For many riders, this years Nationals will be their first – an exciting but intimidating experience. The highly anticipated 2008 National BMX Championships have finally arrived. At the time of writing this, there are 1140 entries.
Cat Hopkins (Hills, WA) experienced her first Nationals at the age of 10, eight months after starting her passion for the sport. The event was held in Perth that year, largely the reason Cat took part. “The racing atmosphere was amazing” Cat says. “But I admit, I didn’t think there was going to be so many people there!”
For Lauren Reynolds (Bunbury, WA), her first experience was at the age of 9 in Adelaide. “I was pretty young and hadn’t had much racing experience” recalls Lauren. “Especially interstate racing, so I didn’t have a clue what to expect”.
Personally, this is my first National experience and I have been riding approximately seven months over the last year. I find the idea of riding at Nationals nerve-racking, particularly at the thought of riding against elite riders who have ridden for years. My training has consisted of riding the bush, gullies, local highway and flying to Perth for Super Series comps – with my first training session a few weeks ago.
“I didn’t really know what training meant back then” says Lauren. “I rode club nights each week and heard from older riders to do grass sprints. I had a few cracks at that and thought I was pro because I did sprints” Lauren laughs. “But I came first!”
“I came 11th out of 11 riders” Cat chuckles, as she remembers the event. “It was gold! I was pretty much last out of the gate and last to the finish. I only passed someone if they fell off. I loved everything about Nationals, it was sooo much fun. I rocked up to racing in black and white polka dot pants and bright red shoes. And to top it off, the Hills shirts back then were fluoro yellow and orange. You have no idea how embarrassing it is to look back” she laughs. “Luckily I’m the only person who has the photos and I’m not showing anyone!”
“I had a few nerves in the final but that’s what makes me race better” Lauren continues. I liked everything about it – the crowd, number of pro shops, presentations and the general adrenaline of riding my bike in front of hundreds of people with a gate full of girls racing. There wasn’t anything to not like!”
So what can you expect from Nationals for your first time?
Lauren says “Nothing is worse than going to a major event like this, under prepared! Focus and expect a tough field of riding. Go there open minded, prepare yourself physically and mentally. Expect the competition to be tough and love what you do. It’s a great experience for everyone!”
“Expect a lot” adds Cat. “Imagine States twice as big. Nationals is crazy, like you have no idea. The level of riding is high! How to prepare? If anything, mentally. Don’t put pressure on yourself to perform. If it’s your first Nationals, just have some fun. And it’s understandable to be nervous as hell. I’ll tell you now, I still get nervous when I’m up there”.
XBR - Xtreme Bicycle Magazine - Issue 21 - 2008