MIDDLEBOROUGH — The crowd was smaller than usual for a weekend race day at Capeway Rovers. The rainy conditions limited those in attendance to mostly family and friends of the riders, young and old, as they whipped through the mud on their two-wheel motorbikes.
This is the often overlooked sport of motocross.
Dirt bikes, with engine sizes 50 cubic centimeters to 450 cubic centimeters,and riders ages 5 to 61, arrive at the track by 9 to start practicing, rain and all.
Sunday marked the third round in the fall series of the NCSC (New Capeway Sports Committee). Capeway Rovers is the oldest motocross track on the East Coast, getting its start in 1934 in Bourne before moving to a site on the Carver-Middleborough line in 1951.
Kyle Deneen, a 15-year-old from Plymouth, has been racing the NCSC for three years, but riding since 5. He is ranked first in the 125 C class and the youth 125 C class.
His father, Kevin, who rides but does not race, attends all of his son’s races and keeps up the maintenance on his 125 Kawasaki. On Sunday, Deneen’s mother, Debra, his grandparents, and his sister, were also at the track in the soggy conditions.
Deneen does not play any other organized sports, but his family supports his dream to be a pro rider and recognizes motocross as a sport.
“People will ask me, ‘What sport does Kyle play?’ ” said Debra Deneen. “And I'll say motocross and they’re like, ‘Oh, he doesn’t play an organized sport at school?’ and I say ‘This is what he does. It is a sport,’ but a lot of people don’t see it as one.”
“As you can see, it’s a big family thing. Most people don’t believe that. They think it’s just a bunch of yahoos racing around a track, but it’s a big family-oriented based group. That’s good and it keeps him out of trouble,” said Kevin Deneen.
Motocross is also physically demanding. Staying in control of the bike requires a rider to use every muscle. Maneuvering a 200-pound bike around tight corners at intense speeds is not for the weak; it requires endurance and focus to get through the long days at races. Deneen, who attends Plymouth South High School, raced four seven-lap races on Sunday.
He practices on his own private track, behind his house, riding every day if possible. And the high usage of his bike can result in expensive repairs. “Other than sponsors, you’re on your own,” said his father.
Deneen’s sponsor, Pilgrim Power Sports of Plymouth, fixes his Kawasaki at a cheaper rate.
A teen of few words, Deneen was focused and determined as he prepared for his second race of the day; his first race did not go as well as he had planned.
The previous night’s rain, along with a morning shower, had caked a layer of mud onto the track, resulting in a difficult race for the cautious racers.
“It’s like riding on ice,” said Deneen.
There were a number of crashes and falls, but none resulting in any hospital visits.
Jacob Morrison, a pro rider from Wareham, broke his back and thumb during a race at Capeway Rovers last year, jeopardizing his income as a pro rider, motocross school teacher, and electrician.
Every rider has to prepare for the possibility of a crash, and an injury.
“It’s not if it happens, it’s when it happens. Everyone crashes,” said Kevin Deneen.
His son has not suffered any broken bones yet, but he has made a few hospital visits for his leg and his back, which ended up only being bruised.
Riders also must get accustomed to travel, and tackling different terrain.
Deneen, who calls Crow Hill in Baldwinville his favorite track, will travel to MX101 in Epping, N.H., Saturday for the fourth round of the NCSC fall series to defend his top spot.
A number of the region’s top riders were in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., last weekend after qualifying for the 2012 Red Bull AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship held at the Loretta Lynn Ranch.
The qualifiers included: Logan Best, 6, from Buzzards Bay; Owen Covell, 6, of Plymouth; James Harrington, 12, of Plymouth; Justin Cokinos, 10, of Hanover; Jack Camelio of Holbrook, who is racing in the 50-plus class; and Jake Pinhancos, a 14-year-old from Rochester.
Pinhancos appears to be on track to a professional career.
At 9, he qualified for the championships at the Loretta Lynn Ranch, placing 15th overall before earning top honors in 2010. He then competed against young riders from 34 nations at the FIM World Junior Championship at the Dardon-Gueugnon circuit in France, capturing the world title in the 66cc class. He was named 2010 AMA Racing Youth Rider of the Year. At the end of August, he will represent the United States at the Junior World Championships in Sevlievo, Bulgaria.
A handful of other riders from the region are making their mark:
■ Brad Fortini, 14, Plymouth: won the 2012 Youth 125C Spring Series for NESC (New England Sports Committee).
■ Patrick Delowery, 16, Rochester: No. 1 in the 250cc A class.
■ Tristan King, 10, Rochester: No. 1 in the 65cc Amateur class.
■ Nathaniel Wall, 15, Plymouth: No. 1 in the Youth 125 B class.
■ Wayne Peterson, 28, Brockton, No. 1 in the 125cc A class.