Motocross’ rich history of cyclists across the Gorge

Motocross in the Gorge offers cyclists a variety of different venues to ride on, including Washougal Motocross Park, Mountain View Motocross Park and Portland International Raceway. Local motorcyclists Collin Sullivan, Rory Sullivan, Tom Watson and Terry McDowell, along with their families, often participate in the motocross events at these venues and around the Pacific Northwest.

Summer is a great time for area residents who enjoy participating in outdoor activities, and one that is popular in the Columbia Gorge is the sport of motocross.

For local motorcyclists Collin Sullivan, Rory Sullivan, Tom Watson and Terry McDowell, they’ll ride in motocross events at nearby dirt tracks such as Washougal Motocross Park, Mountain View Motocross Park in Sandy and at the Portland International Raceway (PIR) Wylder Promotions Motocross Series.

Collin and his sons Turner, 6, and Byren, 4, competed in the PIR Thursday Night Motocross Series Aug. 23.

Turner enjoyed a successful race when he rode his 2017 KTM motorcycle to victory in the 50cc Beginner MX2 Division, which was his second win this year.

Riders compete in two, four-lap motos in their race classification. The winner is determined by the highest average finish of the two motocross events.

“Turner worked hard for the win and he got the holeshot in his first moto. I was amazed to see him do that,” said Collin Sullivan, a 2000 Hood River Valley High graduate. “He had to come from behind in the second moto, but he did a good job and passed some riders to get the lead by the end of the first lap.”

Sullivan, 36, rode his 2014 Suzuki motorcycle and competed in the OTH Intermediate Division (age 30 and over). He finished with a season-best second place at the PIR.

Byren has just started competing at PIR and he entered his first-ever race on Aug. 23.

Although he finished in last place in the 50cc Beginner MX1 Division, Collin explained that the goal with Bryen wasn’t to place, but to enjoy racing.

“We’re kind of focusing more on racing at PIR because it’s a great place for kids to ride,” said Sullivan, who has been riding dirt bike motorcycles since he was 8. “You can see the whole track and it’s not too tough to ride on because it doesn’t have any uphill or downhill sections. It’s a great bonding experience that all of us enjoy doing together.”

The next event at PIR is Sept. 6 at 6 p.m., and the series continues through the end of the month.

Rory Sullivan of White Salmon has been riding motorcycles since the age of 4 and is now a world class professional cyclist who has competed often in the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) Peterson Cat/Lucas Oil Pro Motocross National Championship Series at Washougal MX Park.

Sullivan, 35, rode his Power Motorsports/Bell Helmets sponsored Kawasaki KX 450cc motorcycle and nearly qualified for the Washougal National race competition on July 28, but he missed the cut by three seconds as he clocked a time of two minutes and 23.46 seconds on the 1.5-mile-long hillside course during a pre-national race qualifying session on July 26.

The top-36 of 65 total riders clinched a position in the race and the final qualifying competitor timed in at 2:20.48.

Sullivan last qualified for the Washougal National in 2011 and he finished in 30th place. He also competed in the National race in 2005 and 2007.

“I’ve raced professionally since 2001,” said Sullivan. “My main focus these days is my business, Radius Offroad, but I still race as much as I can. I just missed qualifying for the Washougal National and I was the oldest racer at the qualifier.”

Sullivan provides motocross lessons at Radius Offroad and riders receive instructions on either private or public tracks. Students taught by Sullivan can be assured that they’re learning from an experienced rider who competed professionally in the sport for years.

Sullivan has been successful in motocross while competing in pro races all over the world, including events in Canada, New Zealand, Chile, Greece and Portugal.

Sullivan has also qualified and competed in pro events throughout the U.S., including X Games in Los Angeles, along with entering Endurocross races and Arenacross events around the country.

Watson, 62, is a veteran racer. He’s a former pro rider and currently is a motorcycle mechanic.

Watson specializes in suspension work and repair of motocross and off-road motorcycles at his home.

Watson started riding in motocross events at 12 years old and he earned his AMA pro license at 19. Watson continues to compete occasionally in off road racing events throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Other local cyclists who also enjoy riding motorcycles on off road trails and in practice sessions at the Washougal and Sandy include the Knoll brothers, Hunter and Hudson of Hood River, along with Nick Harden, owner of Kickstand Coffee & Kitchen in Hood River.

McDowell, 51, is a former racer who competed often at Washougal, but spends most of his time now riding on off road public areas around the Gorge.

McDowell and his wife, Melissa, own McDowell & Son Heating and Air Conditioning. McDowell hasn’t competed much this year, but participates often in practice sessions at Washougal and Sandy.

“Our son Ryder, 20, and Terry both love motocross,” said Melissa McDowell, who is also a former motocross racer. “I think there’s kind of a new wave of motocross riders from Hood River now. Rory Sullivan is undoubtedly the most successful rider in the Columbia Gorge area and there’s some other people who have kind of dropped off the map a little bit, but there seems to be some newcomers to the sport of motocross.”

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