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USA BMX Riverview track is health on wheels for young riders

RIVERVIEW

Going almost 15 miles per hour out of the starting gate and down the hill, the sounds of sprockets and tires grinding against the dirt consume their thoughts.

They pedal as fast as possible to get ahead and jump over the hills to gain momentum. The riders wear elaborate helmets and protective gear, knowing the danger if someone grazes their bike while jockeying for first place.

Ultimately, they share the same goal. Every hill and every turn is a chance to get closer to the finish line.

Excitement and sportsmanship is what draws bikers, parents and aficionados to the USA BMX Riverview track.

Riders compete almost every Saturday and Monday. On average there are 60 to 80 competitors from different age groups ranging from 5 years old to adults in their late 40s.

For Robert Fisher, 13, BMX riding is much more than a hobby, it's his passion. Since he started riding two years ago, Fisher joined the USA BMX Riverview Team in hopes of becoming a pro BMX biker in the near future.

He's hopeful about his future in the sport because he's goal oriented and trains almost every day.

"It's more than organized bicycle racing on a dirt track," Fisher said. "It's a way to set goals while having fun."

The USA BMX Riverview track is a nonprofit facility that opened about three years ago to meet the growing demands of the sport. Stephen Gerardi, 46, founder and skilled BMX rider, had the opportunity to lease 58 acres in county property to build a track. With the help of the community, sponsors and extreme sport enthusiasts, the park opened its gates for the first time in December 2007.

"When we started this project we had a vision, a place accessible to the Riverview community and a new place for people from other areas to come train," Gerardi said.

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USA BMX Riverview is one of the first tracks in Florida to start their own track team because they wanted to give community members the chance to be part of something special. Gerardi said being part of the team is a great feeling because he belongs to a group of people who share his passion for the sport.

Since Gerardi started riding more than 26 years ago, he feels the sport has evolved and changed the way people perceive extreme sports. One of the biggest breakthroughs is when BMX became part of the Olympics in 2008.

He also feels riding is a great way for youth to lead a healthy life and gives parents the chance to spend time with their kids.

"Parents are more supportive and are participating more," Gerardi said.

Stacy Myers said her 15-year-old son Chad started riding three years ago and joined the USA BMX Riverview Team because he is competitive. Myers said she was one of the first volunteers to help with the construction and development of the track because she knew the kids in the community needed a place to gather.

She feels being part of the early stages of the project was a labor of love because the group's organizers needed someone to keep the team of volunteers motivated.

"It was a lot of hard work, we spent countless hours finding sponsors, building the track and developing ideas to make the place better," Myers said.

A couple of months ago, Myers put on a helmet, wore a jersey and along with another parent started riding for fun and as a way to bond with her son. She said the experience opened her eyes to the level of skill and difficulty riding a bike entails.

"Before when I used to watch my son practice, I would tell him to pedal faster, but now I congratulate him on working so hard," Myers said, laughing.

As a parent, Myers believes it's important to spent time with her son and participate in activities with him. Although, she is afraid to jump the hills while racing, Myers hopes to improve and make her son proud.

"Chad enjoys spending time with me, and I cherish these moments," Myers said.

In recent years, there has been an increase in parent-female riders and children under the age of 7. Gerardi says it's beneficial to have more places to train because many athletes go "track hopping," which is going to the different tracks that are open on different days.

"BMXing is not only a sport," Gerardi said, "but it's also a way to boost the Florida economy."

Krystel Knowles can be reached at hillsnews@sptimes.com.

. Fast facts

USA BMX Riverview

12705 Balm-Boyette Road

Membership: $50 for one year, beginning on the day of application. Includes rider's insurance and subscription to the online monthly national BMX magazine, BMX Today. Membership is valid at any NBL track in the country.

Contact: (813) 299-5291 or usabmxitf.com

USA BMX Riverview track is health on wheels for young riders 04/21/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 21, 2011 5:30am]

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