Wow. Those boys can ride.
Watching the cyclists breeze through their runs at the outdoor track along the Willamette River with city skyscrapers and multihued bridges in the background was fantastic. Better even than the gorgeous view was watching the skilled riders, who all seem to have a cavalier attitude about gravity; some of their feats would send Isaac Newton back to his calculations about how the earth’s central force controls us all. From my observations, BMX riders are immune to gravity. They fly.
The pleasure of watching riders from around the world (US, UK, NZ., Australia, Hungary, Brazil…) defy the laws of physics was matched by observing how casual, uncorrupted, and enthusiastic the athletes were. Unlike NASCAR, MLB, NBA, and NFL sports figures, the young men careening up and down the hard-packed sand berms seem to actually love what they do. They’re irrepressible. They’d be doing what they’re doing even if they couldn’t make a dime. Or so it seems.
Each and every contestant practiced incessantly before the judging began. The course inspired them. If the broad smiles on their faces indicated anything, they were having enormous fun, even when they crashed, which happened frequently, though mostly without incident in the cushioning sand.
From where I stood trackside, the Dew Tour did not enforce a strict protocol on how often and when athletes might embarrass Mr. Newton and his gravitational theories. Riders, seemingly bored by lulls in the judges decision-making, simply leapt off the podium and sailed down the track for another go at the course in between official runs.
When riders had a particularly good run they’d return along a barricade wall of fans who extended their hands in congratulations. The riders I saw slapped each and every palm and fist pump offered.
Although the event itself is loaded with logos heralding sponsors like Toyota, Sony, J. C. Penney, and, for some inexplicable reason, Paul Mitchell, the riders themselves are mercifully devoid of sponsored stickers on their threadbare outfits. BMX is the antithesis of NASCAR and it’s all the better for it.
Like figure skating, BMX events are determined by judges. Not quite like umpires in baseball who determine a specific play, judges render their verdict on an overall performance of an event, such as a long program in figure skating or three runs in a BMX competition. So, there’s bound to be subjective interpretation of who’s actually the best in either sport. But no matter who wins this weekend’s Dew Tour BMX contest, there will be one big loser: Isaac Newton.
Gravity. What’s that?
Copyright 2011 Mark Everett Hall