Being a part of Neil Evans’ BMX team – Napa Valley Pull – is about more than just riding bikes and racing. It’s about being a good sport, a good student and a good person.
Evans started the team a little more than a year ago as a way to get more local youths off their computers and onto bikes.
“I love helping people out, that’s definitely my calling in life,” Evans said. “I’ve always wanted to help out but never got an opportunity to at a local level and then I found BMXing.”
Evans isn’t a professional racer, though. He has only been doing BMX (Bicycle Motocross) since his daughter became interested in the sport five years ago.
“Once my daughter got hooked on it, I said ‘OK, if you do it, I’ll do it with you,’” Evans said. Eventually he and his daughter, Tia, now 11, joined a team. After a while, though, he realized that the culture of the team didn’t exemplify the things they had grown to love about the sport. So, he started his own team.
“I really wasn’t looking for the best riders. Honestly, I just wanted good kids and good parents,” he said.
“Everybody that we have on the team is fun,” he said. “We all get along and just enjoy each other’s company … It’s been a blessing.”
Although his goal is to get local youth involved in BMX racing, the team has a range of ages on it – people from age 5 to 50.
Napa Valley Pull has been a dream come true for Ben Anderson, 17, who started riding in 2013.
“I absolutely love it and I do not plan on leaving it anytime soon,” said Anderson, a junior at Vintage High School. “It’s the best thing I could ever ask for.”
The team is like its own community that’s close-knit and supportive of one another, he said. Neil Evans, he said, is a big part of that.
“Neil’s a really nice person,” Anderson said. “He’s one of the main reasons why I joined the team.”
Even when he was just racing, if another racer had a problem with their bike, Evans would be the first to offer them his bike, Anderson said. And now as the team manager, he works really hard to get everyone things like hats, jerseys, windbreakers and even bicycles.
To stay on the team, the kids need to maintain a B-average.
“I tell ‘em, ‘You guys work hard with your grades, I’ll work hard getting sponsors,’” Evans said. With the funds he collects from sponsors, Evans purchases things for the team and puts money toward travelling to races.
Some sponsorship money was used to build Jonathan Wachowski, 16, a new bike.
“They (the team) invited me out to breakfast, then they showed up and just gave it to me,” said Wachowski, a sophomore at Vintage High School. “I was pretty excited it, it’s a really nice bike.”
A good bike can cost around $2,500.
“He didn’t even know what to say he was so excited,” Evans said. “Now he has a bike that’s gonna last him a long, long time.”
Evans is always thinking of everyone else before himself, Anderson said.
“He’s put a lot of his time and a lot of his effort into making this team happen,” he said. Even when something bad happens to him – like the time equipment was stolen from his truck – he still puts the team first, he said. “He takes care of all of us.”
“He’s just a great manager for the team and a really good person,” said Deanna Boustead, who had two children on Napa Valley Pull. “Since he asked the kids to join NVP, it’s been a wonderful experience for them. They love it – they are so motivated by him.”
Napa Valley Pull is like a family, she said.
“It’s about working hard and giving me 100 percent on every race,” Evans said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re in first or if they’re in last place as long as they finished hard every time.”
Evans, who graduated from Vintage High School and currently lives in American Canyon, spends a few hours after work most days doing something – usually talking to sponsors – for the team.
It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun, too, Evans said. He gets to help get kids excited about being outside, being a team, participating in a sport and build confidence.
“You see a kid smile, it speaks volumes,” he said. “It warms my heart up.”