By Doug Gorman
When most sports fans think about racing in the Southern Crescent NASCAR's twice-a-year visits to Atlanta Motor Speedway usually comes to mind.
But it's certainly not the only racing venue in Henry County.
Like the 1.54-mile super speedway in Hampton, the Sandy Ridge BMX track in Ola is quickly garnering a national reputation of its own?only the competitors at this track use peddle power instead of horsepower to maneuver their way to the finish line.
This weekend one of bicycle motocross' premier events comes to the three-year old facility for the Peach State Nationals.
"We are really proud of our facility," said Sonny Hines, the track's director and state BMX commissioner. "When people from out of the area come here to race they leave very impressed."
The partial dirt and paved track is located at the back of Sandy Ridge Park off of Keys Ferry Road. It opened in 2000 and is one of the favorite tracks among competitors.
Hines credits the dedication of a lot of hard workers for the track's growing reputation.
"We have some great volunteers who have helped us get ready for this weekend," said Hines.
More than a thousand riders off all ages and abilities converged on the Ola track, many in campers and other forms of RVs in anticipation for this week's event which will run through Sunday.
Bicycle motocross is open to riders off all ages. According to Hines, competitors as young as five, and well in to adulthood, will compete in the various age groups and divisions.
"We are a very family oriented sport," he said. "A lot of friendships are made through racing."
Hines raced as a teenager and got back into the sport when his children got involved. Now, he and his wife compete in adult divisions.
Hines stepdaughter BreAnna Lane, a 16-year-old student at Henry County High School, races in the Super Girls Division.
She enjoys the competition and just being around the different racers.
"I love this sport," she said. "It's mentally challenging with all the jumps, but more than anything else, it's a lot of fun."
Jon Beachy of Macon brings his son Garrett to Sandy Ridge BMX on a regular basis. Jon Beachy raced in BMX when he was growing up and wanted to pass his love of the sport down to his son.
"I was looking for an individual sport," the elder Beachy said. "It is something we enjoy doing together."
Garrett has been racing for a little more than a year.
"This sport is a lot of fun," Garrett said. "I race at this track a lot and I like coming here."
The Sandy Ridge track will also play host this weekend to a Special Olympics Division.
Although this weekend's national event is one of the biggest of the year, Sandy Ridge also holds 33 local events throughout the season with events running through December.
Races will be run today from 11-4 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
For more information on the Sandy Ridge BMX program call 770 914-1812.