SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Sarasota is now home to an Olympic quality BMX track, and officials say it could be a big boon to the Tampa Bay area.
The city has had a BMX course for more than 40 years, but it was recently renovated to Olympic standards. The man who made it happen is Sarasota resident Johan Lindstrom. Lindstrom led the charge to make BMX an Olympic sport.
“I saw so much opportunities for Sarasota,” he said. “All the riders and teams that come here, they’re going to fall in love with this area.”
Lindstrom decided to crank up the city’s flourishing BMX scene. He wanted the course to be world-class.
“This was built by the same team that built the Olympic track in Rio de Janeiro,” Lindstrom said.
Once the course is finished, riders from all over the globe will be able to train and compete in Sarasota. Lindstrom said that will bring more exposure to the Tampa Bay area.
“It’s gonna bring a lot of people here,” he said.
To help test it out, Olympic athletes and BMX champions spent Friday training on it. Sarah Walker is a 2012 Olympic silver medalist. “I think the track looks awesome; I think there may be a lot of courage needed,” Walker said.
Matt Cameron, a BMX champion from New Zealand, was on hand. “Looks like it rides nice. Looks pretty impressive,” Cameron said.
About the track
The track begins with an Olympic standard starting ramp, which towers around 40 feet tall at a grade of 28 degrees.
“This is obviously not for the faint-hearted,” Lindstrom said.
Athletes will pedal down the ramp reaching speeds of around 45 miles per hour. Once they hit the hills, they’ll soar through the air at around 40 feet. It’s an adrenaline-pumping race that takes only 35 seconds to complete.
“You’re going super fast and then you have to fly through the air over this jump and yeah it is scary,” Walker said.
BMX racing is known for its crashes. “When you’re going that speed and that much risk involved its rough on the body and when you crash it hurts,” Cameron said.
Walker said she’s broken 15 bones over the course of her career. “To be fair, six of them were at one (race),” she said.
“You just accept that injuries are a part of the sport and it definitely challenges you a lot more than other sports because of that,” Walker said. “Overcoming that fear is just such a great feeling.”
The new BMX track will also be open to young riders, potentially attracting future Olympians. “We only get one chance to be an athlete and one chance to make the most of it and so you just go for it,” Walker said.