A primer for the uninitiated: BMX, short for bicycle motocross, is a sport in which bikers ride around a course with various hills and ramps. It was invented in the late ’60s in southern California as a form of motocross for younger riders (motocross competitors ride motorcycles; BMX-ers ride pedal-powered sport bikes.)
The sport has become particularly popular in NoVA, so much so that in 1997 Prince William County got a BMX course of its own in Woodbridge. (The commonwealth is home to four other tracks in Dinwiddie, Hampton, Richmond and Winchester.) After an initial peak immediately after the track’s opening, interest in the sport began to wane in the 2000s. But since BMX was made an Olympic sport in 2008, the track’s seen an uptick; its riders have tripled from last year, says Northern Virginia BMX track operator Fredy Caceres.
Part of its popularity is its accessibility.
“BMX is for anybody. There’s no actual coach, no proper way of doing it. It’s basically a self-taught sport,” Caceres says.
This month, the track will host the 2016 USA BMX Stars and Stripes National Tournament, part of a national championship series. The qualifiers of the race will also qualify for the Olympics.
Americans have done well in the short time BMX has been an official sport: California’s Mike Day took home silver in the first year BMX was added to the Olympics eight years ago, and fellow Golden State native Donny Robinson came in third.
“This is first time we’ve hosted anything quite like this—it’s pretty exciting,” says Nicole Warner of Discover Prince William and Manassas.
Organizers expect the race to be a boon to the local economy with an increase in business for local hotels.
“On average, the economic impact is … at least $1 million,” says USA BMX CMO Nick Adams. He estimates between 1,000 and 1,500 riders will compete in the event. And Warner expects roughly 5,000 room nights will be booked for the weekend.
“[The competitors] are going to bring their families with them, so there will be a lot of people descending upon the community for the event,” Adams says.
2016 USA BMX Stars and Stripes National Tournament July 1-3.