Colton Davis, a 21-year-old racer out of Rochert, will be making his Winter X Games debut in Snow BikeCross later this month in Aspen, Colorado, along with three members of his team.
Davis punched his ticket to Aspen in December at the Snow BikeCross X Games Dual Qualifier event at ERX Motor Park in Elk River, but he got his start in the sport at Polar Fest in Detroit Lakes.
Davis received a kit from Timbersled representative and VHR Motorsports team manager Matt Halseth. After one ride into town, Davis jumped right into racing at Polar Fest and won on his first ride.
“If it wasn’t for Matt, I wouldn’t be riding at all,” said Davis.
How Colton got into racing is a story of happenstance and timing more than anything. His father Jeff was on a sales call with Halseth and the two found a connection in dirt bikes. Jeff invited Matt for a summer ride in the woods, but Matt’s bike was not set up for a woods ride. After borrowing an extra Davis bike, the next winter Halseth returned the favor with a kit and a few trips out west.
Going from a small race in Detroit Lakes to the biggest in Aspen has been a trip of its own.
“It feels really surreal,” said Colton. “I think it will set in more when I get there, but knowing you’re going to be riding with the top guys doesn’t feel real a lot of the times.”
Having sponsors and factory backing has helped the transition into racing mode and allowed Davis time to spend honing his skills on the bike.
“It’s hard to ride around here and having to travel to practice stinks but I’ve been working my butt off and it’s been paying off,” he said. “I’ve relied on my talents to get me through life and I’ve always been good at riding dirt bike. This year, to get the opportunity and I was sick of being average. I work out every single day.”
According to Davis, riding snow bikes is more like a street bike rather than a dirt bike. Track surface or powder make a big difference in how the bikes handle as well. The bikes are a lot heavier when jumping and a lot of the weight gets thrown to the front.
Davis travels to practice at tracks in Elk River and Fertile and has been racing at ISOC series events in Duluth, Shakopee and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The series travels all around the midwest.
This is Davis’ second run at X Games. His first shot at qualifying ended in a crash and an injury two seasons ago and he raced a minimal schedule last year before being asked to join the team this season.
Halseth put the team together and saw raw talent in Davis. He added Colton to the team hoping to get out what he anticipated in signing him.
“With Colton, he’s really talented but never really had the opportunity,” Halseth said. “When putting the team together, I knew he had the natural ability. I just didn’t know if he had the drive to put the effort in to get to the next level. By jumping in and pushing him, I think it helped a little bit.”
Despite having three teammates making the trip to Aspen, when it comes to the race there is far less time for teamwork, other than avoiding each other on the track.
“They’ll kind of work together in a way, but usually it’s each guy for themselves out there,” said Halseth.
For Jeff, who still races in the 40+ classes, and the Davis family watching on the sidelines the start of the race causes more anxiety than the finish.
“When he was growing up, I was always nervous, but now with the team and all those guys, once the gate is up and he’s out of the first corner, I relax,” said Jeff.
Starts can provide plenty of chaos and the chance of being taken out extends beyond just the first turn. Trouble can appear anywhere on the track.
“It’s nerve wracking with all those guys,” said Colton. “Plus, you can come over a jump and there’s a guy down in the track and you just smoke the guy. It’s happened to me a few times this year already.”
Setting a specific goal for X Games is not easy, but a top finish can have life changing bonuses for racing seasons to come.
“If I can put together a solid race, I know I can get top five, but in 20 laps anything can happen,” Colton said. “Top three at X Games is going to get you a lot of help next year. It would definitely present more opportunities.”
Davis has raced with some of the sport’s biggest names already during the third year of his career.
“The last race Brock Hoyer was there and I had similar lap times and had really bad luck and couldn’t put together a good moto, but it was cool having him there and seeing where you’re at with one of the top guys.”
Hoyer was the inaugural Snow Bikecross champion at the 2017 Winter X Games and runner-up last year to Cody Matechuk.
Davis will also bring faith in more than just his talent to Aspen.
The family has been a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes motocross camps for the past 10 years, where Colton has transformed from being a participant to a camp leader. The camps focus on an athlete’s God-given potential and also aim for a spiritual transformation in the lives of coaches and athletes in a camp setting.
“All day we have the kids on the track trying to get them to go fast and then we’ll have a chapel service to make their faith real,” said Jeff. “It’s not about their parents. It’s about them.”
The family will fly to Colorado for practice runs Friday, Jan. 25. The Snow BikeCross elimination rounds and final are scheduled to begin Saturday, Jan. 26 at 1:30 p.m. CST. The races will broadcast on ABC in a noon to 5 p.m coverage slot.