ELKHORN -- Tammy and Eddie Soderberg know what it feels like when the competitive juices start flowing. That’s because they have experienced the adrenaline rush of BMX bicycle racing.
However, the Genoa City residents don’t feel it from the seat of their favorite two-wheel machines -- they live it through their three children.
Shea, 11, Sienna, 9, and Stella, 8, churn up dirt three times a week at the indoor track at the Walworth County Fairgrounds in Elkhorn, which last weekend hosted 300 bikers in Wisconsin state-qualifying competitions.
The Elkhorn track season goes through March. Then the family hits the road, traveling to the Rockford area and other locations around the Midwest for practices and outdoor racing the rest of the year.
Although the sport offers the Soderbergs tons of quality family time, Tammy said watching her kids is nerve-wracking to say the least.
“It’s been kind of crazy,” Tammy said of seeing her son suffer three concussions and both daughters break bones. “They’ve all happened indoors and I think it’s because they’re much smaller than the outdoor tracks, which are bigger and wider … you’ve got eight boys in the expert class, which is much more intense, eyeing that first cone and you get more crashes and injuries. And even when you get teenage girls it gets rough and tough, too.”
Things went to another level in July 2016, when Stella suffered a life-threatening injury at Wisconsin Rapids.
“The brake lever went into her leg and hit an artery, but lucky for us that they always have paramedics and ambulances at the tracks … they put an IV in and stopped the bleeding and took her to the hospital in Marshfield,” Tammy said. “They cleaned out the wound and sewed everything back up.
“Everyone was panicked, and I said, ‘This is it, we’re done,’” Tammy added. “I’ve settled down since then, but we needed a break and nobody raced from July to December. At that point we asked the kids, and they love it so much that they were all ready to go back.”
So, the three Soderberg children, accompanied by their parents, have returned to action in Elkhorn and are gearing up for the outdoor season.
Randy Alexander is finishing his first season as operator for the indoor track after replacing Brian Dickerson and said that the sport remains extremely popular in the Stateline region.
“We typically see 35 to 45 racers at practices every week, and we’ll have around 130 here every Sunday,” said Alexander, a Loves Park resident who owns a shop called Area 251 Bicycles Inc. “We’ve had pretty consistent numbers during the past few years. We’ve got ages everywhere from 2 through 56 or 57.”
Participants hold practices on Wednesday evenings with races on some Saturdays and most Sundays from November through March. Many of the same bikers head to Rockford for the outdoor season.
Bikers come to Elkhorn from southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, not to mention places as far away as Chicago, Milwaukee, Green Bay and La Crosse, to get in as much racing time as possible.
Alexander’s sons, Zach, 22, and Jake, 19, have been big-time performers over the years. They and hundreds of others have taken advantage of having a facility available during the winter, a task that takes plenty of time and energy.
Setting up the track to start the season is a three-day task that requires a Bobcat and uses about 55 loads of dirt. And then they take it down every spring.
The important thing is that the Soderbergs and dozens of other families keep coming back.
“We love the Elkhorn track because it’s only a 15- to 20-minute drive from home,” Tammy said. “And the people who run it really care about the kids and families.”
Soderberg said the sport creates a supportive atmosphere, and regardless of what happens or all the bumps and bruises, her children can’t get enough.
“We’ve tried football, basketball, cheerleading and gymnastics, but our kids keep going back to BMX racing,” Tammy said. “They’re always ready to go.”
It only seems natural. After all, Eddie competed as a youth up until high school. And Tammy even tried it, however, she crashed in two of her four races and settled back into racing retirement.
“We’re hoping for a better year, but nothing seems to faze these kids,” she said. “And it’s nice that all three are doing the same thing, so we’re not running in all different directions. It means we spend a lot of time together.”