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Rodeo riders get their motors runnin’

Motorcycle event closes out games

POSTED: June 26, 2008 5:00 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Mike Free of the Hall County Sheriff's Office works his way through the course during Saturday's motorcycle rodeo portion of the Georgia Police and Fire Games.

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Hall County Sheriff’s Deputy Rodney Watts made steering a 1,000-pound chrome and steel beast through hairpin-tight turns look easy Saturday.

It wasn’t until others tried maneuvering their bikes in pylon courses with names like "snowman," "crop circles" and "the Tulsa turnaround," and either stalled out, dropped to the asphalt or knocked over cones, that the difficulty of the Georgia Police & Fire Games’ motorcycle rodeo became evident.

"My heart’s still in my throat," Watts said, after winning the gold in his Harley-Davidson Electra Glide division for the second-straight year. "I was just trying to stay clean. It’s all about hitting your points on the course. Smooth is fast."

The rodeo drew 32 motorcycle cops from eight law enforcement agencies to the Allen Creek Soccer Complex, where major bragging rights were on the line for one of the last events of the games.

DeKalb County Police Chief Terrell Bolton made a grand entrance via helicopter to cheer on his six riders before flying out again.

"He’s our biggest supporter," said DeKalb County Police Sgt. D.M. Berry. "He believes in training, training, training."

The rodeo helped motorcycle cops hone their riding skills in dealing with large crowds and heavy traffic by squeezing through tight spots and turning on a dime.

"You have to have the basics of handling the motorcycle without burning up the clutch or burning up the brakes, then it’s a lot of practice," Berry said.

Most of the cops admitted to some nerves before they made their points runs.

"You want to do well in front of your comrades," Berry said.

The 24th Georgia State Police & Fire Games drew about 1,000 contestants from 45 agencies over six days, event organizer Marci Summer said. It was the third and final year of Hall County serving as hosts of the games, which move to Carrollton next year.

"I think it’s been a great opportunity to showcase the Gainesville-Hall County community," Summer said. "We’ve had a lot of positive feedback."

Cherokee County motorcycle deputy Scott Ryder had his own cheering section of about a dozen family members on hand Saturday as he rode his Harley-Davidson Road King.

"It’s great," said Ryder’s father, Dennis Ryder of Cumming. "It gives the guys something to look forward to besides the everyday routine, and it makes them more efficient. It’s fun to watch."

"I love it," said Watts, Hall County’s gold winner. "You get to see these officers together at something besides a funeral. This gives us a place where we can come, and let everybody see us ride, and ride for each other."



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