Riders climb on a motorcycle.
They get hurt.
Then it’s time to get back on the bike and ride again.
It’s just the way it is in motocross. Leslie Sarauer knows it. So does her 13-year-old daughter, Linkin. Injuries aren’t necessarily dismissed with a shrug of the shoulders, but the risk is accepted.
“With this sport, you know you’re going to get hurt,” said Leslie Sarauer. “It’s a matter of when.”
For Linkin Sarauer of Evansdale, “when” happened last year. She broke an arm racing at Mount Carroll, Ill., going over a jump. That accident cost her a chance to compete at the national level for the second consecutive year.
Five pins, a couple of surgeries and a lost season later, Linkin Sarauer climbed back on the bike and started to ride again. In fact, she’s competed so well that the family is headed back to Hurricane Mills, Tenn., and the Loretta Lynn Ranch. That’s the site for the 35th annual Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship that’s scheduled for Aug. 1-6.
This time around, Linkin Sarauer will be running against girls in the 12- to 16-year-old age group. She’ll be the youngest among the 30 entries in the field. That fact hardly feels like an obstacle to Linkin. Far from it.
“There’s a lot of good competition,” she said. “But it should be good.
“I’m pretty fast for my age. I know I have the speed to go down there and compete with older girls. I belong there.”
And Linkin has one other thing going for her — the memory of 2015.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “Last year was really good. It bummed me out when I broke my arm. I know going back that I have an opportunity. That made me happy again.”
Just as she did two years ago, Linkin Sarauer earned her spot on Loretta Lynn’s ranch by successfully working her way through the local and regional qualifying events. Part of that process was a stop at Mount Carroll and the very same track where she suffered the injury on Easter weekend, 2015 during an open practice.
Riders get hurt. Leslie Sarauer knows it. During her days racing on four-wheel all-terrain vehicles, she suffered multiple injuries in a mishap during an event at Macon, Ga., and spent more than two months of 2001 in a hospital. That accident essentially ended her career.
So, the Sarauers had their own perspective on Linkin’s injury.
Said Leslie, “I was thankful it was her arm. With some kids, it’s worse.”
Said Linkin when asked if the accident made her reluctant to ride, “No. I knew the pain didn’t really bother me. When it healed, it wouldn’t be bad or anything.
“I got out of shape a lot, being out for so long. Once I got back in the shape I was in before I broke my arm, I was back to normal right away.”
It took 10 weeks for Linkin’s broken arm to heal. In week 11, she climbed aboard a bike.
“She was ready,” said Leslie Sarauer. “It took a little bit for her to get the eye of the tiger again. But it was amazing. A lot of people said it looked like she never got off the bike.”
She raced for a time at the end of the 2015 season, including the first of the two post-accident rides at Mount Carroll. Now, she’s been back in the saddle for a full season, racing against both girls and boys.
At 13, the daughter of Luke and Leslie Sarauer is an older and wiser athlete than the grade school kid who went to Tennessee two years ago. Naturally, she is also stronger. Part of that strength stems from a daily routine that includes riding, running and work with a personal trainer.
“It’s tough because you put your body through a lot,” said Linkin Sarauer. “But it’s going to pay off racing. So everything is worth it.”
There is also a greater sense of emotional toughness, according to Linkin’s mother.
“She’s just stronger mentally and stronger physically,” said Leslie Sarauer. “She’s just got more experience on the bike.”
When Linkin gets to Hurricane Mills, she’ll know the territory and what to expect. There’s a growing sense of excitement mixed with a little nervousness. What’s going to happen? How will it go?
Something else happens when riders ride. They win. The 13-year-old motocross veteran has thought about that, too.
“That would be awesome,” said Linkin Sarauer. “It would open a lot of eyes. I’d have more opportunities to go down south and train.”