Every year during the Thanksgiving holiday week, hundreds of families gather in Gainesville, Florida for one of the largest week-long amateur national events. Welcome to Gatorback Cycle Park. This is home to the 39th annual Winter Olympics, presented by Pro Circuit and hosted by Thor Motocross.
For the last four decades, many dirt bike racing superstars have come up through the ranks here: Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart and Davi Millsaps just to name a few, not to mention current Supercross and AMA Motocross young guns Dean Wilson, Blake Wharton and ‘10 Australian MX Champ PJ Larsen, who just graduated from the amateur series last year.
With Black Friday, busy airports, delayed flights and family gatherings, many parents have come here to help their child capture a piece of the dream by getting out front in hopes of landing a factory ride.
At Gatorback you won’t see your typical weekend warrior with their flat-brimmed Metal Mulisha hat, showing up at the track with their bike in the back of a lifted pick-up truck. Many families have sacrificed their homes and jobs to get to this level of competition. Typical race set-ups range from beat-up toy haulers to shiny half-million dollar motorhomes.
Occasionally, you’ll see a diehard racer showing up with his bike in the back of the car, partially disassembled just so it fits in the backseat! These are the people who sell the gear they rode in just to get some gas money to make it home. It’s here where champions are groomed as well as the place where an amateur rider’s dream may become a reality – or come to a grinding halt.
Practice started on Monday, November 21 and headed straight to racing on Tuesday. All age groups participated, including young kids all the way up to adult riders in their 30s and 40s. Many riders who have competed throughout the years return to where they started to help their own kids and partake in the action.
Tuesday started off with Supercross heats and all of the riders brought their A-game. The majority of the first motos looked like main events – everyone was battling that hard! Riders have patiently practiced and trained for months to unleash their skills out on the track. Everything from perfect holeshots and podium finishes to DNF’s and broken bones are things you’ll see at the Mini-O’s.
The Supercross event runs through Wednesday and then transitions over to the motocross portion. There is a full-sized outdoor MX track for these athletes to compete on. To have both styles of riding in one place is a great way to see all the riders’ potential, and Gatorback is the only event that offers this. You’ll see where athletes are strong and who is in need of more work as quite often the track will catch racers off guard.
A few up-and-comers to look out for in the next few months are Justin Bogle, Jace Owen, Justin Starling and Cole Thompson. These guys left with a number of national titles along with proud parents and the satisfaction of knowing all their hard work paid off. This, in essence, is what keeps these families coming back for more. Chasing the dream and working hard for that taste of podium glory.
For information on this event and results visit: