A group of BMX racers from Red Deer are closing in on an opportunity of a lifetime.
Twenty-one competitors from the Red Deer BMX Club will make the 39-hour, nearly 4,000 kilometre trek to Rock Hill, South Carolina to represent Canada at the 2017 UCI BMX World Championships in July.
From the youngest team member, Denver Lidgren, just six years old to 43-year-old Shawn Lee, excitement is abound for the chance to compete on one of the sport’s biggest stages.
Lee, who has been a member of the club for about 17 years, explained that he’s pumped at his age to get another shot to see where he stacks up against the best in the world.
“The thrill of getting back out there. Being at my age, 43, is a hard age to be competitive… To be top eight in the world would be something else. It’s just that competitive drive,” he said.
He was once an internationally-ranked long distance runner but after knee problems he took to the bike and hasn’t looked back since.
“The thrill of it,” he said about what keeps him coming back.
“I’ve been competitive all my life. I was a long distance runner (and) knees couldn’t hack it anymore. Got into mountain biking. BMX racing started getting more and more popular so I tried it and was hooked ever since.”
For some BMXers, like brothers William and Jack Welikoklad, it will be their second time racing against the best in the world after a trip to Zolder, Belgium in 2015.
They both agreed that experience will help them this time around.
“You have to train really hard because there’s a lot of competition there,” Jack said.
“You have to know all the people there – some are big and some are smaller. There’s a lot of people and the competition is tough.”
William added he feels like he’s ready to see how he stacks up, but just hopes to have fun in Rock Hill.
“Everybody wants to make it to the main event, but I just want to enjoy it and hopefully make it to the main” he said.
Molly Simpson, 14, who has won a boatload of provincial titles since she started the sport about four years ago and took home a Canadian title at age 11, said competing against the best in the world is just another step in her development.
Ultimately, she hopes this event will help build towards her dream.
“I want to be a gold medalist at the Olympics,” she said. She thanked her grandfather Barry for helping her get to all her events.
Ryan Raymont, 12, is another Canadian champion in the group. He added after travelling all across the United States for the last year or so, he’s anxious to battle against the top racers from around the globe.
“Racing against everyone, all the fastest riders in the world and seeing how I stack up against them,” Raymont said. “I’m going for the main event – top eight, but I’m just going to ride and see what happens.”
Other Red Deer riders that will make the trip to Rock Hill include: Alexia Callan, Daniel Dyok, Jaedan Dyok, Joron Dyok, Nia Fee, Cameron Frykas, Lindsay Hall, Shayne Hall, Carson Kowaski, Christopher Nugent, Nick Nugent, Tanika Nugent, Blake Shepherd-Colberg, Dane St. Dennis and Rory Zilka.
Each of the local riders qualified for Team Canada by ranking top eight at nationals in Calgary last summer.
This year marks the first time the event has been held on North American soil since it was in Victoria, B.C. in 2007. Since the world competition was started in 1996, it has only been held three times in North America.
Over the next month, the riders will compete in several events across Alberta including provincial events in Cochrane from June 24-25 and Stony Plain July 8 and 9.