New Castle teenager Sarah Matthews speeding onto national BMX scene
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
As recently as two years ago, Sarah Matthews “hated bikes.”
She knew how to ride, but simply wasn’t fond of it. Today, she’s one of the top amateur BMX racers in the country.
The New Castle teen recently completed the 2021 BMX season, culminating in a seventh-place finish in the 17-to-20-year-old women’s cruiser event in USA BMX Grand Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in November. She concluded her rookie campaign ranked eighth in her classification and 62nd overall by the organization, within a year-and-a-half of trying competition for the first time.
“The first time I raced, I kind of knew how to ride,” Matthews said. “Just a couple weeks before that we got an old, cheap BMX bike and I’d ridden it around quite a bit in the few weeks leading up to that first race. I had a little bit of balance on the bike, but I wasn’t really good at it. All I could do was just pedal and hang on.”
Mere weeks before that, Matthews was in Basalt, watching local races after seeing BMX highlights on Red Bull’s YouTube page. Her father, a former BMX racer, coaxed her along by taking her to see some live action, and Sarah never looked back.
Matthews said she finished second racing boys in her first ever competition. Shortly after, she was racing in state qualifiers and took home not one but two state championships for her age group.
Over the past season, Matthews estimated she raced in 36 national events and a slew of lower-level races. She started catching the attention of other competitors, including Vail-based racer Izzy Sargent, who has been racing for 14 years and graduated from Battle Mountain High School in 2020.
“When I met her, all she could really do was pedal and pump, the basic stuff,” Sargent said. “But she was really fast and she had a lot of track speed. Over this past year, she’s really picked up on a lot of the skills that all the other riders have, like the manualing and the jumping. Picking up on that so quickly, it took me a long time to pick up on that.”
The 19-year-old Sargent and the now-17-year-old Matthews developed a friendship being in close proximity, but because of the age difference rarely raced each other outside of local competition.
When Matthews had a birthday the day before the Grand Nationals main event, it put the two local racers in start gates next to each other in the main event.
“That was pretty neat,” Matthews said. “When I was this little novice, no idea what I was doing, she was the first really major rider that I ever met and she was the friendliest to me.”
Sargent finished third in the race.
In her newfound passion, Matthews sees no ceiling for herself. She hopes to keep developing and turning pro shortly, an accomplishment that Sargent “definitely” sees in Matthews’ future. Matthews wants to compete on the world stage, with her biggest dream being making the Olympics.
“My goal from day one was to become a pro,” Matthews said. “And not just any pro, but I want to be a really good one.”
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Jan. 24, 2022, is a bluebird Colorado day at Copper Mountain. After gazing downhill at a busy Interstate 70, Zoe Kalapos peers down the halfpipe at gawking tourists with their phones ready, and turns up her music.