Cops and firefighters from all over the world gathered at California's Glen Helen raceway to race dirt bikes and have a good time.
The Olympics does not have a motocross event, or any motorsports at all, though they do have mountain biking and BMX. The police forces and fire departments of the world have their own biennial World Police and Fire Games with competition in dozens of sports, and they have no prejudice against motorsports. This year the games were held in and around Los Angeles, and if you didn't know, Charlie Beck, Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, (Bike #545 below) has been a dirt bike rider his whole life. Despite the responsibilities that come with running the one of the largest police forces in the country, he was able to take the day off to compete with his own men (and women), and others from around the world at Glen Helen.
Chief Beck, who is 64 and suffered a fractured pelvis in an off road riding accident less than a year ago, was still charging pretty hard at the event. When asked he said, "Everybody gets slow if they ride long enough".
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This amazing event takes place on a Tuesday and a Wednesday, with about 100 riders participating. There is little to no promotion. Even with free admission there were only a handful of spectators, and a competitor from the East Coast said he missed last year's event in Fairfax County, Virginia, because he didn't know about it. Typically, counting all competitors in all sports, the Police and Fire Games is actually bigger than the Commonwealth Games and much bigger than the Winter Olympics. You would think with all the cable channels hungry for content someone would be covering this, but these events aren't even streaming online. It is doubly strange since the entire concept was created in California, the entertainment capital of the world, way back in 1967.
The motorcycle racing was split up into two days, with standard 2 moto, motorcross style competition on Tuesday and an hour long Grand Prix style race on Wednesday. American style dirt Grand Prix races are typically run several laps of a miles long natural terrain course for a set amount of time, as opposed to point to point desert races or short course MX races. The motocross portion took place on the world famous Glen Helen national track (an Asian racer made the trip because this was a bucket list track for him), while the longer GP course linked several of the tracks on site, plus a long section up into the hills. Luckily for competitors from Europe, Asia, and Australia, California's Inland Empire offers plenty of ready to race bikes to rent.
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As you may have figured from his number plate, this fire fighter came all the way from Kongsberg, Norway. At the 2015 games, Øystein H. Kjørstad won both races in his class at Budd's Creek, this year he could only manage second or third in class the MX. I suspect that is because there were literally dozens of local California police and fire agencies represented at this event who were familiar the Glen Helen track.
Because this is more of a friendly club race and less of an event for international bragging rights, it was broken down like they do it at your local MX track: No displacement classes, just age groups. To make matters worse the results aren't online anywhere. That means I can't give you an overall winner, but I do know Antonio Villegas from Spain (#101 pictured above) took the gold in his race, which I'm pretty sure was for the young and strong guys (18-29 years old).
In one of the other, older age classes – possibly 30 and up – gold and silver were won by officers from the San Bernardino County Fire Department, which isn't surprising. David Pingree (#101 above, I think) got the gold, and Joe Oelhoff won the silver on what is basically their home track. What was surprising was who got third place; the bronze medal went to a racer all the way from Mongolia, Khaliunbold Erdenebileg. Below is a picture from Pingree's Instagram of the post race awards ceremony, which also included Belgian born international motocross legend Roger De Coster, and, according to Racer X, #11 on the AMA motocross racers of all time Jeff Emig.
The next international competition is in two years, and unfortunately for most of us is in Chengdu, China. But I would put money on some of the local California officers giving it a shot over there. Locally, many of these same guys will be competing again at Glen Helen in October at the Fire Police MX, which is held several times a year with racers from California, Nevada, and Arizona. These periodic club races are the reason all the LAPD racers have Troy Lee Designs matching star spangled jerseys with their names on them.
I'm always looking for new and unusual events to cover and participate in, as well as movies, books and other motorcycle pop culture to consume, so drop me a line if you have a suggestion.