“He is how old? And he got 2nd place? Wow, just wow.”
If you are like me, on Wednesday morning one of the first things to do is check the results section on the OTH website. You absolutely check the class that you ride in, and a few classes of friends that you know raced and that is about it. But one of the things I noticed is some really, REALLY fast riders under 18 dominating the top of the elite class. Who are these guys and where did they come from and what are their future plans? I needed to find out more about Kevin Vermaerke, Mikael Rodgers and Brett Franze who are all riding really strong at OTH in 2016.
Below is a few highlights from the conversations, if you would like the full interview from one or all of the riders, please contact us HERE
Eric Williams – Tell us a little bit about yourself – Name, Age, Family, school, year in school, those sorts of things.
Mikael Rodgers – Alright. My name is Mikael Rodgers, I am 18 years old and race for Team Baghouse. I just graduated from San Juan Hills High school and I will be attending Fort Lewis College in Durango Colorado this fall (2016).
Well, I have a twin brother Lukas and my mom and my dad. We have always been an active family. I rode motocross from 3 to 16 years old. My dad and I have always done adventurous things like that.
Brent Franze –
Im Brent Franze, I am 17 years old I go to Sunnyhills High school in Fullerton CA and I just finished my junior year and I am headed into my senior year. After high school, I am trying to go to a college that supports mountain biking and keep having fun mountain biking. The dream would be to go to Fort Lewis, that would be the ideal college. Im Brent Franze, I am 17 years old I go to Sunnyhills High school in Fullerton CA and I just finished my junior year and I am headed into my senior year. After high school, I am trying to go to a college that supports mountain biking and keep having fun mountain biking. The dream would be to go to Fort Lewis, that would be the ideal college.
Kevin Vermaerke – My Name is Kevin Vermaerke. I am 15 years old. I just finished my freshman year in High School at Mission Viejo high school. I have a younger 12 year old sister. College isn’t really on my radar. I have talked to a couple schools, but it is not really my main focus.
EW – How did you get into cycling? What, when and where did that click for you?
MR – . In 7th grade I did my first race with my good friend Sean Bell and then freshman year I got pretty fast and upgraded to a 250 and started riding the pro tracks. My dad was like “Whoa. You’re getting a little fast… We are gonna start racing mountain bikes. Dirt bikes are too scary.” He said this because he raced professionally, with Sean’s dad Mike Bell (moto/supercross legend), and got hurt really bad a lot of times.
So then we went into mountain biking freshman year, I got 5th overall for the freshman series. Then next year I thought I was the hotshot, but didn’t really train, so my average finish was 30th in JV. That really ticked me off, so I got a coach and started training and going into junior year I ended up winning the JV series and states. Then this year I have had solid seconds all around in varsity.
When I was younger, my third word was ‘bike’ and that was even before my dad owned a bike shop, so yeah, I have been pretty much been riding bikes my whole life. I started racing BMX when I was 4 for 8 or 10 years.
I raced a couple cyclo-cross races before I started Over the Hump, and tried a couple US Cups but there wasn’t too much competition. But at Over the Hump there was some competition in the Junior Boys class. It was like 10-18 years old and there was something like 30-40 boys every race.
KV – I have been riding for a long time for fun. My dad was a big cyclist, he grew up in South Africa and moved to Belgium where he raced as a junior and actually won a silver medal as a junior in the world championships. I get most of my talent from him.
As a kid I played a lot of baseball and soccer and just rode on the weekend for fun and only a few years ago I quit club soccer and focus on cycling. It was too much to try and do both. All the training I was doing for cycling, it was too much.
EW – What about when you are off the bike, what do you do in your downtime?
MR – I used to run, that was fun. I like to go to the gym. Playing guitar in my youth groups worship band and on my own calms down all my nerves from racing. I started on electric, but I am a lot more into finger-picking acoustic guitar now
BF – I just started surfing a couple years ago and I have been having a lot of fun with that.
KV – I like hanging out with my friends, playing soccer out in the street with my friends. One of my friends has a pool so I spend a lot of time over there. During the week I don’t have that much time and on the weekend I am traveling racing, so I have to enjoy free time when I can.
EW – What do you like about Over the Hump and what is one thing you would change?
MR – I just like the fun atmosphere. It is completely different from the US Cups. If you don’t do well, well there is just next Tuesday. You can go out and just pedal with your buddies.
And, ohhh I would love more short track nights. I like riding with the beginners and I just like the short track events.
BF – I like the vibe. There are people from everywhere…Almost everybody goes to OTH and you run into everybody. It is pretty awesome.
As far as change, that is a tough one. Really, I mean…I don’t even know. Maybe separate the Elite class by age a little more. They do a great job with the traffic, keeping it flowing, but other than that not much.
KV – The first race I ever did, I started in boys 9-12 category—It is probably one of the smallest races I do all year, but definitely one of the most fun. I have good memories there, I always look forward to it—It is cool to move up through the categories from junior boys to elite and see how much progress I made.
I’m sure you hear this a lot, but I would want more climbing in it. I am 125 lbs and going up against [Alfred] Pacheco and [Brandon] Gritters the climbs would help me.
EW – If you lined up against your dad, how many minute advantage would he need to beat you?
MR – Ohhh. I don’t know. My dad is strong. He has weird legs, big legs from his track days. A few minutes, maybe 5 minutes. My dad and I are actually training partners, we try and get out a few days a week.
Mike Franze – How many minutes would I need? Oh man. Like 15…Well probably about 10. Right Brent?
BF – Yeah, probably about 10.
MF – It is tough, I remember taking Brent on some rides when he was like 13 and then like a year later, I couldn’t even smell him. I remember taking him up Blackstar and 7 months later he beat me by an hour and ten minutes at Counting Coup. My time was like 5:45 and Brent was about 4:32.
KV – Well about a year ago, he tore his achilles and hasn’t been riding that much lately, but if we lined up a year ago before his injury when he was riding strong and I was only 13 I might have been the one who needed a minute . He is pretty fast.
Be on the look out for these young guns and good luck in the second half of the season young men!!