Robbie Morales's crucial transformation took place when he was thirteen, astride a banana-seat bicycle. The Long Island teen popped a wheelie, and the move -- front tire airborne, merely decorative -- quickly became his passion. Soon baseball faded in favor of a new sport, BMX bicycle competition. The deal was cinched when he entered his first dirt-jumping contest and came away with a trophy clutched in his grimy fingers.
"My parents thought that was really cool, so they went along with it as long as I kept up my grades," says Morales, who has now spent about half of his 31 years as a professional BMX stunt rider. Aside from a broken collarbone, a shattered wrist and one knee operation, plenty of good things have happened to him on his mount. In fact, he's had such success that three years ago, he started a California-based BMX manufacturing company, called Fitbikeco. And he'll be riding herd on his own Fitbike team when the Vans Triple Crown of BMX returns to the Pepsi Center today. Free biking events, including freestyle and dirt jumping, will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Sunday, June 29.
Dozens of top professional riders will fly over tracks and perform tricks in the hopes of earning some of the $150,000 in prize money that backs the three-city tour (Cleveland, Ohio, and Oceanside, California, make up the rest of the circuit). "Last year, Denver was amazing," Morales says. "They have a tremendous pool of local riders, and people there are really into extreme sports."
Although he's eager to do well, the veteran knows that the next generation of riders has already overtaken his skills. "They're younger and more limber," he says. "I'm late in the very late fourth quarter of my career."
Still, Morales adds, when he hits the track, he hopes his performance will inspire exclamations of "Sick ride!"
For more biker-speak and other info, log on to www.vans.com. -- Ernie Tucker
Slacker Half Marathon is all downhill
Running a marathon is definitely hard on the body. If you're not sure that your joints are tough enough, warm up with this weekend's Slacker Half Marathon, the nation's highest downhill half-marathon race -- starting at an altitude of 10,800 feet and descending to 8,400 feet. "There are a couple of gradual up-slopes, but nothing you would call a hill," says Beth Luther, director of the race. "It's definitely a downhill run. You can just lean over and let gravity take over."
The second annual Slacker Half Marathon leaves at 8 a.m. today from Loveland Ski Area and finishes in downtown Georgetown; 5K and three-person half-marathon relay races are also offered.
The race fee is $20, regardless of when you register. ("Like all true slackers, we sympathize and don't charge a late fee for people who wait until the last minute," says Luther.) Proceeds will go to the Clear Creek Animal Shelter, the Youth Empowerment Program and the Mount Evans Hospice. Register at www.active.com or call 303-519-0357 for information. --Julie Dunn