Before there was mountain biking, cross-country or downhill, freeride or fourcross, there was BMX. Small, fully rigid and fixed gear bikes that were fun to ride (short distances anyway), and lent themselves well to sculpted dirt tracks and head-to-head racing.
And now, since the 2008 Games in Beijing, it's a sport with Olympic status.
The lure of potential medals has brought a lot of new participants into the sport, but so has the fact that many of the top mountain bikers in the world have BMX in their backgrounds.
Sea to Sky, which is one of the most active biking regions in the world, has also embraced the sport. The Squamish BMX Racing Club is only a few years old, but has already expanded and improved its track adjacent to the Brennan Park Sports Centre, and is getting close to 90 riders out for its weekly points night events.
Nick Goertzen, a pro BMX rider with 10 years of experience, is looking to take things even further as he launches the Goertzen Racing Academy - a province-wide program to develop high performance BMX riders, as well as to provide cross-training to mountain bikers. He is already working with a group of 15 riders, including some locals, which are taking part in national series races across the province over the summer.
"At nationals in Canada there are three levels of teams that you can compete on," Goertzen said. "There's a trophy team, a bike shop team and a factory team. I want to have all three, and hopefully graduate a few kids to the next step - I'd like someone in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, or the Junior Olympics in 2014 depending on ages and who I can pick up."
While his goals are ambitious, Goertzen has over 10 years of experience racing professionally as a factory-sponsored rider - "one of the first from Canada to ride on a Canadian team," he said. He lived in the U.S. to be closer to training and the competition circuit, and was ranked the number one Canadian twice in the pro category of the American Bicycle Association, which is the largest pro association in the world. He was also ranked first three times in his age category, was the junior national champion and ranked #2 in North America in the UCI junior standings. The experience prompted him to launch his academy, while also hosting clinics around the Lower Mainland and in Squamish.
"During those 10 years my family, my sponsors and even the Canadian government probably spent a quarter of a million dollars on me, but in all that time there was zero direction," said Goertzen. "It was up to me to ride my bike. There was no guidance, nobody to follow - what I learned I learned from friends, or by snooping around and eavesdropping on the conversations I heard as I worked my way through the sport. It was fine, but if I had better direction how to spend that money I could have done that much more."