July 2019 ~ Rider of the Month ~ Cogan Martin-Kersey

Being chosen Rider of the Month is kind of a big deal. But before July’s honoree Cogan Martin-Kersey would sit down with me for his obligatory interview, he wanted to lock in one condition.

“When we’re done,” he asked, “can I do more laps?”

Mind you, he had just raced in withering heat and humidity at NOVA BMX’s Wednesday night local. And he had already taken a few practice laps after the race. AND, as I would learn during the interview, he had also done sprints earlier in the day.

A BMX racer can go a long way with proper coaching, practice, and race experience.

But there’s one thing a rider either has or doesn’t have: drive.

Cogan Martin-Kersey has huge amounts of drive. He loves to ride his bike, and he is willing to put in the time and effort to get very good at it.

Cogan has been racing over half of his eight years, and as much as any racer we’ve seen at NOVA BMX, he seems born to it.

His mom, Michelle, told us that he was riding a pedal bike by age three. During a visit to Michelle’s hometown in Upstate New York, a neighbor suggested they let Cogan burn off some energy on a nearby pump track.

That was the day that Cogan collided with his destiny.

He rode that track so tirelessly and enthusiastically that Michelle – who had never even heard of BMX up to that point – knew she had to find a venue for him to ride closer to their home in Woodbridge, VA. She Googled “kid’s bike riding” on the ride home, and that led her to the USA BMX website.

And to Michelle’s shock, the “Track Finder” feature on USA BMX’s website led her to a BMX track right next to her home that she didn’t even know existed.

So it was that Cogan began racing at NOVA BMX at age 4, and all of us who have watched him develop as a rider could see early on that he had a rare talent for BMX.

After spending some time learning the ropes, Cogan went all in on the national circuit in his second year of racing, earning a National Age Group (N.A.G.) ranking of 15, even as an Intermediate rider. This is particularly impressive, given that Intermediates do not earn as many points per race as Experts.

Along the way, Cogan got picked up by the Powers Bike Shop Team, and with the encouragement and mentoring of Team Manager Fredy Caceres, he continued to be a strong presence in national competition. Cogan earned his promotion to Expert with five national wins, another mark of a high-caliber rider.

In fact, Cogan has been ranked at N.A.G. 15 or higher three of his four years of racing.  Currently he is the 10th ranked rider in the nation among the highly-competitive eight-year-old age group. He was also promoted this year to the Powers Bike Shop factory team, where he is now under the tutelage of Team Manager Jeff Ketron.

And this month he will represent Team U.S.A. at the World Championships in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium.

This is actually Cogan’s second trip to the Worlds. In 2017 at Rock Hill, SC he got as far as the semifinals.

This time, however, he believes things will be different. He has his sights firmly set on a World 1 plate.

Cogan has been fine-tuning his preparation by doing what he loves best: racing his bike. After winning his race at NOVA BMX the night of our interview, he was off to the Stars & Stripes National in Pittsburgh, to be followed by the Las Vegas Nationals the next week.

From there, it’s off to Belgium.

Fortunately, both of Cogan’s parents are school teachers, leaving the family with greater flexibility to travel during the summer. During the interview we discussed how behind every successful BMX racer there is a devoted BMX mom. Perhaps contributing to Cogan’s BMX superpowers is the fact that he has two: Michelle and her wife, Colleen. Michelle handles onsite logistics at the races and ensures Cogan gets to staging on time. Colleen is chief mechanic and frequent videographer. Both contribute to a loud and enthusiastic cheering section.

The three have been all over the country together and are now branching out into international competition. Cogan said experiencing new places is among the things he loves best about BMX. He also cited having fun and hanging out with his friends as things he enjoys about the sport.

Beside his parents, Cogan listed team sponsor Chad Powers, as well as his team managers and coaches Fredy and Jeff, as the people he most wanted to thank for helping him with his BMX career. Cogan’s bike of choice is GT, with Chad and Jeff recently setting him up on a custom 2020 Speed Series build. It is a world class bike for a world class rider, and Cogan confirmed that he loves it.

One of Cogan’s most impressive attributes as a rider, especially given his young age, is his track sense. He is always aware of what’s going on in his races, and he always seems to know exactly where he needs to be to make the moves that will get him ahead or keep him ahead. He also races with calmness and confidence. If he experiences a set-back during a race, he keeps his head and methodically sets himself up to regain the advantage.  Wherever he is in the pack, you can never count Cogan out in a race.

I asked him what sort of cues or directions he gives himself in these situations, hoping to find some kernel of wisdom to up my own game. His answer, however, indicated that he relies on instinct and high-level racing experience. “I just ride,” he said. “I don’t think. I just ride as hard as I can.”

More helpful to me was the advice he’d give to up and coming riders who need to increase their confidence. Work on smoothness and flow first, he said. Jumping and manualing can wait until you’ve built up your track speed. He also said not to worry too much about injuries, as that probably won’t happen at slower speeds.

Cogan may only be going into third grade, but he is already wise in the ways of BMX. We at NOVA BMX have watched in wonder as he has grown into a formidable competitor and a good buddy to the other racers at the track.

Congratulations to Cogan on being July’s Rider of the Month and one of the U.S.A.’s top hopes in this year’s World Championships. We are proud to have him represent NOVA BMX and know that he will always be a credit to his track, his team, and his country by giving 100% and by keeping his cool through all the ups and downs of top-level competition.

This rider spotlight was written by our local racer and BMX dad, Christopher Zealand. Photo credits go to Cogan's parents, except the race photo by B&C BMX Photography.