THERE WERE stupendous high jumps, crafty tricks and superb bunny hops as talented BMX riders from across the South West gave it their all in Saturday's Triple Crown BMX jam at Newton Abbot's Pro Cycle Centre…
It may have been billed as a "fun event", but the competition was intense on the Centre's tight indoor ramp set-up, towards the rear of the main shop.
Two riders eventually emerged victorious. Robert Tyrrrell, 12, from Churston near Brixham, took the honours in the 12-15 category, while Jay Cowley, 23, from Tiverton, took the over-16s prize.
The event was judged on three disciplines – best bunny hop, highest box jump and best trick. The box jump – a short sprint down a 30ft slope, up another slope and then jumping over an increasing height bar – was particularly difficult.
"It was hard," said Robert. "You're at the top of the ramp and everybody's cheering for you. The pressure's on. And then you take a deep breath and you go! As soon as you leave, you put both feet up on the pedals and start riding. Your belly starts dropping, but you've just got to do it! You jump it, and hopefully you get over it. It's just so scary!"
Jay Cowley, the over-16s winner, agreed the box jump was the toughest discipline.
"Definitely the hardest," he said. "Just the problem of the distance you have from the start to the jump itself to get the momentum, the speed, to cover the height. It's a great feeling, just hurling yourself in the air, really fun!"
The Triple Crown jam was Robert's first proper competition.
"I've wanted to do BMX since I ever learnt to ride a bike," he said. "I just loved BMX-ing when I was young. And then I got my first real bike, started riding it, and then I'd go down to the skate park and watch all the pros and then I just wanted to be like them, and that's how I've got into it.
"The Pro Cycle Centre is quite good, especially how they've got a shop and a skate park. They do training, which I'm going to, and they really help you and can tell you what you need, especially when they've got pro-BMXers there, like Kye Forte and Darren Tottman. They've helped me out loads and they've got me a lot better."
Launched last April, the Pro Cycle Centre claims it's the only bike retailer in Newton Abbot that "offers a unique experience and an array of services for all ages and abilities". Fronted by pro BMXer Kye Forte, the management team includes Kye's business partner Rob Taylor and his wife Nikki.
"We've trying to push a sport that is not that well known," said Nikki. "Today's jam event was to inspire young people. We've got some of the top UK riders here today – some big role models – which is inspiring a new generation into a sport that's cool to do, and also a sport that will give them bike management for the future, such as cycling on the road."
Over-16s winner Jay Cowley agreed.
"It's all about inspiring a new generation of people and teaching young kids the right thing," he said. "To actually use the bike for what it's meant to do and to keep them out of trouble and also learning new skills. It's definitely about inspiring younger and new people."
"There's a big scene in Newton Abbot for BMX stunts, which a lot of people don't know about," said Nikki. "It's getting kids out of their houses and getting them active, getting them off their computer games… and there's a good culture with helmet wearing as well. It's well enforced by the older ones for the younger ones to follow.
"The Pro Cycle Centre is not just a bike shop. It's unique," said Nikki. "We hold coaching sessions with Kye, one on one, so it's a bit like professional golf. You can be taught by the best. We also host evenings for schools, Cubs and Scouts. The Scouts have an extreme sports badge. Kye works with the Scouts to get the criteria and agenda together, and they go through bike maintenance with the mechanic here. They get their badges from one evening at the Centre. Month by month it's getting bigger and bigger and there's more things that we're offering because of the demand."
"Fun little warm-up"
What did winning the jam mean for over-16s winner Jay? "I do quite a few competitions throughout the year, displays, bigger events and so on. Today's jam was a good fun little warm-up – meeting people you usually only get to see at competitions."
What did he think of the event?
"Overall it was a good vibe. Everyone was nice there. You go to some competitions and jams, and people are a bit cliquey, and they can get a bit argumentative, but this was really good, chilled, just everyone there for the right reason and having fun."
And what did 12-15 year old winner Robert think of the whole day?
"It was a really good event," he said. "Lots of different things to enter in. My friends all thought it was a really good day. So much fun and a great atmosphere too!"
More pictures: Triple Crown BMX jam at Newton Abbot's Pro Cycle Centre