Brad Bellette was 51 years old when he rode in his first BMX race.
He had previously coached junior riders when his son took up BMX racing, and knew the ins-and-outs of being fast on the track. But the Northern Territorian had never raced on a bike.
That was until he was talked into taking part in a Father’s Day race.
“I was terrible, but I actually really enjoyed it,” Brad said.
“It reminded me – many years ago I used to be a power lifter and a body builder, it’s very much a power sport – it reminded me of that. And I figured as I was at the track four to five nights a week, I might as well do something else as well, not just be hanging around.”
Brad was hooked.
“It was the adrenaline factor. And in the older riders there’s a lot of good spirits, even at a national level before the race you all kind of say to each other ‘Stay upright, don’t fall off’. They go hard, very hard, but it’s a case of no one wants to see you with a broken collar bone or smashed up on the track.”
Now five years on, while his son no longer rides, Brad is gearing up for his second BMX Challenge in Glasgow at the UCI World Cycling Championships in August.
It’s a common story among fathers, says the president of the Red Centre BMX Club in Alice Springs.
“I’ve spoken to plenty of dads who end up riding way beyond when their kids started, and they actually started because of their kids,” Brad said.
It’s been a rapid rise from club races to the world level for Brad, who competed at his first BMX Challenge at the World Championships in Nantes, France last year.
“I didn’t expect to do that well. I’ve only been riding about five years, so really at the end of the day as long as I didn’t fall of my bike, I was pretty happy.
“It’s a bit crazy when you are riding against people who have been riding since they were 10. They’ve been riding 40 years.
“There were a thousand riders on my day. I’d never seen anything of that magnitude and that scale.”
Despite being a late-comer to the sport, Brad finished 60th out of 120 riders in his 55+ age category.
Brad hopes to do even better this year in Glasgow, and is training at least four times a week, with a mix of sprint, track and skill work.
However, he thinks fitness will be the key to the race.
“Mostly it will just be getting my fitness up. That’s what I noticed last time. The pace is so much faster, and just getting your head in that space too. They were staging 100 motos at a time, which is like 80-90 riders at a time, and that’s usually what club rides are for the full race.”
"I'd like to do better than halfway; I'd like to crack the top 25 if I can."
More information about BMX Challenge racing, visit UCI BMX Racing.