A decade on the dirt

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald file

Derrik Blackmore of Durango catches air at the BMX track in June 2012. Durango BMX is celebrating its 10th year this year with a newly configured track.

By Ryan Owens Herald staff writer

A 10th birthday usually comes with some cake, friends and maybe a piñata or a few rounds of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”

And the gifts. There’s usually plenty of those colorfully-wrapped surprises, too.

For its 10th birthday, Durango BMX is providing the shiny new trinkets and surprises of its own.

Born out of the creation of a local BMX track spearheaded by the Myers family, the organization hit double digits earlier this year and is keeping its eyes focused on the future.

But, looking back, the organization has come a long way. Sanctioned by USA BMX, Durango BMX has developed skills clinics taught by experienced riders and professionals, provided a place for the newly-minted Fort Lewis College BMX team and Durango DEVO riders to practice, opened for weekly gate practices Tuesdays and established ribbon races Wednesdays.

The biggest change this year was the reshaping of the track, led by track operator Walker Lowe. Lowe is a former track operator in Grand Junction who has been involved off and on with Durango BMX since 2008. He said the process of changing the track took about a month and a half in March and April.

“Basically, it was reshaping three turns that are on the track and changing up most of all the jump combinations on the track and building a completely new pro section,” Lowe said. “I’ve got a pretty good group of volunteer helpers that are pretty into dirt work and manicuring the jumps. ... We really kind of wanted to create a track that was technically challenging for the older, more skilled riders but still safe for young riders.”

Striking that balance is critical, because the Durango BMX track caters to all types. The FLC team, which finished third in the omnium in its first BMX national championship event, practices on it, as do riders from Durango DEVO, who, at times, use the dirt track as practice for mountain bike races.

On the other end, Durango BMX President Field Blevins said that the largest number of riders come from the 5-to-12 age group. The track also holds strider-bike races for its youngest riders, usually 5 and younger. Striders are small bikes that aren’t pedaled but allow the child to get a feel for his or her balance.

Blevins, whose son, Christopher, is a multiple-time BMX national champion at various age levels, said getting riders interested in BMX at a very young age is key, before other outdoor activities grab their interest.

“It’s constantly a state of influx and efflux,” Blevins said. “A lot of kids, when they get to be teenagers, find other things to do. It’s important that 5-year-olds show up. Our largest number of riders are between 5 and 12, then the really serious ones stay on as teenagers.

“One thing that’s interesting – and more on a national and international level, certainly, since BMX has become an Olympic sport – there’s been kind of a resurgence in participation, and that’s just the past few years,” he said.

The organization itself has done plenty to build that interest.

Durango BMX is partnering with Cortez to alternate hosting points races for the young BMXers every other Saturday, which exposes riders to more varied competition and different tracks, keeping things from getting stale.

“You get to be No. 1 by racing a lot of races and winning, and to be able to race every week down there is really good for our kids, and we think it’s really good for the competition as well,” Lowe said.

And, as always, the BMX track remains easily accessible for all types of riders. Gate practices Tuesdays cost just $2 for riders with a membership license, and skill-development clinics are free and available most Mondays.

And, of course, there are always people coming off the Animas River Trail near the track, just north of the Durango Mall, who want to give the track a whirl.

Blevins said there are few better ways to learn how to handle your bike than on the dirt.

“No matter how big our numbers are, in terms of racer numbers, there’s probably 10 times as many people who just come off the bike path and ride it for fun,” he said. “And there’s no question that riding a BMX track promotes your bicycle-handling skills, and an ideal time to learn it is when you’re young.”

rowens@durangoherald.com

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