His time is almost here
By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
OFF ROUTE 481 -- The view is spectacular from the back of Troy Adams' red Chevy pickup truck. Wispy white clouds, striking deep blue sky. On a clear day, you can see the future.
It might not seem like much, this 54-acre chunk of southern Citrus County, but it could be the last waypoint before Adams achieves what he has chased for several years of his young but fast-paced life.
Sitting on the edge of his truck bed, pulling on heavy protective boots and a gaudy riding suit, he's almost ready for a morning's worth of work/practice/play. If the 19-year-old Brooksville native is to become an icon on the professional Supercross and motocross circuits, it'll all start here, one lap, one jump, one tank of gas at a time.
"There's not a lot of time to think," he said. "It's all about quick reactions at this pace."
Adams guns his Yamaha YZ 250 over a steep hill, launching his body 20 feet into the air. After a soft touchdown and a sharp left turn, he guns the bike toward the back side of the track for another of his endless morning revolutions. With each lap, he pictures himself either in the middle of a 15-lap Supercross competition or enduring a 30-minute-plus-two-lap motocross race.
The real thing is coming soon. In a few months, he will be in California, the undisputed center of the motocross industry, beginning his first full professional season as a member of Team Moto XXX/Yoshimura. No more slogging around the country, his bike mounted on the back of the family Chevy. Now his bikes will roll into town in the team 18-wheeler. He and his teammates will fly in.
The opportunity has been earned through his amateur success. When the 16-week stadium and arena Supercross and 13-round motocross seasons begin in January, it's up to him to prove he's a worthy professional.
His riding counterparts believe.
"Troy has an awful lot of talent," said Inverness' Donnie McGourty, 18, whose family owns a Citrus County course.
'He's on his way.'
Adams began as humbly as most of the rural kids who plead for a mini-bike. With encouragement from his father's cousin, Gregory Adams, he got his first bike -- a Kawasaki KDX 80 -- when he was about 10
"It started out as just a fun thing to do," Adams said. "It wasn't until I got to be about 13 that I really started getting serious about it and we saw we might actually be able to go somewhere with it."
Troy, and his father, Mike, and mother, Barbara, owners of a Brooksville nursery, went everywhere in the family Chevy truck: north, south, east and far west, wherever there was competition for a young motocrosser.
"This past year we went to all the races, and driving the truck from California to New York was real hard," he said. "At the end of it, we were just trying to break even and pay for gas."
Adams' parents plan to fly to California for his races, and he can ship them first class if he thrives in the super-competitive pro circuit. Adams became a national prospect with his prowess in the Pro/Am division, winning the Florida Winter Am championship and qualifying for the Amateur National Championships, but the challenge and reward is much greater at the top.
Hold your own and you could earn hundreds of thousands of dollars. Excel like AMA motocross champion Ricky Carmichael or Supercross legend Jeremy McGrath, and it gets even better: millions of dollars, huge sponsorships, your face on t-shirts, maybe even a video game.
"Being in an amateur helps you get there," Adams said. "But pro is where you make a name for yourself."
Motocross racers do not want to be known as lunatics, though being a bit fearless helps. Toughness is an asset, too. Adams missed part of his 1999 season after he tore an anterior cruciate ligament in a spill. McGourty celebrated three injuries that scuttled his 2001 season by placing X-rays and arthroscopic photos of his broken collar bone, ankle and surgically repaired ACL on his website.
"I kind of look at it as, you can get hurt crossing the street," Adams said. "I might as well do what I love to do."
Despite the daredevil image, motocrossers do not necessarily lean toward suicidal thrill-seeking, Adams said.
"I played a little football when I was a kid," he said. "Other than that, the only thing I've done is motocross. I see people jumping out of airplanes and I'm saying. "You're not getting me up there."'
Dick Clark, the father of 15-year-old Floral City motocrosser D.C. Clark, spends his mornings tinkering with the bikes as Adams and his partners -- Clark and 17-year-old Sarasota native Dan Truman this day -- muster their body armor. He never worried about putting his son on a bike -- "The worry comes when they start going fast" -- and supports D.C. despite a series of injuries that cost him much of last season.
"When they get a little older you lose the fear," he said. "These are pretty serious and focused guys to be doing this."
They have to be. To facilitate his travel schedule on the Pro/Am circuit, the last stop before the top echelon of competition, McGourty is earning his high school degree from an online homeschooling program. Adams graduated from Hernando High with honors.
After all the sacrifice, training and expense needed to get close to the professional circuit, doing something stupid, ruining a career with a stunt, just does not make sense.
There are parts of being a normal teenager that are missed, but they're ultimately worth it, Truman said.
"It all pays off," he said. "We have friends all over the world. Not too many kids our age can say that."
No one can truly understand the fear-tinged rush of making a huge Supercross jump until they do it for the first time. After a while, it's no big deal at all.
With just two months until his jump into the professional circuit, Adams plans to take it just like a big hill on this patch of land off Route 481.
"There's no time to focus on anything else," he said. "You just focus on what's in front of you."
TROY KENNETH ADAMS
BORN: Feb. 19, 1983.
EDUCATION: Graduated from Hernando High.
Overall champion of Florida Winter Am Series four-stroke class (16-24 age class), second in 250 A Class, second in 125 A Class.
Advanced to third round of EA Sports Supercross Series in Atlanta, qualified for main event, place 14th in 125 class.
Won 250 A class title at GNC Championships.
Overall champ in 125 and 250 A Class at Southeast Regional Qualifier for Loretta Lynn's National Championships.
Won 125 A, 250 A and 250 A Pro sport classes, second in 125 A Pro sport class at the Regional Qualifier for Loretta Lynn's.
Third overall in 125 Pro and 250 Pro classes at Winter Am Series.
What is motocross?
Motocross is racing a specially designed motorcycle on a closed course, consisting of a variety of terrains; uphill, downhill, corners, jumps, etc., with the purpose of being the first to complete the prescribed amount of laps. Classes include 125 (cc) and 250. Supercross involves bigger hills and higher jumps.
MOTO: Amount of time of each race.
BERM: Dirt pushed up on the outside of a corner used to accelerate through the corner.
DOUBLE JUMP: Two separate jumps made in one jump.
TRIPLE JUMP: Three jumps made in one jump.
TABLE TOP: Jump on one side, flat on top, and land on downside.
HOLESHOT: Term used at the beginning of race to determine who gets to first turn first.
STEP-UP: Two jumps going uphill that one makes in one jump.
WHOOP-DE-DO'S: Consecutive small jumps or bumps on a straightaway.
OFF CAMBER: A corner or straight on a hill.
-- Source: village.walton.on.ca/transcan/about.htm.
North Suncoast: A motocross hotbed
Just below the surface of the North Suncoast's collective awareness is a prospering sub-culture of aspiring pro motocross racers. Maybe no one notices because the sport, though tremendously popular as a recreational activity in the area's backwoods, is not widely known as a spectator sport. Maybe it's because competitors are often old men by 30, and no one pays attention to teenagers unless they're causing trouble.
Either way, Hernando, Citrus and Pasco counties are pound-for-pound powers in the motocross universe.
Timmy Ferry, a former American Motorcyclist Association Rookie of the Year, lives in Dade City and opens his personal training track to hopefuls such as Troy Adams, Floral City's D.C. Clark, 15, and Inverness' Donnie McGourty, 18, whose family owns the sandy piece of Citrus County they paid nearly $20,000 to have chiseled into motocross and Supermotocross courses.
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