Teen motocross phenom Oriana Fraser has skyrocketed up the standings since taking up the adrenaline pumping sport just 3.5 years ago and continues to turn heads during what has been another breakthrough season.
Poised to repeat as B.C. champion in September, the Vancouver Island racing community has adopted the 15-year-old as a favourite to cheer for at series competitions.
“There are very few lady riders so I’ve been riding with the boys the whole time,” said Fraser about her rise in the sport.
This weekend, the Ladysmith resident is in Kamloops where she’ll race around the track in the Grand National Amateur Championships.
“We’re going to have the fastest riders in Canada and the United States coming up to compete – it’s a big deal,” said stepdad Dale Gisborne.
“They race every day for four days to determine who is the fastest amateur out there.”
Fraser has been a scout since she was four, and dabbled in basketball, but despite being athletic never thrown her leg over a motocross bike until the age of 11.5 after seeing how much her brother Walker enjoyed the sport.
“It looked fun. Big jumps and going fast,” she said, admitting how only the third time riding a bike was at a race in Nanaimo and “I was very slow.”
“It was comfort level and figuring out how to put the clutch and gas together,” she adds.
Eventually things started to click and now there’s few races where she’s not battling heading into holeshot corner – the first turn in a race that’s key to achieving good positioning.
Fraser enjoys the fact that motocross is an individual sport where the pressure is squarely on her shoulders alone.
“You get riding and the adrenaline starts pumping because of the speed and there is so much going on on the track,” she said. “There’s so many things you have to be considering when you’re riding.”
Racing women, many of whom were over 20 years old, Fraser held her own at the recent Rockstar Energy CMRC Western Canadian Ladies Nationals where she finished 7th, a pro ranking now proudly displayed on her 150 CC bike.
In the starting gate, Fraser tends not to get nervous because she’s instead focused on executing a perfect race.
“I think about what my first lap is going to be, what my line choice is going to be,” she said.
“I really just focus on that and how I’m going to do my start and get in front of everybody.”
Sleep, proper nutrition and a balanced lifestyle are also an important part of getting an edge on her competition while avoiding fatigue such as arm pump where blood vessels in the forearms becomes restricted while riding.
“She’s got to be prepped in the gates to stay focused but all of that is part and parcel with an overall healthy living style that we are finding is incredibly important for her too,” said mom Patti. “I was afraid (when she first started racing) of what was going to happen out there but she is always so focused and that’s really been in her favour and set her up for such success.”
Races are generally 10 minutes plus an additional two laps, or 15 and two laps for national level events.
The tracks can be anything from sand, hard packed clay or ground material which she tries to mimic in training in Campbell River under the watchful eye of professional racer Dusty Klatt.
“It’s a dangerous sport and it takes extreme fitness. The physical demands it takes out of you is quite large,” Dale adds.
The family is on the road a lot traveling to races, and already this year Dale and Oriana have been as far east as Regina and were in California over the winter for training.
“We get closer from it because of the conversations that we have,” he said. “I try to make it not all about motocross so we do fun things to break it up like going to see museums or go karting.”
If Fraser, who keeps good grades in school, continues along her current upward trend there could be opportunities to race in Europe, Asia or Mexico.
The likely next step will be the Loretta Lynn’s AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship in the U.S.
Fraser admittedly hasn’t thought too far ahead and sometimes even reflecting on her quick rise in the sport can be a lot to come to grips with.
“Having three and a half, almost four years under my belt, and looking at people that are older than me who have been riding since they were four, and me being competitive against them – it’s crazy.”