As Maya Gadbois peers through her orange helmet, waiting for the gate to drop and another BMX race to begin, her mind gravitates toward two equally important, and not altogether unrelated, things.
Trophies and Skittles.
Gadbois, after all, is only 4 years old, and even after turning 5 in the next few days, she’ll still be the youngest-ever competitor at the UCI BMX World Championships, according to her father, when the event kicks off next week.
She receives Skittles (purple is her favorite) after every “bicycle motocross” race, as long as she does her best. She hopes that will be the case in Rock Hill, South Carolina, as she and five other Santa Clarita Valley residents join more than 3,300 riders from more than 40 countries.
The event runs Tuesday through Saturday.
Each member of the SCV group – which ranges in age from 4 to 16 and includes Dahvin Childs, brothers Connor and Jack Eaton, Kaylie McLean and Michael Williams – has taken a different route to the World Championships.
McLean and her family left July 15 and drove to the Gulf Coast before hitting up Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, on Thursday.
Childs, a rising junior who home schools and takes classes through the Hart district, and his mother flew out on Friday. So did Gadbois and her mother, Camie.
The Eatons left Thursday.
All six riders, though, ultimately arrived at the World Championships in the same manner: by finishing top eight at one of a handful of world qualifying events.
McLean, 11, who is entering Castaic Middle School as a seventh grader next year, qualified in Oregon. She, like each member of the SCV contingent, picked up the sport at a young age. McLean began at the age of 4 ½.
Connor Eaton at 5. Jack at 6. Gadbois maneuvered a balance bike at 1, her first pedal bike at 2 ½.
Now, at almost 5, she shows considerable grit.
Does it hurt when she falls off her bike?
“Not too bad,” she said.
On the other hand, she also likes to pretend she’s a princess with other riders in between races or practices.
Childs, who hopes to compete in BMX in the Olympics as early as 2020, practices five to six times a week.
His main practice site is in Simi Valley, as the SCV does not have a course of its own – yet.
Chris Gadbois, Maya’s father, wants to change that.
He serves as a board member of Legends BMX, a nonprofit committed to bringing a BMX track to the SCV.
The master plan for the Santa Clarita Sports Complex does outline eventual construction of a BMX area, and in January, the city parks, recreation and community services commission approved “support the development of a BMX area in the SCV” as a priority for 2017.
Contacted Thursday, city spokeswoman Carrie Lujan said there was no update on the project.
Chris Gadbois said he’s heard the SCV mentioned as a possible location for BMX in 2024 or 2028, when Los Angeles hosts the summer games.
For now, though, his kid, and five others, head to South Carolina for the biggest BMX stage on the face of the planet.
“Racing is in my blood,” Childs said. “I love it, that thrill, the adrenaline that pumps through you.”
The trip cost about $21,000 for the six athletes, according to Chris Gadbois. Legends BMX is still accepting donations to help cover the cost. Email [email protected] for more information.