POTSDAM - When Potsdam native Dave Costa was four years old, his dad brought home a JR50 dirt bike for him to try out.
On that day, Mr. Costa, 24, fell in love with the sport of motocross racing and has not stopped riding since.
Beginning on May 18 in Sacramento, Calif., Mr. Costa will be competing in the Lucas Oil Motocross Championships, a series of competitions that concludes in Lake Elsinore, Calif., on Aug. 24.
The championships consists of 12 rounds in 12 different venues, ranging from California to Massachusetts with stops in 11 different states. Those are all over the country, and I will be traveling a lot. Most of the guys will do all of the (rounds), and I am trying to do all of them. I might only do half though, Mr. Costa said. If I only do half, I will do the east coast ones. There are ones in New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, Maryland, etc.
Its pretty much every weekend for 12 weeks. There are a couple of off weekends but most of them we are racing.
The event is sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing and begins with the Hangtown Motocross Classic.
According to the competitions web site, the event is the pinnacle of professional motocross racing, attracting the worlds most fit and talented athletes to compete on the countrys toughest and most scenic motocross tracks.
Starting in late January, Mr. Costa will begin training in Florida for the championships.
I am headed to Florida, near Gainesville, at the end of January to train. Ill be down there for two and a half months. I will be going to the gym and cycling every day, he said.
Mr. Costa noted that motocross racing is one of the more physically demanding sports, yet mentally tough as well.
They rank it as one of the most difficult sports physically. The top fit people are very tough, he said. Its also very mentally tough with 40 guys riding around you the whole time. Overall, its just a pretty awesome sport.
Mr. Costa graduated from Potsdam Central School and has been riding professionally since then. He has participated in competitions in California, Florida, Texas and Colorado among other places.
He indicated that he plans on competing professionally for two more years, but will always find time to continue with the sport.
Ill always want to do some lessons, and Ill definitely go to some races, but probably not professionally anymore, Mr. Costa said.
Each of the 12 events will run through a weekend, with the qualifications Saturday and the professional races through the day.
(Qualifications) is a practice with the top times and you qualify with lap times. I race in the 450. Thats the size of the motorcycle, its 450 ccs, Mr. Costa said.
Mr. Costa said that motocross tracks generally are dirt or sand and jumps through the course range from 40 to 100 feet. In addition, average lap times are usually between 2 minutes and 30 seconds and 2 minutes 40 seconds.
The man who has stayed with the extreme sport for 20 years explained that the worsening track conditions during a race can be the most difficult part of the competition. The tracks deteriorate and they get really rough. Thats when it gets down to physical fitness, Mr. Costa said.
While injuries at this type of competition are not as common as other levels, the Potsdam resident said that some can be very severe. Usually at the pro level everyone is very good, he said. There are sometimes knee injuries and once in a while it can be bad. People have died before and there are broken bones and everything. Ive broken my foot, my nose, and probably the worst was when I broke my sternum. I separated my shoulder once as well.
Aside from his personal training and preparing for upcoming races, the rider also teaches classes at Mammoth Fitness on Market Street in Potsdam. The classes begin at 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
I teach a class at the gym. I am trying to give back to the community. What I do is physically demanding and I try to help out as much as I can, he said. The people are (usually) in their 20s and 30s. Its pretty mixed. There are people who are really experienced and also people who are beginners.
Mr. Costa pointed out that his journey on the dirt path has not been something he has done on his own.
I thank my parents and grandparents and all of my family and friends. Also, there is Jen from Mammoth who is the owner. Also, everybody from TJ Toyota has been great. My dad has worked there, and they helped me get places in my journey, Mr. Costa said. Especially when I was younger (my family) gave up a lot so I could become good.
The motocross athlete indicated that he has been fortunate in avoiding serious injuries thus far in his career. (The injuries) have been pretty much always from crashing. Ive been fairly lucky, and theres nothing thats holding me back really. Im more sore and beat up than an average 24 year old, thats for sure, Mr. Costa said.
At the end of the day, Mr. Costa feels that his post race physical and mental pain can be largely eased depending on his performance.
When I do good it is the best feeling even when I am tired and beat up. It is both my favorite thing and my least favorite thing, he said.
Broadcasts of the 12 competitions will be on the NBC Sports Network and NBC among other networks.