Alexah Pearson would have waited to have an operation on her knee if women’s events were included in this weekend’s 46th running of the Hangtown Motocross Classic.
Instead, the Rocklin resident, 22, will have her hands on crutches rather than handlebars Saturday at the Prairie City State Vehicular Recreation Area in Rancho Cordova.
Two years ago, Women’s Motocross (WMX) ran almost the same outdoor nationals schedule as the men. Last year, the series was reduced to three races and called the WMX Triple Crown. This year, there are no WMX races scheduled for the same events as the men.
Instead, there’s an eight-race schedule that has become more of a minor-league series without top riders such as Pearson, who finished sixth overall at Hangtown last year, and Ashley Fiolek and Jessica Patterson, who both have retired.
“Maybe it was a money issue, I’m not sure,” said Pearson, who works for KTM assisting mostly amateur motocross riders. “The TV companies said that the women were hurting the schedule. But I thought that we were growing. It’s a shame. A lot of people are upset.”
MX Sports Pro Racing president Davey Coombs runs the Supercross and Outdoors Nationals schedule and partners with Alli Sports and NBC Sports Group to broadcast the races. He said the decision was about time, and in the TV business time is money.
“There just wasn’t enough hours in the day to improve that TV package when we included the women,” Coombs said. “Trying to squeeze in WMX wasn’t the right way forward.”
Coombs said the tracks were in bad shape at the end of the day when the women typically would have their last of two motos, and that didn’t help the quality of competition. But, he said, with just a three- or four-hour window for live TV coverage, including women’s competition pushed the production schedule and the budgets into overtime and cost NBC too much money.
“I was a very strong proponent of WMX when MX Sports purchased the women’s series 10 years ago, and I pushed to get them into the same events as the men,” Coombs said. “But the numbers just weren’t there, both in terms of the number of riders and the sponsorship dollars. We never had a full starting gate and, frankly, some of the female riders competing just didn’t belong out there.”
But Fiolek, a four-time WMX champion, doesn’t buy the explanations.
“They will tell you a million different reasons – not enough time, no one watched the women, too much of a hassle – but basically they just didn’t want us there,” Fiolek said. “I would think a sport that is so small and not very big after 40 years in the making would be open to the female demographic. When MX Sports and the men of the industry decide WMX is important to them, then the women will be back and on a stage that showcases their talents as professional athletes.”
Lupton takes second – Wilton’s Dylan Lupton finished second behind Greg Pursley of Newhall in Saturday’s K&N Pro Series West Armed Forces 150 at Bakersfield’s Kern County Raceway Park. Lupton, the 2013 Rookie of the Year, moved into third place in the 2014 standings, two points behind David Mayhew and 20 behind Pursley. The Series returns June 21 for the Carneros 200 at Sonoma Raceway.
Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at email@example.com.