Riders on way up
By STEVE ARCHBOLD
JO BATES can remember the days when her children were happy to get their kicks riding BMX bikes.
Pedal power was replaced by engines six years ago, when brother and sister Nathan and Ashlea Bates were given 80cc motorbikes.
"We only bought them motorbikes to muck around on, but from that day all they wanted to do was ride motocross, they didn't want to know about BMX anymore," Jo said.
Ashlea was only eight and Nathan 11 when they started riding and they haven't looked back.
While Nathan, 17, has graduated to the Australian supercross series, Ashlea, 14, continues to mix it with the boys as well as riding in girls only events.
It was no surprise the youngest member of the family, Aleisha, now six, started riding at the age of four because as Jo explained, she has been exposed to motocross since she was a baby.
"All she wanted to do was just jump on a bike and ride," Jo said.
With any motor sport there is always an element of danger involved and Ashlea has had her share of misfortune.
Competing at Inverell last year, she was involved in an accident where she suffered three cracked vertebrae, broken ribs and a broken collarbone.
This would have been enough to make any 13-year-old have second thoughts about continuing her career but this girl is an exception, she is tough as nails and has no fear.
At the Australian championships in South Australia last year, Ashlea had ridden through to the top 40 from the original field of 79 to qualify for the finals.
Running 10th, Ashlea's chances suffered a blow when the foot pedal pierced her knee but she bravely battled on to finish the race.
Complaining of soreness in her knee, Ashlea was checked by medical staff who immediately sent the youngster to hospital.
Desperate to get back to the track, Ashlea pleaded with staff to stitch the wound quickly so she could return to ride in the last two races.
Ashlea wouldn't get her wish that day; she would spend the next week in hospital and wait another three months before she could ride again.
After such a long break between events, Ashlea was busting out of her skin when the 2004 season began at Coolum in January only to be involved in another crash where she was thrown off the bike and suffered a broken collarbone.
Ashlea was back on the bike for another girls only event at Nowra later in the year only to see mechanical failure ruin her chances.
With a new bike, Ashlea was the only girl rider to contest the South- East Queensland series for riders 11-13 where she finished a gallant fourth.
For this talented youngster, accidents are part and parcel of motocross although at times all the aches and pains are a concern because they just won't go away.
"When you are out of action it is really tempting to get back onto a bike but you need to let your body heal first, sometimes it gets boring waiting to race again," she said.
Ashlea enjoys the challenge of riding against boys and says she gives as good as she gets.
"They are the ones who are starting to worry because I am the one who is getting faster and they have to keep looking over their shoulders all the time," Ashlea said.