Just two years ago, Sarah Matthews âhated bikesâ.
She knew how to ride a horse, but just didn’t like it. Today, she is one of the best amateur BMX riders in the country.
The New Castle teenager recently wrapped up the 2021 BMX season, culminating with a seventh place finish in the 17-20-year-old women’s cruiser event at the USA BMX Grand Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in November. She concluded her rookie campaign ranked eighth in the rankings and 62nd overall, a year and a half after trying the competition for the first time.
âThe first time I raced I kind of knew how to ride,â said Matthews. âJust a couple of weeks before that we got a cheap old BMX bike and I had ridden it a lot in the few weeks leading up to that first race. I had a bit of balance on the bike but I wasn’t not really good All I could do was pedal and hang on.
Just weeks before that, Matthews was at Basalt watching local races after seeing BMX highlights on Red Bull’s YouTube page. Her father, a former BMX rider, coaxed her by taking her to see some live action, and Sarah has never looked back.
Matthews said she finished second for the boys in her very first competition. Soon after, she competed in state qualifiers and won not one but two state championships for her age group.
In the past season, Matthews estimated she had competed in 36 national events and a plethora of lower level races. She began to gain the attention of other competitors, including Vail racer Izzy Sargent, who raced for 14 years and graduated from Battle Mountain High School in 2020.
âWhen I first met her, all she could really do was pedal and pump, the basic stuff,â Sargent said. âBut she was really fast and she had a lot of speed on the track. Over the past year or so she’s really learned a lot of skills that all other riders have like manual and jumping. Picking up on this so quickly, it took me a long time to figure this out. “
Sargent, 19, and Matthews, now 17, developed a friendship by being very close, but due to the age difference, they rarely faced each other outside of local competitions.
When Matthews celebrated his birthday the day before the main event of the Grand National, it placed the two local riders in the starting gates next to each other in the main event.
âIt was pretty neat,â Matthews said. “When I was that little newbie, no idea what I was doing, she was the first really important date I ever met and she was the nicest person to me.”
Sargent was third in the race.
In her newfound passion, Matthews sees no cap for herself. She hopes to continue to develop and turn professional soon, an accomplishment Sargent “definitely” sees in Matthews’ future. Matthews wants to compete on the world stage, his biggest dream being to compete in the Olympics.
âMy goal from day one was to be a pro,â Matthews said. “And not just any pro, but I want to be a really good one.”
Journalist Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or [email protected]