Wheeling and dealing
Kevin Rookstool feigned being offended.
Was a reporter suggesting that, gasp, he’s getting old for his profession?
Then the 29-year-old dirt bike rider chuckled.
Certainly, the Medford-based motocross, supercross and endurocross rider is a veteran. But, he said, “I’m still getting beat by guys in their 40s. So, dang, I still have time. I just have fun with it. I’ll keep going as long as I’m able to continue.”
Rookstool has been riding motorcycles since age 7, when his dad took him for weekend excursions while growing up in Klamath Falls. He lit out for Southern California at age 17 to train and compete, and — apart from the stature he’s gained as one of the world’s most versatile and talented riders — there haven’t been any dramatic changes in his lifestyle since.
“You definitely get the bug,” said Rookstool, who has competed in five of ESPN’s X Games and has finished well at numerous outdoor nationals. “Once you ride and get into it, you can’t get rid of it. It’s an adrenaline rush, for sure.”
Rookstool is undertaking a new venture: He’s putting on his own show Friday and Saturday at the Seven Feathers Event Center at the Jackson County Expo.
The event has an attractive purse of $15,000 and a unique format that has lured the top professional riders in the major disciplines.
There are four classes: pro, women, amateur open and veterans. Doors open at 6 p.m. and racing begins at 7 each night.
Tickets are $23 for adults, $14 for 12 and younger, and children 4 and younger get in free. They are available online at enduro-mx.com.
The hybrid track will be set up for both enduro and moto racing.
“This is a unique, one-of-a-kind event,” said Scott Cala, who is promoting it with Rookstool.
Endurocross takes place outdoors over long courses. It requires endurance of riders as they traverse logs, rocks, streams and whatever else Mother Nature conjures.
Motocross, supercross and arenacross are faster-paced races, outdoors or in arenas, over man-made courses. They’re set up with tight turns, big jumps and mogul — or whoops and rhythm — sections.
The diversity of the track would seem to fit Rookstool perfectly.
“He can ride anything,” said Cala. “It doesn’t matter what it is. And he’s run it at the top pro level. There aren’t two or three riders in the world who do it with that talent at that level.”
It might be akin to a runner trying to master sprints (moto) and distances (enduro). The former calls for top fitness, the latter an uncommon stamina and tolerance for discomfort. The ESPN Sport Science show determined the punishment in endurocross is equivalent to that of a 15-round heavyweight boxing match.
If anyone can attest to the physical demands of dirt-bike racing, it’s Rookstool. It would take him less time to name bones he hasn’t broken than those he has.
“I’ve pretty much broken a little piece of everything,” he said.
Collarbone, wrist, hand, ankle.
The most gruesome injury was a broken femur in 2009, when a crash over a rhythm section rearranged his left leg “at a 90-degree angle.”
It takes a different kind of person to sign on for such hazard.
“It definitely scares people,” said Rookstool. “It’s just the love of doing it. I love it, and I’m addicted to it, and it’s too much fun. I’ve always bounced back from injuries. That’s part of the game. You gotta pay to play. It’s not for everyone. Some people can handle it, and some can’t. I just happen to be one of those guys that can.”
He doesn’t enjoy getting hurt, but even when laid up, he said, “you’re still wanting to get back on your bike and itching to ride.”
The spectators don’t mind the wipe-outs so much, but the riders this weekend would prefer to avoid them.
Among the 24 featured pro riders are world superenduro and U.S. enduro champion Colton Haaker, legendary trials champion and stunt expert Geoff Aaron, motocross star Gared Steinke and Oregonians Mike Horban, of Grants Pass, and Rory Sullivan, of Estacada.
A big name in women’s racing, Tarah Gieger, will compete. The Bend resident, originally from Puerto Rico, has an X Games gold medal to her credit and is sponsored by Red Bull.
Putting on a show of such magnitude has been taxing, said Rookstool, because he continues to travel extensively and compete. He’s currently training for the outdoor national motocross series.
Still, it has allowed him to delve deeper into his life’s love.
“It’s been interesting and it’s going great,” he said. “I’m learning lessons and building something for the future.”
Even if that post-racing period is a long way off.
— Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.