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Gainesville's Byers grateful for trip to motocross nationals

POSTED: August 5, 2014 7:39 p.m.
Courtesy of Mike Byers | For The Times/

Mike Byers of Gainesville was among 1,400 competitors who competed in the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., last week.

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For Mike Byers, the road to the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship began with a decision made with his wife, Julie, on a beach in Mexico in the summer of 2013.

He had been back in motocross racing since 2007, but they decided a year ago that he would raise his preparation level with the goal of reaching nationals. This year, the 50-year-old from Gainesville made that dream a reality.

“Anybody can ride motorcycles,” Mike Byers said. “But it takes a significant amount of effort to ride well.”

So Byers committed himself to eating well, working out more and racing more. It was all with an eye toward qualifying for nationals, where he competed last week at the Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.

“You want to be healthy to be able to be fast for the whole race,” Byers said.

While he points to the summer of 2013 as an important moment in reaching nationals, his passion for the sport goes much further back. He rode dirt bikes in the 1970s.

“The natural progression was to get into a competitive mode,” Byers said.

Byers began racing in 1976 and was in the sport for five years before a near-fatal accident caused him to stop racing in 1981. Then, with a family and kids, motocross wasn’t a priority.

But he decided to start riding again in 2005 or 2006 and got back into racing in 2007.

“If you’ve ever done it, you can’t get it out of your system,” Byers said.

The sport is such an exciting outlet for him that it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite part of it. He enjoys starts, making jumps, corners, everything about motocross.

“Sometimes it’s the sound,” he said. “Sometimes it’s the smell.”

His increased efforts in 2014 included mountain biking with friends and racing on most weekends. He pointed to the support of his wife, plus those who helped him with his bike or a place to ride and friends who rode with him as crucial in being among the 1,400 nationals participants. He was in the Masters 50+ division in Tennessee.

“There’s a dozen people that help people get anywhere and do anything,” Byers said.

He crashed on his first lap and wasn’t able to finish.

“It’s disappointing because a lot of people put a lot into it,” Byers said. “But it happens.”

The finish isn’t what he will remember about being at the Loretta Lynn Ranch. He’ll recall being among the nation’s best and being in person at a place he previously only saw in pictures and YouTube videos.

“It’s a big deal just to get there,” Byers said. “There have been so many fast guys on that track. As a racer, you appreciate that hallowed ground.”


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