Tuesday, June 27, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Local BMXer ranked No. 9

Leader sports editor

Coming up July 22, local circuit BMX rider Ian McCauley will compete for Team USA in the Union Cyclist International World Championships.

The 14-year old from North Little Rock competes nearly every weekend at the two central Arkansas tracks at Burns Park and in Cabot, and he has become one of the top Expert level Cruiser Division riders in the nation in his age group.

McCauley is currently ranked No. 9 in the nation in the BMX USA rankings, but it was his performance at the UCI nationals in Austin, Texas that earned him a spot on Team USA for the upcoming world event.

BMX USA is a national circuit that only includes BMX racing. UCI, which really stands for Union Cycliste Internationale, is the world governing body for all cycling sports, and oversees international competitive cycling events.

McCauley started BMX racing when he was just seven years old, drawn to it as a grade-school passer-by on the way to a soccer game.

“We drove by the Banzai track at Burns Park,” McCauley said. “I was playing soccer at the time and we were going to a game, and I saw them out there. I toldmom I wanted to try this out. It was on a Sunday, the day I turned seven, was my first time. That’s how it got started. I played baseball, too. After that first year, they (parents Rob and Shonda McCauley) told me I had to choose one. I loved BMX so that’s what I did.”

He wasn’t immediately great. There were no major accolades the first few years. At age 10 he tried the Cruiser Division for the first time, which is a 24-inch bicycle, as opposed to the typical 20-inch BMX bike. His first year competing in the Cruiser class, he finished the season as No. 11 in the central Arkansas division.

His second year, he was No. 1, and has, aside from one season of limited competition, stayed there.

He also competes on the 20-inch class, and is currently rated No. 1 in the district on both bikes, but he has excelled nationally on the cruiser. He has won the state championship five years running on the 24-inch bike, and is a two-time defending state champ on the 20-inch.

He caught the fever in earnest in 2011 when he went to Nashville for nationals and took second place in the 9-year-old division.

After several years of finishing no higher than fifth in the Cruiser Division, McCauley led the field after the first day of competition at the 2016 nationals in Kentucky. He made a tactical error on a tight final turn, and was undercut by a competitor he thought was further behind, and had to settle for second place in the finals.

“It was a super tight turn and I had seen a lot of guys run smack into the wall,” McCauley said. “So just based on the first day and how far out ahead I was, I took it really easy in that last turn and kind of went about midway up, and this kid cut under me. So I’m really hoping to do well and win this year.”

That was on the BMX circuit, which will host Regionals in September and the 2017 Grand Nationals this November in Tulsa.

McCauley has always been a dedicated competitor, going to nearly every practice session at the NLR and Cabot tracks every Tuesday and Thursday, as well as competing every Friday and Sunday in NLR, and every Saturday at Cabot.

But since his performance in Nashville, he has begun working on improving outside of the track as well.

“J.J. Grieve has been helping with getting stronger,” McCauley said. “He had been helping me with my gates and stuff. But since this past January or February, he’s been helping me with lifting, strength and conditioning type stuff.”

Another thing that McCauley likes about BMX racing is that it is open to anyone. There is a 3-year-old in central Arkansas who has been competing for a year and a half. The oldest competitor he’s seen was 80.

“I like how open it is,” McCauley said. “Anybody can race, even if it’s on a push bike. You have novice and intermediate levels as well so you’re not competing with really experienced riders when you start. It’s a pretty good set up.”

Weather permitting, McCauley will be on the Banzai and Cabot tracks this weekend, with his eye on Rock Hill and Tulsa.

“I just hope I do good,” McCauley said.