie Brown at Mountain Pedaler, Second Street and Broadway, Eagle, 970-328-3478.