Cycling: Family rides the BMX podium

By Martin Lang


If national championship meets had a "first family" prize for top parent and child team, Tauranga BMX devotees the Robinsons would have the holeshot on their opposition.

Competing at this year's BMX nationals in Rotorua over Easter, mum Catherine and 8-year-old son Ollie pedalled their way to the podium. Ollie was runner-up in the fiercely competitive boys' 8 years Challenge class and Catherine winning the female 40-44 years Cruiser title. For Ollie, second was especially sweet after finishing fourth last year - and giving a two-time world champ and regular opponent a hurry-up.

With close to four years of competition riding to his credit, Ollie has a longstanding but friendly rivalry with two-time age group world champ Rico Bearman, of Waitakere.

"I was third or fourth going up to the last corner but I got on the inside and came out in first," Ollie says of the Easter showdown. "But then Rico managed to pass me going up the last straight."

The duel was a great thrill for both boys, Ollie says.

"I was really excited. After the finish we dropped our bikes and did a manhug."

To earn his berth in the final, Ollie came through a field of 52 boys, hailing from Whangarei right down to Southland.

Older brother James, 10, has also competed at several nationals but fortune didn't go his way in his 11 years boys' grade, which featured 33 riders.

Though she had fewer opponents, Catherine's Cruiser win was remarkable for someone who made her nationals debut only last year - where she was "more of a bun maker and support crew" than a competitor.

A helper at the club from her sons' early days, she only started to get out on the track a couple of years ago. Catherine had rarely ridden bicycles: Her only strong memory from childhood is tumbling into rose bushes beside the driveway

Her first club race was a far from auspicious beginning.

"I'd thought 'how hard can it be?' I went out really fast and couldn't even make it round the first corner."

With dad Mike and Catherine taking their sons to Tauranga club nights - at Sulphur Point before the Cambridge Rd facility opened in December - BMX was a natural progression for Ollie.

"The first time we took his training wheels off was at the track, because they were a nuisance. He was about 3," Catherine says.

Mike is also a keen rider and would have been mixing it in the men's 4-44 cruiser grade if not for fracturing a wrist at the pre-nationals meet in Rotorua on April 1.

"It has become a real family thing, we get to spend a lot of time together because of BMX," Catherine says.

"It's really good for the kids, they learn some independence. With all the [competitor] names and grades for the race starts being read out on the loudspeaker, they have to organise themselves into the right start group. They learn respect for themselves, sensible risk-taking and all sorts of things."

It's important to strike a balance between minimising injury risk and letting kids enjoy the adrenaline rush, she adds.

"Since I started riding I don't tell him 'pedal faster'. And I try not to say 'be careful', you have to trust them to do that."

Set to host the 2014 nationals, the Tauranga club has grown during the past 4 years from about 75 to 120, making it one of the country's strongest, publicity officer Jillian Peck says.

Twenty Tauranga riders achieved top-eight placings and another 14 made top-16, with everyone who achieves top-16 nationals placing this year and at the 2013 nationals qualifying for next year's world championships in Auckland.

Tauranga rider Cody Stevens finished runner-up in the male division of Sunday's Superclass, and fourth overall in elite men.

This was first season New Zealand BMX events have been staged in accordance with UCI regulations, requiring riders to race four times on Saturday and three on Sunday.

"Getting in line with UCI rules is crucial as New Zealand gears up to host the 2013 world championships at Auckland's Vector Arena in July next year," Jillian says.

Tauranga BMX Club riders to make top-three finishes at 2012 RaboDirect BMX national championships, Rotorua BMX Club, April 7-9.

Challenger class, boys: 8 yrs Karepa Heke Kaiawha (third), 9 yrs Oliver Robinson (second), 13 yrs Kieran Ngatai (second).

Girls: 13 yrs: Lisa Roguski (first), Shania Rawson (second).

Cruiser class, male: 15-16 yrs Luke Roguski (third), 45+ yrs Ash Rawson (first), Craig Marsden (second).

Female: 35-39 yrs Maree McGarva (first), 40-44 yrs Catherine Robinson (first).

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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