First Person: Neil Nethery takes top honors in off-road dirt bike racing

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By Laura Clark

Neil Nethery is a freshman at Shelby County High School and the son of Carolyn and Neil Nethery Sr. He has been riding and racing dirt bikes since age 7. This year, Nethery won the Supermini class in the Kentucky Off-Road Hare Scramble, and the overall youth division.

He also placed eighth overall in the 13-14-year-old division of the Grand National Cross Country Championships.

He rides an RM Suzuki 85 and a KTM 105 XC, and races a couple times a month during the season. Divisions in races are based on age and what size bike a competitor rides.

Nethery will be honored this Saturday at the KORHS banquet at Claudia Sanders Dinner House. Bailey Snider, an eighth-grader at West Middle School and the son of Myron and Angie Snyder, will be presented with the second-place award in the Supermini division and overall youth division.

Next year Nethery will compete in the adult division of the KORHS.

Nethery sat down with The Sentinel-News to share his triumphs and challenges in the sport of cross country motorbike racing.

  On getting into riding:

My dad used to race when he was younger. He got me a bike when I was 7, and I’ve rode ever since.

I used to ride jumps, motor cross, but then last year, about September, my friend invited me to go race in the woods [cross country].

I got third, and I really liked it, so I did the whole series last year.

On his first race:

I used to get real nervous before a race. I’d have to lie down, I’d get so nervous. One time they started without me.

With the first race, my dad didn’t know what class to put me in because he hadn’t raced in a long time. He put me in 85 class, and I only had a 70 [cc bike]. They went off and just left me. They were way too big for me.

The jumps were huge on that track, and I was terrified of the jumps because I was little. I had to go over them, and I finished.

After that we sorted everything out, and I raced the kids my age.

On the courses:

They don’t really do anything to the land; they just make it so the trees aren’t in your way. You go wherever the trails tell you to go. There could be hills, like almost straight up sometimes.

For the Supermini, the course is about three miles. For the adults, it’s about eight. In the Supermini class, you ride for 45 minutes nonstop. In the adult race, you have to ride for two hours. You go as many laps as you can.

When you’re riding the kids’ course, they don’t make it super difficult. For the adults they make it as hard as they can. You could be going through creeks for a mile, and then have to go up a huge hill and get stuck, and then you have to go do it again.

Almost every course has a little tight section.

I had to go through a really deep creek, about three and a half feet. I had the smallest bike in the whole race, but I did better than all the big guys. You just had to keep going, if you fell you’d be done. I got fourth in that adult race.

On his biggest race:

Probably the GNCC. It was in Yadkinville, N.C. In that one, I’ll be racing the Supermini still [next season]. It’s way more competitive, and if I raced the adult race, I wouldn’t even be competition.

On his gratitude:

My friend, Bryce Gartman, and his dad, Rob, I’d like to thank them for helping me. He [Bryce] is the one that invited me to race. I’d never really heard of woods racing. He’s older, so he’s been in the adult class for two years. He’s really good compared to me.

He has given me tips on how to pick your lines in places that are really tough. If there’s a big mud hole, don’t go straight into it. You might want to stop and look at your options, or watch a couple people go through it to see if it’s deep in certain spots.

I’d like to thank Mark White. He lives in Waddy and has Hidden Hills, a dirt-bike facility. I’d like to thank them for having that.

I’d like to thank God for keeping all of us safe. And my parents, too, of course.

On wiping out:

There was a race in Saddleback. I was going pretty fast, and my tire hit a rock. It threw my back end around, and I smashed my thumb pretty bad. It didn’t break it. I flew off pretty far.

Yes, it is [dangerous]. It’s a tree-dodging competition, really.

On race strategy:

You don’t want to just take off right away as fast as you can go because you’ll lose all your stamina. You want to go at a steady pace for a couple laps. After you see the track, you can go faster.

When I’m racing the adult class this year, I just want to be fast enough not to get lapped by them. When you get lapped by them, you know you’re pretty far behind.

On the racing community:

You make a lot of friends in different places. You don’t see each other a lot, so when you do you want to talk to them.

It’s a big family thing, a lot of vacations.   On what he loves about riding:

It’s really fun, and it’s challenging. I like to be challenged. You get to bond with your friends, spend time with them riding. And it’s just exciting. You get to explore new land, ride new places.

On the best time of year to ride:

I think it would be fall. It’s not too hot. In the wintertime, you have to wear too many clothes. In the winter, the ground’s frozen, and it’s really slick.

In the summer, the ground’s dry, and that’s fun. But I like to ride in the mud a lot. It’s hard, but I’ve gotten used to it.

I’ve rode in a lot of mud, and I know how to handle it, different situations. You don’t want to give it too much gas and spin everywhere. You have to give it the right amount of throttle. If you’re in rocks, you don’t want to give it all you’ve got because it’ll throw you off.

On his goals within racing:

I’m trying to go pro someday. I’m trying to work harder and harder at every race. And work out more, because you’ve got to push yourself a lot to get better. I’ve got to ride more, pretty much every day.