Sunday, May 25, 2003

Muscle, fitness key to competing


Bulking up has given bikers edge

By Ryan Ernst
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Japan's Eito Yasutoko performs a trick on the vert ramp after winning the Pro Vert Competition.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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When Kevin Robinson graduated from East Providence (R.I.) High School in 1990, he was a 120-pound skin-and-bones kid who liked to ride bikes.

When Robinson rolls into town today as part of the Mobile Skatepark Series at Sawyer Point, fans will get a look at the man that kid has become - a chiseled, 200-pound part-time bodybuilder, part-time video game character and full-time BMX vert-riding superstar.

The change in image, as well as in on-the-ramp success, is the result of something not normally associated with extreme sports - serious weight training and exercise.

"About nine years ago, I spent 11 months out of a year injured and I just got sick of being hurt and figured there had to be a way to avoid it," Robinson said. "So I started lifting weights and adding muscle. Now I can take a fall better. And it's nice to get out of situations where you'd normally get stuck, because you can muscle the bike."

Robinson's six-day-a-week free-weight workout regimen led him to competitive bodybuilding. It also boosted him from a top-20 rider in the world rankings to a consistent top-five finisher, including a recent second-place finish at the Global X Games World Championships.

Matt Pohlkamp, a pro BMX downhill racer and Cincinnati native, finished fifth in last year's Summer X Games. Just like Robinson, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Pohlkamp said work done off the bike leads to success on it.

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Marc Englehart of Lansdale, PA performs a trick during his second run, placing him 3rd in the Pro Vert Competition.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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"It's absolutely vital. If you don't train with weights, there's no way you can compete at the level we're at," he said.

Both athletes' training sessions focus heavily on gaining leg strength, as well as upper-body movements that stress a pulling motion. Stretching and nutrition are also key ingredients.

Robinson, who is also a kickboxing enthusiast, said he takes in one gram of protein per body pound every day.

"I think if people saw how hard we work, it would definitely change their perceptions of the sport," Pohlkamp said. "I know some pro baseball players and football players, and I can honestly say that we work just as hard if not harder in the gym. And we make a fraction of the amount of money."

That's where sponsorships and endorsements come in, another way to judge an extreme sports star's success.

Pohlkamp rides for DK Bikes and is sponsored by RightGuard, Fox Racing and Airwalk, among others. Robinson is sponsored by Red Bull and Fox Racing, among others, and rides for Hoffman Bikes, a relationship that has led to his notoriety in popular culture.

He is one of the stars in both installments of the video game "Mat Hoffman's Pro BMX."

"It's pretty cool. When the first one came out, it was just overwhelming," he said. "It still weirds me out a little bit, but it's an honor and a privilege."

PRO VERT FINALS: Brazilian skater Marco de Santi and Thumper Nagasako (Maui, Hawaii) qualified for the Gravity Games after Saturday's Pro Vert Finals. X Games invitations were extended to Sven Boekhorst (Holland) and Fabiola da Silva (Brazil), the only pro vert female skater.

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E-mail rernst@enquirer.com




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