The Roots MX August 2014 - Page 65

“I know, right? He’s like 15. Dedicated.” We stumble upon his friends riding around through the pits on their dirt scooters before we make it to dinner and wind down for the night. The next day Derek Drake battles to a hard-fought moto win. Derek is surrounded by his family and friends on the podium and T2 is by his side, strategically placing the bike, helmet and goggles for photos. He offers water, leaning in to offer Derek some private words of congratulations before the interview with the announcer. Then he steps back and the camera lights flash as he looks on with smiling approval. The celebration is brief and then the whole group is whisked off to prepare for the next moto and racing resumes. All the hours of sacrifice and dedication culminate in these brief moments of exaltation. Such is the life of a race team. and fastener on the #50 bike of Jessy Nelson in the Troy Lee Designs pit. Most everyone else was standing in lines for the autographs of their favorite riders, or rushing through vendor row gathering up stickers and lanyards. But not Tristen. He was taking notes. Working in the amateur motocross scene, you’re watching kids who will become the stars of this sport. The Villopotos, the Carmichaels, the Stewarts. But you’re also watching the unsung heroes. The guys who spend most of their time with a wrench in their hand. The guys who are there, sometimes days before the rider and days after, perfecting these extraordinary machines that require absolute precision. It is an unsung artform that is the backbone of the sport of motocross. Flashback to three years ago. Derek and Tristen met when they had a class at school together. Tristen had raced against Derek here and there when he was younger, and knew of his reputation of being a fast kid. He had always enjoyed working on his own bikes, and as he looked toward the future, he knew he wanted to carve out a life for himself in the industry. He made a deal with Derek’s dad: Bring me to all the races, and I’ll pay my way by helping out with the bikes. He was only twelve years old. Today, Tristen is a student of this artform. Tomorrow is a blank page, but with a story, yet to be written. Over the next three years, Tristen would learn a lot about bikes. He learned about changing motors and clutches, top ends, jetting, and maintenance. He gradually replaced Barry, Derek’s dad, as lead mechanic as his repertoire of skills increased. Soon he was filling in during the week to work on the bike when Barry had to work. In June, I found him in the pits at the RedBull Glen Helen Pro Motocross National, surrounded by bustling fans, watching Eric Gass intently as he checked every nut, bolt, 65