On Track: Olympic cyclist turns to BMX racing for something new; now recruiting more women to sport

Former Olympic cyclist Tammy Thomas was looking for something new to do in the midst of the pandemic and came across a new competitive sport. Now, she is looking for more women to join her in her di lei new sport: BMX cycling.

While she competitively raced as a professional cyclist in the past, she had taken a good 20 years off, but she was ready to get back into competing.

“I work in a bike shop and bikes have just gotten to be so expensive and we couldn’t get good quality bikes,” Thomas said. “I was walking through the shop one day, and there was this one BMX bike over there. It was just staring at me and kind of calling me. I told my boss that I thought I’d give BMX a try and now I’m hooked on it. ”

She has only been in the sport for a year but is competing at the expert level and trying to get more women to join her on the Mag Ridge BMX Park track in Ridgeland. Thomas said she knows women who would love the sport are out there but do not realize about the available opportunity.

“The local races don’t have enough women to make a class because it is myself and just one other lady,” Thomas said. “It takes three to make a class. So, we end up racing with the kids or the men, and they are usually faster than we are but sometimes we can be a good match for them. ”

Thomas and the Mag Ridge BMX team compete locally and out of state for their races. It is a lot more fun for her when they travel to out-of-state meets where there are lots of other women to compete against, she said.

“USA BMX Women have a facebook group and, every time we have an event, we take a picture of all the women that were at the race,” Thomas said. “It is a lot more fun when you have women to race with.”

Thomas said BMX can be the perfect outlet for women, and it is a family-oriented sport where their kids can be involved too.

“Women bring their kids out, and it becomes a family event, ” Thomas said. “When you were in high school, you had a sport you could do but, when you become an adult, there are fewer opportunities. This helps you mentally and with life. ”

Thomas said the track is a very encouraging environment, and they start each race with a high five in the starting gate and end the race with a fist bump at the finish line.

“Another reason for women to get involved is there are women helping other women,” Thomas said. “It is women encouraging other women to better themselves. It is just so fun and a fun environment. ”

While Thomas spent many years competing in different types of cycling races, she said she rarely even bikes outside of BMX cycling now. She said BMX always has people around, is a short race lasting anywhere from 20 to 40 seconds, and it is more exciting.

“The fact that it is so fast, you get to meet people and you cheer for people and people cheer for you,” Thomas said. “It is more of a family community, and it is more fun than I had competing in the other types of cycling.”

She also said the sport does not have an age limit and is welcoming to everyone. At 52, she is one of the oldest competing in Ridgeland, but there is a wide range of ages on the track.

“They start the little ones at age three on the striders and then they go all the way up,” Thomas said. “There is no limit. Nationwide, there are women that are 65 years old that are doing this. ”

While there are benefits for when a child starts at three years old, you can still develop the skills and speed later in life.

“It is not a barrier if you can’t start when you’re young because there are plenty of girls out there that don’t start until later,” Thomas said. “Age isn’t a barrier.”

Thomas said BMX has taught her resilience because there are good rides and there are bad rides.

“You are constantly working to improve yourself, improve your skill set, and improve your speed,” Thomas said. “It is one of those things where hard work pays off. All the people out there are going to encourage you. ”

Thomas said she just wishes they could find more women to come be a part of that encouraging environment in Ridgeland because, as the only two women, it can be a bit lonely in their local competitions.

“We just feel lonely out there,” Thomas said. “We were in Monroe, and there were all these women from this one track in Texas. They get to race together, train together, encourage each other, and it is different when you’re an adult doing a sport like BMX because you’re older and can get achey. Women just have more stories to share. ”

Thomas said being in sports has made her a better person.

“I am more grounded when I have sports in my life,” Thomas said. “I’m a Christian above that, but God has given me the athletic ability to be an athlete. Sports have impacted my life because it gives me the ability to be who God created me to be and for Him to shine through me. It keeps me grounded. ”

Anyone can come to the Ridgeland track at any time located at 344 Old Town Crossing. Practices are every Tuesday and Thursday from 5 to 8 pm, and local races are Saturdays from 6 to 7:30 pm Mag Ridge BMX offers a one day free trial where you can check out a bike and helmet and test out the sport.

“It is open to everyone,” Thomas said. “You just come out and try it to see if you like it.”

For more information on Mag Ridge BMX Park and membership, visit https://www.usabmx.com/tracks/1782.

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