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Father and son compete in BMX World Championships

How did you spend your summer? How about a whirlwind trip to France to compete against some of the best athletes in the world? How about sharing both the travel and the competition with your father?

That was the brief, but very exciting finish to summer for 16-year-old Tyson Shepard who, along with his 46-year-old father, Rick Shepard, traveled to Nantes, France, to compete in the UCI BMX Racing World Championships just a couple of weeks before beginning his junior year in high school.

“It was great,” Tyson said. “It was fun to be around people who share your interest in BMX from other countries.”

Both Tyson and Rick agreed that language was a bit of a problem, but also agreed that the warmth of the people compensated for any verbal communication problem.

“I was having a hard time finding a gym and a lady who did speak English saw I was having problems walked up and asks me if I was lost,” Tyson related. “She didn’t just tell me where it was, but led me right to the gym.”

Rick recalled riding to the track on his bike wearing his USA jersey and having people cheer and call out “USA! USA!”

Things were different at the track, where the competitors were quiet and focused. “I have known a lot of people from competitions,” Rick said. “Of all the people I know, only one guy would talk to me before racing.”

The riders’ concentration was appropriate as 3,000 of the best BMX riders in the world competed in the various age groups. “It was quite an environment,” Rick said. “It could be very loud, especially when riders from France or Columbia competed.”

“The competition was harder than I thought it would be,” said Tyson. “The track was long and more technical than any I’ve ever ridden on.”

Rick finished 46th in the men’s 45-49 age group, while Tyson was 92th among the 15-16 boys age group.

The Shepards’ trip to the World Championships was three years in the making, with two seasons lost to the COVID pandemic.

Rick raced “when I was a little younger,” but for several year was content to led Tyson and older brother Talon competed. “After a while the boys told me they were getting tired of me on the sidelines and so I started competing again,” he explained.

“A lot of older guys are coming out,” he noted. “There are 30 older guys in Northern California who are competing at the expert level.”

Talon no longer competes, but Tyson keeps going strong. He wants to work on some things he learned at the World championships into the California State championships coming up in September.

Rick also wants to keep riding. “I want to keep going,” he said. “I like the competition and I like the family atmosphere of the sport. It is a little community where families get to know one another and become friends. You get to know people on a whole new level.”

The entire Shepard family, including wife and mother Beth enjoy their extended BMX community with Rick and Tyson riding four to six times a week, often at the North Bay BMX track in Napa.

Over the years, Rick has developed a philosophy about his chosen sport. “It takes discipline, confidence and wanting to keep going. You don’t have to win every race, you just have to finish.”

Keeping going and finishing aren’t always as simple as they sound. The sport can be dangerous and both Rick and Tyson have been injured. Tyson had to delay qualifying for the world event for a year because of a broken collarbone.

But the danger is part of the sport and both father and son are competitors.

“It does get competitive between the two of us,” Tyson said. “My dad is quite a bit better than me, but the last time we raced, he only beat me by a couple of bike lengths.”

That isn’t always as easy as it is said. Rick acknowledges that BMX racing can be dangerous. Both he and Tyson have broken bones and had to overcome injuries. “Staying healthy can be a challenge,” he said.

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