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Whether Nashville’s Vincent Smith is smiling when his off-road motorcycle jumps a log and lands in a pit of mud is hidden beneath his helmet.
It sure looked like he was having fun.
Before a race Sunday at the Stoney Lonesome Motorcycle Club course just outside of Columbus on State Road 46, Smith talked about his increased determination to be a factor next season in the Grand National Cross Country series’ Open A Level.
After winning the Super Mini 12-13 Class this year, Smith plans to do all the work necessary to become one of the nation’s top riders.
“It’s not supposed to be fun,” the 14-year-old Brown County Junior High eighth-grader said.
Not far away, Donna Smith rolled her eyes. “You’re having fun,” she said to her son.
On a crisp fall day, with a backdrop of multi-colored leaves wrapping the event like a blanket, it appeared that mom’s statement was closer to reality.
Even so, it was obvious that Vincent Smith takes a beating whenever he works his way around courses that batter his body for 5 to 12 miles per lap.
“You have to be mentally strong,” Vincent Smith said. “It’s about not giving up.
WHO: Vincent Smith
SCHOOL: Brown County Junior High eighth-grader
WHAT: Grand National Cross Country series’
Super Mini 12-13 class champion
SPONSOR: Moose Racing
SIZE OF BIKES: 105cc
TOP SPEED: 50 to 55 mph
“And I know I am going to need more stamina.”
The Super Mini races were contested over 90 minutes, while the Open A class abuses competitors for three hours.
“It is extremely challenging,” said David Dunnuck, the Stoney Lonesome Motorcycle Club series coordinator. “It’s a combination of skill and agility from a riding perspective. But it’s even more about the mental aspect. You’re going through creeks, crossing logs, and there are big hills to climb. To be good at this, and what I try to teach my son (14-year-old Dawson), is that you have to overcome adversity. You are going to have struggles.
“It is common to go down or to have close calls. The kids who do better minimize their mistakes. You have to keep charging.”
The Dunnuck and Smith families are close, and they travel to GNCC events together. Dawson Dunnuck and Vincent Smith are best friends who were set to run in the Super Mini Class against each other when Dawson Dunnuck “blew up” his motorcycle racing in Florida. He decided to run in the School Boy (12-15 age group) class instead and finished fifth in the GNCC series. Next season, he will try the 250 B class, which is a notch down from Open A.
“Vincent is slightly faster than Dawson,” David Dunnuck said. “And I wanted Dawson to be able to work his way up through the classes.
“We also have an understanding that we never will make a living at this. This is for fun.”
If Vincent Smith’s desire to have fun is in question, there is no questioning his passion. He has ridden off-road motorcycles since he was 4 as his dad, Mike Smith, was a nationally-competitive Motocross rider.
Mike Smith, a toolmaker by trade, explained that Motocross events typically are shorter than the GNCC off-road races.
“The GNCC races are held over a longer period of time so there is more strategy and more endurance,” Mike Smith said. “It’s about being consistent and not having a lot of bike problems.”
Mike Smith’s mechanical abilities give his son an edge and helps when it comes to cost.
“I knew he would have a big advantage because I was putting him in competitive equipment,” Mike Smith said of his son, who is sponsored by Moose Racing. “This is an expensive sport. You have to do whatever you can do yourself.”
It also is a demanding physical sport.
“It is a total physical drain,” Mike Smith said. “Your arms almost go numb. You constantly are working. And it’s like doing squats.”
Vincent Smith trains mostly by riding as much as possible. Living in a rural area outside of Nashville, he can ride every day on his family’s property.
The constant work has done more than prepare him physically.
“I excel at the technical stuff,” he said. “That helps on rougher terrain, like we see in West Virginia. That suits me.
“I try to keep it smart and get ready for that last charge. Of course, you need to work out because you have to be strong from when you start to when you finish.”
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