Derek Halbur's passion for BMX racing and successes far exceed his diminutive size.
The 12-year-old sixth grader from Forestview Middle School qualified for Team USA for the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) BMX World Championships in Huesden-Zolder, Belgium, this summer.
At 4-foot-8 and 69 pounds, Halbur is one of the smallest kids in his 12-year-old division, but is ranked 20th. Last year, he placed second at a national event in Kansas City, Mo., his best finish ever.
Halbur started racing six years ago and competes in both the Class (20 inch tires) and Cruiser (24 inch tires) classes. He qualified for the World Championship in both classes, but said he likes Class better.
"Cruiser is actually easier to control," he said. "Class is harder and more competitive, which I like and it fits my size a little better."
Halbur trains year-round six days a week, both at the Lakes Area BMX track when it is open, and two or three days a week at the Rum River indoor track at Isanti. His coach is Elliot McGrath, an Elite (highest class) men's competitor.
"He gives me things to do-like bike sprints and conditioning exercises like squats and things to do to improve my balance," Halbur said. "I usually practice for about an hour a day."
He also travels around the country competing in events. This year, he's traveled to Tulsa, Okla.; Louisville, Ky.; and Oldsmar, Fla.
It was on Feb. 22 in Oldsmar that he qualified for Team USA in the Gator Nationals, a UCI sanctioned event. He finished sixth making the Top Eight, which earns a place on Team USA and the right to advance to the World Championships.
"I was doing well in practice against some really good competitors," Halbur said. "So I felt good and knew I was going to have a good race."
The World Series races in Belgium will be July 23-28, for all classes including the Men's and Women's Elite.
Halbur has a number of sponsors including Staats, a European manufacturer of BMX bikes. A golf course in St. Cloud is putting on a tournament to help raise funds.
Because of the expenses for the World Championships, only his mother, Jennifer, and a grandmother will accompany him to Belgium. Dad Erik and 8-year-old brother Jacob will remain at home.
One of Halbar's Team USA members is New Ulm's Cole Frederick. Frederick won the last two World Championships in the same class as Halbur and will be seeking to three-peat at Belgium.
Lakes Area BMX, Derek's home track, has been in existence for 36 years at three different locations. Since 2006, it has been located in Barrows near North Central Speedway.
"Actually my favorite track is Lakes Area," Halbur said. "I like the way it flows and the way it feels for me."
Jennifer Halbur, who is on the track's board of directors, said the track does a rebuild every year as it continues to improve. The current Lakes Area track features a new starting hill and staging area. It was designed by Lance Maguire, director of new track development for USA/Canada BMX. Maguire is currently designing the track for the Houston, Texas, UCI World Event in 2020.
"Minnesota is turning into a BMX powerhouse," Jennifer Halbur said. "We have a
state event every year, and we're really trying to get a national event here. Just from Lakes Area BMX, I believe we have three state champions, two regionals champions, and my son who is a nationally ranked kid."
This year's state qualifying event will be June 22-23 and is expected to have 90-100 motos of racing action. Each moto consists of seven or eight racers.
Lakes Area conducts races every Tuesday night with 20-24 motos.
"It's kind of a fun family night with barbecues," she said. "And every Thursday night is free practice.
Open houses for people to check out the track and to try riding-with bikes and helmets provided-will be 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, and noon-3 p.m. May 4.