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BMX Racing Family Feature: Emily & Ashley Hayes

By: Angelina Palermo  February 28, 2020

Emily and Ashley Hayes grew up racing BMX with their family and have been Type 1 Diabetics since they were kids. The twins are the next generation of BMX racers coming through the pipeline and have their sights set on the 2024 Olympic games.

Emily and Ashley Hayes, 18-year-old twins from Colorado Springs, have both been racing since they were 9 years old. At one point the entire family used to race BMX, that includes mom, dad, and all 5 children. Ashley said, “My dad used to race as a kid and got us into it. At first, we were both a little scared on our Walmart bikes, but then we just fell in love with it, and have been doing it ever since.” Emily talked about when the entire family raced at the Grand Nationals, “Our mom did one lap around the track and screamed the whole time. We were like ‘MOM PEDAL!’” Now Emily, Ashley, and their Dad are the only ones racing, but BMX is still a family affair. Their parents run the Pikes Peak BMX track in Colorado Springs. The track is still owned by the city, but their dad, Bubba, does all the maintenance, while their mom, Julie, does the computer work.

Even though downtown Colorado Springs has their own Olympic Training Center, the BMXers typically go to the Chula Vista location that has a full Rio replica BMX Track on campus. The first time Emily and Ashley went to the Elite Athletes Training Center, was part of the Junior Development Camp led by USA Cycling BMX Coach, Tyler Brown. They have made their way out there several times since. Now that they’re older, they have been invited to the elite training camps where they can ride with the rest of the pros and then do their workouts on their own.

This year the BMX Racing National and World Championships are in Houston, Texas, giving the sisters a bit of home-field advantage. Ashley had an opportunity to race the brand-new track and she absolutely loves it. She laughs and looks at Emily, “Gotta send the triple.” Last year, Emily won the Junior Elite BMX National Championship for with Ashley placing third.

Since BMX races are split by age, normally the riders move around every year. As twins, they never could catch a break and will always be lined up in the gate together. Ashley says, “a few times we’ve taken each other out on accident, but you always have a training partner and someone to chase. If she beats me I’m kind of mad, but I get over it.” Emily laughs responding with, “yeah because you can’t stay mad at me.” They both agreed that it helps a lot when one of them may not be motivated one day, you have someone to help you out and hold you accountable. The two made it clear that Ashley is the “sender.” Emily said, “I’ll be like ‘hey Ashley will you go jump that and let me know how it is.’ Then she’ll tell me it’s good, then I’ll go and do it.” Emily is a little faster and has a better gate, so Ashley has been trying to work on those skills from her sister.

When Emily and Ashley were young, they were diagnosed with diabetes. Ashley first found out at 3-years-old, “I don’t really quite remember, it’s just always been a part of my life. It’s still just a constant thing you have to pay attention too. If I went up to staging and my blood sugar had been low then that will mess with the race or my mental state a little bit. Then sometimes we can be super high on blood sugar, and your body doesn’t like to function like that.” Emily got diagnosed a year later, so she knew a little bit of what she was getting into after watching her sister.

“I was actually excited to be more like her. When I found out, my mom told me ‘you have type 1 diabetes’ I said ‘really let’s have a party!’ Then Ashley was crying. At the time I didn’t really know what it meant, I just knew that I got be more like my sister.”

Most of the time their numbers are as good as they can be while they’re on the BMX track. Now they use Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitoring. This device eliminates fingersticks and sends their glucose numbers straight to their smartphones. It makes it much easier for them, especially during race weekends.

So where will we see Emily and Ashley in the next 5 years? They said, “The biggest goal is the 2024 Olympics because we know we have a shot. For awhile it was 2020, now that it’s here it’s still the top riders that have been to the past two Olympics. So, we’re like okay let’s shoot for 2024 because now they’re looking at the younger riders and trying to get them involved.” Another goal of theirs was turning up to Elite and having the chance to race a few BMX World Cups. They officially moved up to the Elite class at the beginning of the year, giving themselves a new challenge racing the veterans of BMX. Unfortunately, they are both coming off injuries delaying the start to their season. With high hopes of attending this year’s World Cups, they had to sit out the first two in Australia. The plan is to travel when they are both healthy, so they can experience these big races together. In April, they hope to head over to race in Manchester, England for their first World Cup as Elites. Then we’ll see them at the only US BMX World Cup in Rockhill, South Carolina.