‘He’s a racer’: Summit teen Jagger Koch ready to let it rip at motocross nationals in Tennessee
July 27, 2018
The 1,233-mile drive cross-country to country singer Loretta Lynn's Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, has had a few setbacks for the Koch family of Silverthorne.
On the way, the family's 2006 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck — one complete with a camper bed and a 6-foot by 12-foot trailer of motocross equipment in tow — had a caliper on one of the rear brakes blow off.
But nothing will be stopping Summit High sophomore-to-be Jagger Koch from competing at next week's Amateur National Motocross Championships.
At the ranch, on his 125-cubic centimeter, 200-pound Yamaha YZ-125 motocross bike, the 5-foot-9, 130-pound Silverthorne teen will race in both the 125cc and 250cc C-divisions. It's an open racing category designed for young, up-and-coming motocross riders like him who've made the jump up from junior motobikes to full-size motobikes.
Koch qualified for the national event a few months back during his favorite competitive sporting memory thus far in his life. It was a regional event in Minnesota where he finished in second-place in both the 125cc and 250cc C-division races — plenty good enough to book his ticket to the ranch.
"We had tried so many times in the past and it was the first time out of eight different trips that we made it," Koch said.
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After he shattered his kneecap in a spring-skiing accident last year, the 14-year-old Koch qualified for amateur motocross's premier annual national event in his first fully healthy season back. Despite the length of this week's 24-hour drive, it's not much new for the High Country-based motocross rider, as he's used to traveling far distances to compete and get better at the sport he loves.
"I always try to ride as much as I can year-round," Koch said by phone from Tennessee on Friday. "Despite the winter, we never really take more than a month off from riding the bike. Racing locally, it only happens from March to September, but we go down to Denver or Colorado Springs to practice and stuff. And sometimes I enjoy practicing more than racing."
Enjoying practicing more than racing? Maybe it's thanks to Koch's lifelong passion for the specialized motorsport learned from his father, Jim. Unlike Jagger, Jim got into the sport as an adult, working his way up to compete semi-professionally in Enduro motocross races in Colorado.
When Jagger came along, father and son began to enjoy the sport together when Jagger was just a toddler.
"When I was 2 (years old) he would ride with me on his lap on his bike and I used to hold onto the front handlebars, and he would control everything, and I kind of found a love for it," Jagger said. "So I decided, 'I want to do it.'"
A few years later, at the age of 7, Jim knew his son had a fever for motocross riding that could lead to not only a love for the sport, but elite success as well. Half a lifetime ago for Jagger, he rode his 65cc motorbike to a particularly daunting hill off of Tiger Road in Breckenridge.
"A really challenging hill climb," Jim recalled. "They call it 'Humbug Hill.' And he was on a really little bike, and I didn't think there was any chance he could ride up the whole hill. But he wanted to try anyway. He made it over really difficult obstacles ,and before I knew it, I said: 'You made it!' And he said: 'Really? Oh, that wasn't so bad.'"
That was Jim's epiphany that bigger things could be ahead. To boot, as Jagger began to race competitively the following year, the common refrain heard from others on the track was that he rode "smooth." It's a term in the sport used to describe someone who is naturally in-sync with the physics of their bike out on the course.
Transitioning from a young whippersnapper with natural ability on a 65cc junior bike to a national-level competitor on a 125cc full-sized bike has also required Jagger to put in more effort both on and off his bike.
Jim knows that many people with little knowledge of the sport think of motocross as simply sitting down and letting the engine and tires do all of the work. Jim, however, compares the kind of athletic strain and training for the full body that the sport requires to triathlon.
"Motocross racers are some of fittest athletes out there," the father said. "They use every part of their body, using every element. There are bumps, jumps and turns, and an athlete has to be really fit and Jagger has been working really hard. If you could imagine going at a full sprint for 20 minutes, that's basically what you have to do."
Thinking back to his progression over the past five years or so, Jagger is proud of his desire to continue to master his technique while also improving his endurance. Living in Summit County, he believes the kind of cross-training that downhill skiing, lacrosse and mountain biking provide helps his quality on his motocross bike. He also goes to the gym to spend time on the rowing machine to improve his overall full-body strength, and his mother Lisa is also a key part of his success thanks to her help and focus on his nutrition.
As for this coming week in Tennessee, Jim is confident his son will bring the kind of rise-to-the-occasion confidence that has helped him in the past.
"He's a racer," the father said. "When he's actually racing, he does whatever he needs to do to get a good finish and win. He just has a desire to do that and focus when it's all happening."
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