Old guys still race bikes

From left, Craig Page, 63, Bill Welfelt, 65, and 58-year-old Don Sumers competed in Sunday’s BMX state championships. Welfelt took the win in the 56 and over age division.

A youngster slowed to carefully study the three men wearing racing jerseys and sitting on BMX bicycles.

They were old.

Bill Welfelt is old — by BMX standards, if there’s such a thing.

At 65, and Welfelt quickly adds, “and a half,” he won another BMX state championship Sunday.

The two other old guys finished second and third.

With a bushy silver mustache and a fair amount of salt-and-pepper hair, Welfelt has been racing for three years. The Montrose man, along with his two old buddies, like to talk about their dislike of the couch when they talk about BMX racing.

The obvious question that must be asked is: Why BMX?

Welfelt laughs when he talks about youngsters giving him those puzzled glances.

“I’ve had kids come up to me and say, ‘Mr. Welfelt, when did you used to race?’ Like I used to race when I was their age, and I’m now just coming back,” he said, the laugh growing stronger. “But I’m just starting.”

Don Sumers is a 58-year-old, 18-year veteran of BMX racing from Glenwood Springs.

“My son got me into it. I still race, and he doesn’t anymore,” he says.

There’s immense pride in their smiles and laughter.

Still riding, racing and avoiding the couch at an age when the couch has a mighty strong appeal.

Craig Page, 63, was an avid golfer when his heart, of all things, made him turn to the sport of BMX racing. After he had three stents put in, he needed to increase his cardio to aid his rehab.

The Fort Collins old guy actually raced BMX way back in the early 1980s. He’s happy he has returned to the sport. As for golf — that’s for old-old guys.

“I now tell my wife that I’ll play golf when I get too old to ride,” he says.

They all tell BMX race stories and talk about injuries, wins and losses. On Sunday, Welfelt pulled away in the 56-and-over cruiser division after Page and Sumers got tangled in the first turn.

Welfelt is ranked No. 3 in the nation in his age group, and Page is No. 8. Sumers has been taking it relatively easy since suffering a concussion in a race last year.

A few years back, Welfelt showed up at the Montrose track with his grandson, and that’s when BMX piqued his interest.

“I made the mistake of asking if there was an old guy’s class,” he says, grinning. “I’ve been racing and crashing ever since.”

And winning, his two buddies say.

After a big crash cracked a rib in his first year, Welfelt admits, at age 62, he had second thoughts.

“I broke a rib and had a bruise the size of a basketball on my hip, and the doctor said he’d never seen a bruise that bad,” he says.

Maybe BMX racing isn’t for old guys.

The second thoughts departed as quickly as Welfelt pedals down the first stretch.

“But it’s better than sitting around on the couch,” he says and grins.

He told the doctor he routinely gets his heart rate up and over 170 during races. His doctor didn’t like the sound of that and pointed out what the standard heart rate should be for a man of Welfelt’s age.

The standard heart-rate chart is a “heart rate for couch potatoes,” Welfelt told him.

Sumers has a colossal hatred for the couch as well. Then he laughs while recalling his story about youngsters wondering why an old guy is racing a kid’s bike.

“I was riding a few weeks ago on the track up in Basalt, and I met some 9-year-olds,” Sumers says, grinning like a third-grader at recess. “One of them asked me ‘How old are you?’ And I said, ‘58.’ And he said ‘Wow! And you can ride a bike!’ “

The trio of granddads all laugh.

The youngster went on to say his grandpa is 58 and, “He can do nothing but sit on the couch.”

More pride in their smiles and chuckles.

For 16-year-old Steven Adams, whose dad Nick Adams runs the Grand Junction BMX track, he has great respect for these old guys.

“Bill and Don have kind of been like my grandparents out here on the BMX track to me,” he says. “They are a lot more respectful than a lot of the younger riders. They bring a better environment to the track.”

Welfelt credits Steven for taking him under his wing and helping in the world of BMX racing. Steven says it was a total two-way track.

“I think it’s awesome that they are still racing. Bill has supported me as much as I have supported him,” Steven says.

As the old guys at the BMX track, these three do indeed stand out. They are the old guys. But that doesn’t bother them. They are riding, racing and having fun.

Welfelt recalls another encounter with a young BMX rider in the past. A tiny freckled-faced boy cut the old guy off, then craned his neck looking up at Welfelt. A curious, somewhat befuddled expression engulfed the youngster’s face.

“Are you an adult or just a big kid?” the tyke asked.

Welfelt, who has the fitting nickname of “Wild Bill,” laughs at the memory.

“I thought for a second and said, ‘Well, I guess I’m a combination of both.’ “

Just a bunch of big kids and old guys.

The couch and the golf course can wait. It’s time to race.


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