In only three years, Amanda Geving has become one of the nation's best on the BMX circuit.
By JOHN SCHWARB
© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 18, 2001
One item stops young boys and starts them chatting at the local bike shop. It's not the newest model, a sharp racing outfit or a piece of memorabilia from Lance Armstrong.
It's ... Amanda's bike.
The boys know it well. They catch the rear view of it on Saturday nights.
Amanda Geving is just 12 years old, but in the sport of BMX bike racing, she is a giant. In just three years, the Largo resident has taken up the sport from scratch and become one of the top riders in the nation.
"She just blows me away," said Ted Potyka, who services Geving's bikes out of Trail Sports bike shop in Seminole. "She can hold her own even amongst the young men.
"The boys that come in here, they recognize her bike. And that tells you something."
Distracted one day from her Azalea soccer practice, Geving noticed the action at the nearby BMX track and found a sport she just had to try.
BMX racing is much different from velodrome racing or Tour de France-type cycling. Tracks are by design bumpy, and many include jumps that can send riders several feet into the air.
More than a little elbowing and jostling for position also can occur while riders fight for track position on a 1,500-foot circuit -- all while maintaining speed.
It is usually the domain of fearless boys. But at many tracks around Florida and other parts of the country, girls are making their mark. Including one with long, sandy-blond hair that flows freely from her helmet.
"I always liked bicycles, and I liked that you could jump," Geving said of her initial impressions of BMX. "So I went to try it."
Like most youngsters' first forays into a new sport, Geving struggled for a while. Accidents, a part of life for even the most experienced riders, were frequent for the novice. Scraped elbows would not heal as she landed on them over and over again. That is, until she fractured a wrist while trying to break a fall. With six weeks off of a bike, everything healed.
"I wasn't there when she broke her wrist, so that was really good," said Sandy Geving, Amanda's mother. "It makes me nervous every time she goes out there, but she knows what she's doing."
At Azalea's Saturday night races, she had to compete with boys because there weren't enough girls to fill a race. The experienced boys beat her. And the best girl out there, Amanda Gremal of Clearwater, had no interest in letting the new kid on the track pick up wins at her expense.
But that soon changed.
"She would never let me win to get some points (for state rankings)," Geving said. "But once I started beating her, then I never let her win. It was actually a good thing that she never let me win because it made me strive to be No. 1."
BMX racing has multiple governing bodies and competition all over the country, leaving the Geving family busy nearly year-round. Last month, they were in Kentucky for the world championships (Geving placed fifth), and two weeks after that, they attended a state competition in Dade City.
Later this month, they'll head to Michigan and back to Kentucky for national events, including the national championships in Louisville.
It's an expensive sport (Bill Geving, Amanda's father, said they can spend as much as $1,000 over a weekend), but Geving is starting to get attention from sponsors who yearn to have her on their BMX teams. The incentives include bikes, uniforms and travel.
Geving is proving to be worth the help. Currently, she holds several top-three rankings, including a No. 2 national ranking on the sport's primary 20-inch bike (measured by wheel diameter) and a No. 1 state ranking on the 24-inch, or "cruiser," bike.
Among 12-year-olds today, there are few boys, much less girls, who can beat her. Geving rarely notices, though.
"I just go out there and try to win," she said. "But sometimes, you can hear some boys whispering that they're not going to get any competition, and then we go out and beat them."
Winning drives Geving off the bike as well. At Madeira Beach Middle School, she is an A student and also has excelled as a miler on the track team. And she still plays soccer when she can.
Geving and her parents even talk about tackling another sport if she can attain No. 1 rankings on the national and world level, but she is not quite there yet.
At her rate, however, that is not likely far off. After all, her bike even earns respect on the mechanic's table at the shop.
The term "BMX" has evolved into a catch-all term for a bicycle used for stunts and off-road riding and racing. BMX bikes are generally smaller than road bicycles, with most having a wheel diameter of 20 inches (in racing circuits, there also are divisions for 24-inch, or "cruiser," bikes). Single-gear bikes work best in competition, and brakes are on the rear wheel only.
The National Bicycle League is the primary governing body of BMX racing, and its races are grouped by age. Males are divided into divisions based on ability (beginner, novice, expert). Females are not. Females generally do not race with males as long as enough females are entered in a competition. Another group, the American Bicycle Association, holds age-group races where males and females compete with each other.
BMX tracks can vary greatly in type of surface and number of hills, but none are longer than 1,500 feet.