Eagle County BMX club goes to Grands | VailDaily.com

Eagle County BMX club goes to Grands

12 racers competed at USA BMX Race of Champions and Grands events in Oklahoma over Thanksgiving

Izzy Sargent won the Race of Champions U.S.A. BMX event in Tulsa, Ok. over Thanksgiving.
Christie Noteware/Courtesy photo

Thanksgiving is associated with the National Football League for many Americans. On the USA BMX calendar, however, the holiday week is reserved for the bicycle motocross version of the Super Bowl. After 11 months of racing, the top BMX athletes in the country convene 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) plates, and this year, 19-year old Izzy Sargent led the way for the 12 athletes from Eagle County BMX present at the competition, claiming top honors in the two-day Race of Champions bracket. After a rest day, she followed up the performance with an even more significant accomplishment, completing her national’s calendar season by contesting the two-day Grands event, ultimately nabbing the 3rd place NAG plate.

“She killed it,” Jay Lucas, the founder of the Eagle County BMX track, said of Sargent, who started BMX under his watch before focusing more on mountain biking in high school. Now, the star bounces between both with equal passion.

“She’s still getting after it and she just had a stellar year,” Lucas praised.

BMX athletes learn to manual as a technique to maintain speed over bumps.
Christie Noteware/Courtesy photo

“You want the ROC 1 plate — the number one, in your class, in the country — and she got that,” said Christie Noteware, one of the many parent volunteers who keeps the Eagle County program chugging along.

Support Local Journalism

“That’s a huge deal for her. It’s amazing.”

Noteware’s two kids, eight-year old Reagan and nine-year old Tegan, competed all four days in Tulsa as well. Racing against well over 100 other riders, Tegan made it to the quarterfinal round in the nine-year-old cruiser category.

Noteware manages the logistics of scheduling races, clinics, and volunteers for the club. Her passionate work toward furthering the Eagle County BMX’s vision pours out of a shared desire amongst the completely volunteer-based staff to provide the best experience for its enthusiastic athletes. No matter the age, all are eager to grow their skills.

“The kids are craving it. They want to do better. They want to learn more,” she said, noting the club’s scheduling of 2016 Rio BMX gold medalist Connor Fields as a clinician next June. Fields suffered what Dr. Jonathan Finnoff, the chief medical officer for 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 traumatic brain injury from a crash in the 2020 Olympic final. It wiped away his memory from several hours before the accident until about five days after. Fields’s visit to the Vail area won’t be his first; he was operated on by Randy Viola at the Steadman Clinic prior to the 2016 games.

Izzy Sargent and Tiegan Stiebel with their haul after four days of racing.
Christie Noteware/Courtesy photo.

Noteware herself has no prior experience in the sport, but when her son started wandering over to the course behind their backyard — and progressively staying for longer periods of time — she knew she had better get acquainted with bicycle motocross.

“I didn’t even know what it was until my kids were out there racing,” Noteware admits.

“He just fell in love with it,” she said about her son Tegan’s love for the sport. “I can’t get him off that bike.”

The family started out just doing local races. Before long, they were competing at various state competitions hosted by one of the 14 tracks in Colorado. Now, it’s an 11-month commitment involving trips to races on the national calendar, as long as they are within driving distance.

“12 hours — that’s about as far as I can take it,” Noteware said, her family’s progressively serious approach embodying a single point along the continuum of commitment the 75-100 kids and their families who partake in Eagle Valley BMX club fall along. The weekly gate practice at the track provides newbies as young as five years of age guidance in learning how to balance and turn and older veterans the opportunity to practice more technical skills like racing in a pack, working the rhythm section, and learning to manual. For families that are willing, a race can be found almost every weekend of the year, especially in warmer areas like Grand Junction or states such as Arizona or Nevada. In January, a group will head to Las Vegas to compete in an event that takes place inside of Southpointe Casino.

“The kids love it,” Noteware exclaimed about the trip. “They go up to the hotel room, go down to the track. My son was asking me, ‘When are we going to Vegas mom!’”

The nature of the events, with campers and vans lined up in large venue parking lots, fosters a familial aspect within the BMX culture.

“I love it because it’s like a family. We spent Thanksgiving with people from our track, in a parking lot, at a track, in Tulsa,” described Noteware. “You get to be good friends and you travel to national races, and you spend three or four days in a row together. Everyone gets along really well and helps each other out and picks up the pieces where somebody else needs it.”

Izzy Sargent, the Eagle River Valley’s performer of the meet, echoed the community sentiment, saying, “I really like how nice they are. Everyone is so supportive; the parents especially.” As a 19-year old surrounded by youngsters ranging from 5-12 years old, 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 as their older sister — nagged them to do things,” she recalled. “They’re all just really great — all the kids and the parents and everything.”

Eagle County BMX had 12 athletes in Tulsa, Ok. to compete in the Race of Champions and Grands season finale races.
Christie Noteware/Courtesy photo

Sargent, whose third place NAG plate surpassed her season goal of simply being within the top 10 in her age group, also provides the leadership and guidance of an older sister to go along with the occasional playful jab.

“I just love the kids. I just always try to help them,” she said.

“When they’re not having a good day at the track, I just try to remind them that we’re there to have fun. Nothing is going to go perfect every single time. You’re going to have a bad lap, you’re going to have a bad gate, but it’s OK. I just try to tell them to have fun — if you’re not having fun, why are you there?”

A talented mountain biker, the recenty graduated Sargent isn’t sure if she will hop into the collegiate racing scene or not. “I just kind of like going out and racing and having fun and hanging out with all the people and trying to make a difference in the sport, really,” Sargent said.

“It would be great if I could eventually go pro.”

Her heart for kids has her debating a future in coaching, eventually. “Just being there for the kids is what I really like.”

Sargent’s prowess in the mountain bike scene is demonstrative of the transfer of skills from BMX to other sports common in the Vail region, from moguls skiing to snowboard cross to mountain biking. The carryover to the slopes, in fact, is what inspired Jay Lucas to start the track in the first place.

“To have a good summertime training sport other than say, soccer or something like that,” he said in regards to the track’s genesis, which started out as discussions between Lucas and Jamie Ziegler before becoming a reality in 2009 thanks to help from Yuri Kostic, Chris Spiegle, and Don Summers in particular.

“It’s a movement sport — sprint-type thing,” he said.

“It promotes and goes along with ski racing and mogul racing. We started so that my kids could have an outlet to train in the summer when they’re not training for ski racing or mogul skiing.”

Lucas also owns and operates Ski Base ski and snowboard shop in Vail. Both of his sons competed at Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, with Nash placing fourth overall at the 2021 U.S. Nationals in the moguls last season. The senior in high school is currently ranked 12th in the country for dual moguls and 22nd for singles. Older brother Halsey is the captain of the Colorado Mesa University ski team and competes in ski cross. Their dad has observed the many impacts of a BMX upbringing on their ski racing.

For moguls, he says a major element is handling amplitude. “First, it’s taking air,” he said. “His (Nash) ability to jump the jumps is huge,” he said of his youngest son.

The second major aspect is more physiological. “The other thing is power,” he detailed.

“So, as you’re sprinting, you’re using your core, your legs, and your lower back. BMX is something that helps them develop that power. That’s the same power that you use when you’re mogul skiing or alpine skiing.”

The third aspect, however, might be the most critical: standing at the start and not losing your mind. “That’s the one thing my two sons say,” Lucas divulged.

“They can get in a gate with another racer — duals, skier cross, or whatever — and they learn how to become a level-headed kid and not psyche themselves out.”

Even though Sargent remains at the top of the game locally, in addition to time in the weight room and on the bike, it is the aforementioned mental side of the sport that she believes is paramount to high-level performance.

“BMX is a super mental sport,” she said with a sudden seriousness in her tone. “Being positive is really important. Not letting things get in your head is really important. So, I’m always working on that.”

The crossover between ski racing or mountain bike riding and BMX has Lucas noticing an ever-increasing trend of local skiers spending the summer months on his track.

“One thing we are seeing — and what we’re seeing more and more of — is that kids who are in alpine skiing and other types of skiing events coming out to the track. We’re really starting to get a high number of those kids that are in SSCV and using it as a cross-training type of thing, which is great,” he said.

“We want to be there to aid that type of person and also help them to transfer to mountain bikes when they get older, but we are seeing a lot more of those kids on that track to become great athletes.”

For Noteware, Sargent, and Lucas, the theme of Eagle County BMX appears to be doing that which is the most fun for kids and helps them in their development. Navigating a turn, befriending a competitor throughout multiple seasons, and going from a hotel room to a race under the lights in Las Vegas are all just a few of the fun things for the kids. Observing and cherishing their progression is what makes it enjoyable for the parents.

“My biggest thing is over the years we watch these kids go from tiny tykes on bikes to ferocious BMXers to going to mountain biking to going to college for mountain biking,” Lucas reminisced.

“It’s just great to see.”

Gavin Waters has big smiles and a bigger trophy as he poses after his 3rd place finish at Grands. Even bigger Trophy!.
Christie Noteware/Courtesy photo


Support Local Journalism