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Sisters travel to New Zealand for BMX event
Anna, left, and Stephanie Benyon have racing BMX, or bicycle motocross, for about six years. They recently traveled to Auckland to compete in the International Cycling Union BMX World Championships. - photo by For the Forsyth County News

Anna and Stephanie Beynon agreed the best part of racing BMX at the world championships in New Zealand was the starting hill.

Stephanie Beynon, 9, estimated the track’s downward slope started from about 10 meters. Older sister Anna Beynon, 13, said it may have been closer to 5 meters tall.

Their mother, Cheryl Beynon, said it “scared me to look at.”

The Forsyth County sisters have been racing BMX, or bicycle motocross, for about six years. This summer, they traveled to Auckland to compete against the best girls in the world for age group titles.

The International Cycling Union BMX World Championships drew nearly 2,000 competitors from about three dozen countries who had qualified at a national round.

The sport includes a track, made mostly from dirt, with a downhill start, jumps and banked turns on asphalt. Riders on bicycles race no more than eight at a time with the goal to finish first.

Anna Beynon said it’s a “sprinting sport” and that’s what she likes about it.

For about a minute, she pushes as hard and as fast as she can go, and then she breaks for 10 minutes until the next round.

Anna Beynon got started at age 7, after she saw a photo of her father in his BMX gear as a kid.

She got her own bike and learned to ride. Wanting to be like her sister, 3-year-old Stephanie Beynon started bicycling not long after that.

The sport isn’t as popular with girls as with boys, Anna Beynon said, especially at their ages.

“There’s crashing and sweating a lot,” she said. “You have to wear long sleeves and long pants and big, full-faced helmets in the summer.”

With fewer girls, they often have to race against boys too, she said.

Like with many youth sports, BMX is a family affair. The Beynons drive to a track in Cobb County to train a few times a week and travel to large competitions.

The girls participated in the national qualifier June 1 in Nashville, Tenn., which earned them the right to compete at the world event for the first time.

The amped-up level of competition left a big impact on the sisters, who rattled off the upcoming world championship host cities for the next few years in the hopes they can compete once again.

“It was a learning experience,” Anna Beynon said. “I didn’t really know much about international racing, but now I know how it’s done so I can prepare better next time.”

The trip to New Zealand was the girls first outside the U.S., and they also took the opportunity to explore the island nation.

To complement their thrill-seeking personalities, some of the activities they did included a fast-paced river boat ride and a trip on a luge.

In New Zealand, the sport of BMX is popular and has a large following, said Anna Beynon.

The country has more tracks for riders than the state of Georgia, even though the nation is smaller in size and population, she said.

However, the sport’s popularity in the U.S. is growing, and it has a group of local riders who formed Forsyth County BMX.

The club has been working with the county on plans for a track at a county park.

The track is included in preliminary design for Lanierland Park in northeastern Forsyth, but progress has stalled since the county commissioned a study to first evaluate the former concert venue site.

A hometown track would be a dream for the Beynons and other local families in the sport.

Both sisters have dreams of competing in the Olympics one day, and they’ve researched the few scholarship opportunities available.

Though people may have a party image of BMX riders, Anna Beynon said that’s not the case.

“The majority of the sport, we’re dedicated athletes,” she said. “We work hard. We try to be better, faster and stronger.”