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Valpo’s Brandon Brown set for BMX pro-am in Hobart

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Updated: January 14, 2014 12:41PM



When his college final exams are wrapped up in Indianapolis, a local native and pro BMX rider will be making the drive up to the region for a retooled event that’s geared toward serious competitors.

Brandon Brown, 22, said he had more work to finish at IUPUI this week before switching gears and preparing to meet a forecasted field of about four dozen male pros at the Steel Wheels Pro Challenge.

The successor of the Future Pro Challenge, the pro-am is set for 11 a.m. Sunday at the indoor facility in Hobart.

Brown has had a strong interest in BMX racing since he was about 10. It’s something he said he invested much time and energy into because he believes he’s not in the “naturally gifted” category of athletes. Riding as a pro for the last few years has not taken a backseat to other pursuits, but rather runs on a parallel track with his other responsibilities.

“I love to ride,” Brown said in a phone interview from Indianapolis.

Since he moved to the Circle City from Valparaiso, he’s focused on his studies in physical therapy and his job.

“Over the past four or five years (BMX) has turned into more or less a job for me,” Brown said of his extensive travels to compete on his bike. “It’s a fun job, but a job nonetheless. It’s helped me pay some bills as I’m going through school.”

Brown would utilize Indy’s indoor BMX facility during wintertime. But that closed a couple years ago and he sometimes makes the 21/2-hour drive up to Northwest Indiana. To this BMX enthusiast, the Steel Wheels facility shines like factory chrome wheels on a classic car.

“With the outdoor track (at Imagination Glen) and the indoor track, it’s a huge advantage to people who live in the area with us having six or seven months of cold weather and snow,” Brown said.

At the chance that the extreme sport’s young, rising stars such as Olijuwon Davis, Tyler Whitfield and Tommy Zula would be in attendance, Brown wasn’t going to miss the SWPC. A guaranteed $400 first-place payout was another attractive incentive.

SWPC founder and BMX enthusiast Gene Bedinger of Hammond had coordinated the FPC for a decade and was looking for a positive change.

“I always wanted to have some sort of a series involving the past winners that have moved on to the pro class but lack of sponsorship and cooperation from other tracks has prevented me from doing that,” Bedinger said. “By making this event a pro-am, I can announce the prize money ahead of time, where in the past, as an amateur event, I could only come out in public saying that there would be prizes and college scholarship money.”

Bedinger still looks to attract local and regional competitors who do not have a national top-10 ranking in their age group; the top-3 finishers among them will be eligible for prizes. The SWPC is open to males 14 and older with 20-inch bikes only.

The event coordinator also said he hopes to launch a race series in January at Steel Wheels, as well as a pro-am for female riders in February.

Brown reflected on his recent experiences in Tulsa, Okla., the host city for the “World Cup of BMX,” the Grand Nationals. Thousands of entrants — some of Olympic caliber — from around the world gathered at the cavernous River Spirit Expo Center in late November. There, at the culmination of a national series of races, he fell short of making it into the finals.

He doesn’t expect to be among the handful of pros that hit paydirt, where the sport “becomes their life.” Those people are rare, he said.

Still, Brown employs a strategy that has proven successful in his college studies: set a reasonable pace and work resourcefully. Before long he said he wanted to pursue an advanced degree in his field.

“Like in any other sport, you have to be dedicated to your training,” said Brown. “Sometimes that means staying up late studying so you can go to the gym in the morning.”

In Brown’s weekly planner, Sunday is highlighted. There will be family present to cheer him on. The assignment is titled “SWPC.” His job is to do the best he can.

“I’m not going to hold back against anyone,” Brown said.



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