Start Your Engines

January 2010
Written By: 
Paul Grimshaw

Ten-year-old motocross racer River Hancock gears up for national competitions from his home track in Conway

On most sunny afternoons (and some rainy ones) ten-year-old motocross racer, River Hancock, is likely to be straddling a motorcycle. The Conway youth resembles, at a distance, a miniature Jeff Gordon. His blue and white form-fitting racing suit, emblazoned with stripes and logos, is identical to that of older motocross racers, though it’s sized to fit his trim 4’ 5’ ’, 85-pound frame.

River trains by riding a .7-mile clay track on his family’s property as fast as he can, controlling the bike with the skill and confidence of a veteran, which at ten, he already is. With twists and turns and hills, the practice track is the ideal training ground for a boy who has been racing in national competitions since he was four. Helmet and goggles in place, he’s the coolest kid on the block—and he’s just about to enter the fifth grade at Kingston Elementary School.

This marks River’s third year of competing in the Air Nautiques AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s ranch in Tennessee. This is serious business with about 25,000 entrants competing in qualifying races for only 1,386 slots. It’s the place where endorsement deals and million-dollar contracts are born.
Ronnie Hancock, River’s father, a motorcycle enthusiast in his own right, is also his son’s chief sponsor, mechanic, pit crew, and trainer. And mom, Trena Hancock, grew up riding dirt bikes herself.

On a recent practice run, River buzzed around the corner like an angry wasp riding an oversized chainsaw, really an 85-cc motocross bike. He then hit the series of jumps, flying through the air and seemingly suspended like Michael Jordan over a basketball hoop, then effortlessly landing, all without ever slowing down. It’s easy to see that on the track or off it, River won’t be slowing down any time soon.