Sugar Creek BMX biker on path to 2016 Olympics
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SUGAR CREEK TOWNSHIP Robert Redford may have been “The Natural” when it comes to hitting a baseball.
But when it comes to speeding down and flying over ramps, buzzing around hairpin turns and avoiding several other cyclists while doing it, there’s at least one person who knows that Ryan Zinzow is a natural on 20-inch wheels.
(Read all of this week's stories from Walworth County Sunday HERE. )
“He’s so fast, and he doesn’t even have to train much to be successful and win,” said Erica Zinzow, 27, Ryan’s sister and one of his biggest fans. “But he’s still young and likes to enjoy life.”
She may be biased, but Erica Zinzow also knows what she’s talking about, because she competed in BMX, or bicycle motocross, for 18 years before “retiring” four years ago. Their older brother, 31-year-old Nathan, participated for many years and recently returned to serious action. And the bicycle racing bloodlines started with their father, Michael, who died six years ago.
But Ryan, 15, is the star of the family and could reach one of the pinnacles of BMX racers -- the Olympic games. For now, he is trying not to put too much pressure on himself while keeping that goal on the horizon.
“They might not even have BMX in the Olympics after 2016, and it’s really difficult,” the sophomore-to-be at Elkhorn Area High School said. “They pick one person from the World Championships, the person who won the race at the Olympic center in California and then a coaches’ pick. But I’d like to make the 2016 Olympic long team, which is made up of eight people who qualify for the trials.”
Zinzow recently returned from the Olympic training center, where he spent time learning about nutrition and weight training while getting used to the atmosphere and shear size of a much bigger track than the one on which he normally displays his talents.
“We didn’t spend much time training, it was mostly riding and getting comfortable on the bigger track,” said Zinzow, who rides for the Answer-Ssquared team that features members from Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri. “Olympic supercross is a whole different kind of race and different lifestyle. The track there is a replica of what they had in Beijing (in 2008) and will use this year in London. It’s a lot higher, bigger and harder than our usual races.”
Zinzow isn’t worried about that right now. After all, he doesn’t have time. He competed in Birmingham, England, in May. This weekend he was racing in Pennsylvania. He will skip a week and then head to Nebraska, followed by Kentucky … and the beat goes on for the slick-riding Zinzow, who continues to maintain a rigorous schedule despite banged-up knees.
That’s pretty impressive considering he also gave up the sport for two years before getting the itch again in June 2010.
“I don’t know, I just got out of it, and we didn’t have the money,” said Zinzow, who started at age 4. “But my brother got me a new bike for Christmas, and that helped me want to get back into it. But I’ve learned so much that now I’m teaching my brother stuff. But it’ll be nice to be able to ride together again.”
And he doesn’t envision his passion for the competition waning anytime soon, especially after he recently defeated four-time world champion Collin Hudson of Colorado at Zinzow’s home track in Rockford.
Zinzow said being successful at BMX racing means a lot of things must come together on the track.
“I try not to think too much, I just ride,” said Zinzow, who also admits that he crashes a lot. “I always ride to go for the win, but you still need to be aware of what’s going on around you because another biker can come out of nowhere.”
The Lauderdale Lakes area resident likes all of the extreme sports such as wake boarding and snow boarding and skiing and loves to be on the lake. However, he can’t shake the thrill of being on two wheels despite the ups and downs of such a hectic lifestyle.
“Sometimes all of the traveling gets boring and I just want to take a break,” Zinzow said. “Sometimes I think about giving it up, but not right now. I’m 15 and traveling around the country and the world. I’m living a dream.”
And it could be an Olympic dream, naturally.