Pell Lake racer comfortable on edge
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August 03, 2011 | 08:21 AMPell Lake — Lukas Cobian has a deep passion for motocross racing. Let's just say the determined teen won't take "no" for an answer when it comes to a future in the sport.
Ever since the age of 3, the 16-year-old has wanted to become a pro racer. And there have been plenty of bumps along the way, literally. He has had six surgeries in the past four years including a Flight for Life trip after a collision with another biker left him with a collapsed lung.
But none of this has stopped Lukas, and this week he will take a huge stride toward his lifelong goal.
Lukas is in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., for the 30th annual Amateur National Motocross Championships at Loretta Lynn's Ranch. He left July 29 and will conclude competition this Saturday. Lukas qualified for one of 1,386 spots out of 20,000 hopefuls at a June regional competition in Michigan.
In two previous attempts to qualify for the event, Lukas was in the hospital with injuries. With a 30-2 record already this season, he is ready to continue his winning streak.
"Everyone who goes pro starts here," Lukas said last Thursday at his home. "It's been my dream to compete here since I was 3 years old and started riding."
Lukas placed in the top six at the Michigan regional and has hit overdrive with training since. For the last month, Lukas has been in South Carolina training with three-time world champion Jimmy Weinert.
"The heat down there is more like Tennessee," Lukas said. "There were lots of pros down there, and it's just something you have to do."
Motocross racing has been like the air Lukas breathes since a young age. He used to race at the Lake Geneva Raceway and won eight point series at the age of 8 and 9. His dad, Dietmar, raced his whole life and introduced Lukas and his brother to the sport. Lukas was racing by the age of 7.
With Wisconsin competitions in Denmark, Chilton and Arkansas along with Byron, Ill., it's all racing all the time for Lukas. And he puts in the time to become the best.
"I wake up around 8 a.m. every day, and I'm in the gym by 9 a.m.," he said. "I do high-intensity training like cardio for an hour and a half. I try to keep my heart rate as high as I can for 25 minutes. Riding a dirt bike is like holding onto a bull for as long as you can. Anything can happen."
Lukas rides six days a week, working on corners, sections and full races. The track, a 1.5 mile long strip of dirt, includes long and short straightaways, large and small jumps and a section where racers travel in all different directions for two minutes.
Lukas said it is a 25-minute race, and if you have never raced before, the rush is worth the risk.
"The adrenaline rush is crazy," he said. "You don't know what will happen. Every time you put your leg over the bike, it might be the last thing you do. But it's exciting. Facing death is kind of cool sometimes. When you win, it's such a good feeling because the hard work pays off. Putting in the work isn't always fun, but I know I have to."
Currently an amateur, Lukas plans to become a pro by 17 and race in his first pro competition in July 2012 in Michigan. Lukas is home-schooled, which helps him race year-round. He spends his winters racing in the South. This is what he wants to do the rest of his life.
"I want to make money from it," he said. "But it's more just been my dream. Even if it didn't work out, I have met enough people in motocross where I could find a job in the sport. You need to consistently finish in the top 15 as a pro to make a good living. It will be hard, but I want to make a living out of it."
With all the travel, motocross can be an expensive sport. But Lukas recently gained a sponsor, Southeast Sales of Milwaukee.
"Without them, I wouldn't be going to nationals," Lukas said. "It's the first step. They were the first to really want to help me become a pro. It felt really good to know there are people out there who can get me where I need to be."
Lukas said the sport is "more popular than people think." For example, around 15,000 people including racers and families will be at nationals. Based on skill level, Lukas is in Class B and would propel to Class A status as a pro.
At the age of 12, it hit Lukas that this was something he could really focus on.
"I thought maybe I should eat healthier and become more serious," he said. "I started training hard and studied what good racers were doing. I got in contact with them and applied it to what I do."
A true self-starter, Lukas won't let anything deter him from success. He has suffered a broken wrist, a torn rotator cuff, dislocated shoulders and has been in plenty of hospitals all for the love of motocross.
"Nothing will stop me," he said. "No matter what has happened, I don't regret it. It's in my blood."
Lukas' mother, Debbie, summed it up.
"I used to put motorcycle movies in to make him go back to sleep when he was 9 months old," she said.
Lukas said he met most of his friends through motocross. And there is plenty to do for fun at nationals, including water balloon fights, huge projection screens showing movies, talent shows and Guitar Hero competitions.
Determined as ever, he knows exactly where he wants to be in 10 years.
"By age 26, I want to have a successful pro career," he said. "I want to be inside the top 10 in the standings. I will work as hard as I can to make myself get there. I will be making money and having sponsors support me."