BMX offers thrills and spills for all the family
USUALLY it is parents who inspire their children to get involved in sport.
In the brutal and barmy world of BMX racing, sometimes it is the other way around.
There was fun for all the family as Bideford Bombers hosted the 2012 South West Championships on Sunday.
Seven weeks after the Olympic Games and enthusiasm for the sport was still soaring at a windswept Pollyfield.
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A field of 267 riders turned out and it was not just the youngsters who were flying over the berms.
Becca Gohl only took up BMX racing this year after her sons Troy and Flynn Elworthy started training at the East-the-Water track.
Now she is a regional champion, providing a popular victory for the host club in the ladies' over-30 category.
"My two boys started in June," said Becca. "I started messing about on Flynn's bike. I thought, 'While I'm sitting here I might as well have a go'.
"I have always been a bit competitive.The first race I did down here I fell off because I was trying to go too fast. Today was better – I didn't crash."
As a former equestrian eventer, Becca is used to sports where a slight error can bring a spectacular fall.
Racing on a cruiser for the first time, she saw off the challenge of far more experienced competitors.
Finishing 2012 as South West champion is even more impressive considering her start to the year.
"I had a knee operation in January and they told me I could do some cycling to rebuild the muscle," said Becca. "I don't think they meant this."
It was a fine day for the family with Troy winning the boys' 10 to 12 novice title and Flynn, having played rugby for Barnstaple in the morning, winning the 13 to 15 B final.
For Richard Chapple – Bideford's new South West champion in the men's 30 to 34 category – there has been a resurgent return.
Having spent ten years on the circuit, he made a comeback last season after a nine-year absence.
"My little girl, Leah, rides and she brought me back into it," said Richard, 31. "She used to watch my old videos and say, 'Can I do that?'
"I have got a little boy, seven months old, and hopefully he will be into it as well. He's been to every race this year.
"My missus says, 'What happens if he wants to do something else?' I say, 'That's not an option'."
Leah finished second in the girls' 9 to 10 final to keep up the family's success.
Sponsored by Southfork and Rogue State, Richard hopes to have a serious attempt at winning national honours next season.
After 26 races this year, he finished sixth at the nationals – despite spending time on crutches after crashing in training.
Accidents are just part of the game. Crashes came with smiles among the hundreds taking part on Bideford's Olympic-size track.
Thanks to chairman Justin Gatting and a large group of volunteers, the Bombers put on a top show.
Supporters lining the track clearly enjoyed watching competitors tearing over the juddering jumps.
Richard believes the sport's recent exposure at the Olympics has given it new credibility.
"I'd book time off work to go racing and they would say, 'Are you off to play on your little bike'?" he said. "The Olympics has changed their opinion."
At the age of 6, Kolby Ellis is one of Bideford's youngest members and has been inspired by watching Great Britain's Liam Phillips.
Kolby first tried BMXing on holiday and, after a trip to the Tiverton track, has been racing since February.
Advice from his dad Mark to "go in low and come out high" on the tight corners obviously did the trick.
In the 7 to 9 age group, Kolby claimed second, first and second in the motos. After another second place in the semi-final, he took third in the final against boys up to three years older.
Another Bideford rider, Eddy Little had a brilliant day, dominating his races from the front to win the category.
Sam Hommell, 27, was a year younger than Kolby when he first got on a BMX 22 years ago.
His passion for racing started at the age of 5 when he saw riders training at a club in Barnstaple.
Sam's mum Val Hommell said: "We were on the Tarka Trail one day, he could see them at the club and he said, 'Mummy I'd like to do that'."
"I'm still waiting to be mum of the British champion."
Sam went close a couple of weeks ago, finishing sixth at Cheddar in Somerset. And the Braunton BMX Club member produced another classy display to win the men's 25 to 29 category on Sunday.
Val got into the sport to help out behind the scenes and was part of the judging team on the finishing line.
Regardless of results, hundreds of kids from across the South West relished the rough-and-tumble racing.
"It keeps them off the streets," said Val. "Because they are busy doing their training, they haven't got time to be thugs. This is a fantastic sport for families."