Vicki Golden wasn’t looking to make history. She was just bored, wanted something to do during the break in the women’s motocross season.
She ended up doing both.
One of the top up-and-coming riders in women’s motocross, Golden has broken boys-only boundaries by becoming the first female rider to compete full-time on the Arenacross circuit.
OK, so maybe it isn’t Danica Patrick winning an IndyCar race or Annika Sorenstam teeing it up on the PGA Tour. It’s still a pretty significant step in a sport that’s historically been known as a men’s club.
“It’s awesome because nobody’s ever done what she’s done,” women’s motocross rider Lindsey Scheltema said. “It’s a huge milestone, a huge stepping stone for women in a male-dominated sport.”
Golden came by her gender-breaking decision naturally.
Growing up in El Cajon, Calif., she wanted to join her father and brother out in the fields, asking for and getting a dirt bike for Christmas when she was 7. Golden started racing the next year and started competing in amateur nationals a few years later, winning the Loretta Lynn’s Amateur National championship in 2008.
She turned pro at 16 the next year and was competitive before an injury ended her initial season, but bounced back strong last year, finishing fourth in the season standings.
Golden had made a name for herself as one of the top women’s riders to watch, but had a problem: the season was just too short.
The women’s season typically runs from May to September, leaving eight months off. Bored with playing around in the hills and competing a little in Supercross, Golden decided to try Arenacross. She’s been riding with guys her entire life, so she figured why not?
“Growing up, that’s kind of what I did,” she said. “We didn’t have any kind of women’s cross, so it wasn’t like unheard of to go race in the guys class. I just wanted to stay racing because it’s only a couple of months racing, then it’s a super long offseason in the winter. I was just getting burned out, so it was kind of an easy decision.”
Golden initially wanted to compete in Supercross, then decided it’d be better to give Arenacross a shot, committing to a full season in the Arenacross Lites Western Regional Championship. Other women have competed in smaller motocross events and even tried to qualify for men’s nationals, but Golden was the first to join a circuit for a full season.
The 18-year-old made her debut in Denver Jan. 28-30 and, despite feeling confidence she belonged, was a little jittery.
“I don’t know if I was nervous, I was, uh ... yeah, I was definitely nervous,” she said. “Just from what you see on TV, the intense racing and people just hitting each other, I was nervous, but that’s what I wanted. I wanted to go there to learn and get more aggressive and there’s only one way to learn how to do that, and that’s to just go there and do it.”
Golden didn’t make the main event in her first race, but did in Sacramento, Calif., a month later to reach another milestone. That race didn’t go so well — she stalled on the first turn and finished well back — but she’s been a consistent main event qualifier since, notching three top-15 finishes.
From the beginning of her foray against the men, Golden has been treated like the golden girl by her macho competitors, who have had nothing but respect for her attempting to do what no woman has done before.
“I thought I would kind of be pushed aside — what’s she doing here, why, no one’s going to give me the time of day — but they were all welcoming, straight up front,” Golden said. “They were all very supportive. They’re giving me pointers and tips. It’s just a different surrounding, different environment. It’s all like a big family.”
Same with the women riders.
Instead of being jealous of what she’s done, most of the women’s motocross riders have given Golden you-go-girl props, understanding the courage it’s taken for her to go where no one else has gone and the doors it might open.
“It’s very positive. All women want to try to make a name for themselves in a male-dominated sport and nobody is saying anything bad about it,” said Scheltema, who’s also the spokesmodel for Arenacross. “It’s awesome to see a female step out of the box and race with the guys and qualify for these main events. It’s something no other female has ever done.”