‘Fast-paced excitement’ featuring some of the best riders in the U.S.
Roseville, Calif. – A mad dash downhill from the starting gate, hills that beg for get-in-the-air jumps, and “explosive sprints with turns” that can flip a last-place racer into the front of the pack in a few seconds are just part of the BMX Northern California State Finals on Sunday, Sept. 17, at Oak Creek BMX in Roseville.
More than 1,000 racers – from preschoolers to riders 60 years and older at different skill levels – will compete, generating about $1 million for the Placer Valley economy. About 2,500 racers, their supporters and fans of the sport are expected over the weekend, filling hotel rooms, restaurants and gas tanks in the community.
Free for spectators!
The Northern California State Finals start 9 a.m. Sunday and are free for spectators at Oak Creek BMX, 648 Riverside Avenue in Roseville. Food booths and other vendors will be on hand. Some racers will camp at Oak Creek.
“It’s a very fun, family-friendly atmosphere,” said Kim Summers, CEO of Placer Valley Tourism and @the Grounds, home of the Roebbelen Center. “BMX racing is such an exciting sport for racers and the fans, and another example of the diversity of major sports events possible in the community.”
Placer Valley Tourism and Oak Creek BMX have worked together for several years. Placer Valley Tourism helped fund a full track rebuild and bring the Summer Nationals to Oak Creek in 2018. Oak Creek BMX and Placer Valley Tourism have also partnered to secure a National event in May 2024, bringing more racers, fans and money to the community.
“Hotbed for BMX”
“Roseville is a hotbed for BMX,” said Nathan Johanson, a one-time BMX racer as a kid who got back into the sport several years ago and later became co-operator of Oak Creek BMX with partner Amanda Lowry. “We have a lot of nationally ranked riders.”
Many of those riders were introduced to the sport and trained at Oak Creek BMX, often ranked among the best tracks in the nation by USA BMX.
“It’s the nicest track of them all,” said nationally ranked racer Jim Nelson of Sacramento, who competes in about 10 races nationwide every year and trains a couple of times per week at Oak Creek BMX. “It’s technical, but fast.”
The dirt track – about the distance of three football fields – boasts hills, banked turns and straightaways that challenge racers’ endurance and skills. Most races are over in 30 to 40 seconds, creating fast-paced excitement for fans and little room for error for riders.
“Some of the top riders in the country”
“It’s action-packed every lap,” said Jake Peebles, a former elite BMX racer who started his decade-long career at Oak Creek BMX and now coaches the sport to riders in Placer Valley and nationwide. “There’s virtually no stop in the action. You’re going to see fast-paced excitement from some of the top riders in the country.”
Some of the best-known BMX athletes – including future Olympic medalists and national champions – have raced and even trained at Oak Creek BMX.
“Roseville has a storied history,” Johanson said. “It’s a legendary BMX track. And it’s still making history.”
More than 1,000 novice-to-expert male and female racers are hoping to grab their piece of history this weekend – and finish the long season as a champion. Much like NASCAR stock-car racing, BMX riders compete in races throughout the season and earn points in order to qualify for the Northern California State Finals.
Double point races are set for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Oak Creek BMX. The double points races are also free for spectators.
“The racers are amazing to watch, from the novices to the experts,” Lowry said. “The competition, the vibe.”
Placer Valley racers who frequently compete and train at Oak Creek BMX – regardless of their age or skill level – will have a “home track advantage” Johanson said.
“It’s in their own backyard,” he said. “They ride it three times a week.”
Just like Peebles, who turned his racing career into JET (Jake’s Elite Training) BMX Racing, a growing small business that coaches about 20 racers from Roseville to northern Nevada and another 20 riders across the country. He often coaches racers at Oak Creek BMX.
“It’s a great sport for any kid to get into,” said Peebles, who adds most parents focus on ball and team sports. “BMX gets overlooked.”
But many life skills learned on a court, diamond, field or pitch – from good sportsmanship to teamwork – are also part of BMX, Johanson said. And racers can join bike shop, factory or trophy teams in BMX.
“There is a social piece to the sport,” Johanson said. “I’ve made some of the best friends of my life through BMX.”
Lowry agrees, adding the connection between racers – and quite often their families – makes the sport special. “It’s all about the camaraderie,” said Lowry, who became co-track operator of Oak Creek in 2019. Her husband, Rick, who has been competing for four decades, and their 29-year-old daughter, Kaityn White, will be racing this weekend. “I love the family atmosphere. You meet people at races and they become your extended family.”
Founded in the 1970s
BMX, founded in the 1970s, hit a few bumpy periods during the past five decades. Some parents may have been concerned about injuries or the cost, anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars or more for a bike.
But the pandemic that idled many team sports for a while helped boost interest in BMX racing. BMX is one of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S., with almost 2.7 million racers today – a 45% increase over the past three years, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.
The fast-paced sport has also grabbed more air time on cable networks and streaming outlets, especially on YouTube, and became an Olympic event starting in Beijing (China) in 2008. BMX also got a lift when Connor Fields of Las Vegas won the first-ever gold medal in the sport for the United States in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) in 2016.
Fields, who retired after the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, and Donny Robinson, a bronze medalist at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, have raced at Oak Creek BMX.
“It’s a very exciting sport, with explosive sprints and turns,” said Nelson, who continues to compete and trains racers in the Sacramento region. “It’s a great sport, and a better hobby.”