BMX track in Meath to set fans' hearts racing
DUST DOWN the Raleigh Burner and get the helmet and padded race suit out; after a break of more than 20 years, BMX racing is back in the Republic.
This weekend racers from four to 50 will be “catching backside” and “popping doubles” with gusto on the new BMX track in Ratoath, Co Meath.
The brainchild of Eamonn Wyer and Stephen McNally, two Irish former professionals from the 1980s, the new track will play host to more than 200 riders tomorrow for what Wyer says are the first BMX races in the Republic “since around 1986”.
“It seems to have just become cool again,” he says.
“There’s massive interest now from guys who raced years ago and young kids coming at it the first time around.
“We’ve had four-year-olds out here on the track and they can really get around it. Some of them are quite good.” The ambitious project boasts a tarmac and stone surface all-weather track, which is fully drained and constructed to best-practice BMX racing standards.
The fast undulating run takes about 40 seconds to race down and is floodlit so midweek evening race meetings will be facilitated.
After establishing contact again on social networking sites, a group of racers who knew each other through the Irish scene of the 1980s met up for a reunion in Dublin two years ago and decided to try to breathe some life into the sport again.
McNally (45), a systems analyst who lives in Ratoath, raced at professional Superclass level in his teens and early 20s.
He has been one of the main drivers of the new track, securing land to build it from local people. With the help of the others who teamed up to form Ratoath BMX Club, he gathered the money needed to build the track from public donations and modest funding from Meath County Council.
The racing tomorrow will afford all entrants at least three races, with a points tally from these deciding what riders progress to a semi-final and final in their age groups.
There will also be open races for riders of all ages to race against a number of Irish and British professionals travelling from the UK for the event.
Wyer (43), an engineer from Rathfarnham in Dublin, strongly believes the inclusion of BMX in the Olympics is ripe for exploitation by Ireland’s national sporting bodies.
“We have always been good at this. It’s not like winning a gold medal in the 100 metres sprint in running, where you literally have to be genetically geared to winning and then your country has to spend million upon millions on developing a scene.
“All we need is a bit of support,” he said.
Liam Collins, a Limerick man and cycling entrepreneur, is similarly convinced that BMX could be developed very quickly here to a world-class standard.
He runs the “Safer Cycling” company that teaches cycling safety in schools and owns the Cycling Pursuits bike shop. He has also just completed Ireland’s only indoor BMX track at a warehouse he is leasing in Cherry Orchard in west Dublin.
“For parents who have kids that want to get into cycling, doing road racing on the open roads might seem dangerous to them. With the new BMX track, it’s obviously indoors and we’re going to train kids to ride it and we even hire out bikes and other gear. We’re going to start with Friday night racing and then expand it. We think it will also be popular as a birthday party venue as well. I think the BMX scene is about to take off, I really do.”