BMX track a summer addiction for many | SteamboatToday.com

BMX track a summer addiction for many

— It's about the children, and the examples of that attitude zip everywhere on a Thursday night at the BMX bike track tucked near the base of Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs.

The crowd — parents, almost exclusively — cheers as each racer finishes, whether their time was fast or slow, and the only thing more abundant than congratulatory high-fives is trophies. The top three rides in each division get one, and last Thursday, the rider-to-division ratio was such that nearly every beaming young BMX rider came away with a new showpiece for the bedroom bookcase.

It's about the children, and the men in the 36-40 Intermediate division know that. But that doesn't stop them from having some of the most competitive and fun races at the weekly BMX event.

The dominator in the adult division is Nick Crifase.

He perfected his skills as a child, racing all the way to a national championship when he was 13 years old.

BMX, for him, was life growing up.

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"It was traveling every weekend," he said. "You're with your parents. You're with your frinds. You're going to all these different races. … Every single weekend was like a carnival."

He stepped away from the sport as he entered the heart of his teenage years, but came back, first last summer, when a friend suggested he help out at the Howelsen track.

This summer, he dived in fully, racing every week and joining in the volunteer efforts to put the event on.

When he races, he doesn't lose. He won all three races with his division on Thursday, leaving his competitors baffled.

"Nick's a big jumper," said Jim Kohler, another adult regular on the series. "The rest of us are old and chicken, but he's jumping. When he comes down the back side of those jumps, he picks up so much speed. Even after the first jump, he's landing so fast, and he just accelerates, and he's gone."

Brent Lemay, second in every race Thursday, is equally in awe of Crifase.

Lemay also rode BMX as a child, but it was his own child, 8-year old Palmer Lemay, who got him back into the sport. After showing up to watch Palmer ride, he gave into pressure and brought his own bike.

"It's awesome," he said. "It's so much fun. It makes me feel like I can still ride a bike."

But, it's about the kids, and that rings throughout any evening at the track.

Children big and small work their way around course, cutting along it's three big banked turns and doing their best to navigate the jumps and rollers that dominate the route.

Kaden Graham, 4, usually races in the strider division with several other friends. They couldn't make it to the most recent race, however, and he went it alone.

He picked up the sport last summer and hasn't missed a race since.

"He loves it, absolutely loves it," Kaden’s mother, Laura Graham, said. "He likes the camaraderie with all the other kids. He loves to bike, so it's awesome to have a little competition with what he loves to do."

He's not alone.

The track is in its fifth summer since a major redesign and hosts (mostly) weekly BMX races, asking $10 from athletes. Gina Grether, one of the organizers of the weekly races, said numbers are strong, both for the races and for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club-associated training program that precedes it on Thursday mornings.

"It's progressing. The classes are filling out, and the skill level is going up," she said. "It's just basically because we enjoy doing it. We do it to make these guys smile and to keep them doing something positive."

There were several crashes to go along with fast riders and slow riders, but there were few tears, if any, Thursday. Instead, there was plenty of celebrating and excitement, enthusiasm and energy, which is exactly what brought out racers both young and old.

It's most definitely about the children.

"I know the emotions I went through as a kid just needing help in the gate," said Crifase, the night's fastest racer, but one of many to lend a hand. "That may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re that kid, and someone helps you out, it's the best feeling ever."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

BMX Thursdays

The local BMX track hosts races most Thursdays during the summer, including this Thursday, starting at 6 p.m. A night of racing costs $10 per rider. For more information check out https://www.usabmx.com/tracks/1855.