By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Seven-year layoff has no effect on Perez
Zach Perez earned first- and second-place trophies in the American Bicycle Association-sanctioned Silver Dollar Nationals in Reno Jan. 14 and 16 on a stock bike bought at Anderson’s 209. It was Perez’s first competition since taking a break from the sport 7 years ago. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
“It’s like riding a bike.”

The idiom refers to when one effortlessly applies a skill acquired earlier in life even if it hadn’t been put into use in years.

It’s also appropriate to 16-year-old Zach Perez in the literal sense.

On Jan. 14 and 16, the Sierra High sophomore competed in his first organized races in 7 years in the Silver Dollar Nationals, the first American Bicycle Association BMX National Series of the season, at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Event Center in Nevada.

“We took him over there just to see what would happen,” said his father, Mike Perez.

Zach picked up where he left off nearly a half a lifetime ago. What happened was a second-place finish in the 15-year-old intermediate race on Jan. 14, and he won the second race two days later.

His main competition was Jesse Fossett of North Las Vegas. Fossett won the first race, but Perez got the better of him in the second.

“I’m actually surprised with how well I did,” Perez said.

A decade ago, Perez was a phenom known as “The Stinger.” He comes from a family of racers, his dad being one of them. At the peak of his young career he competed in the “expert” class and was ranked as high as eighth nationally.

That was around when his passion began wane for the sport, as his interest grew in others. He got into motocross, racing dirt bikes and baseball.

When the Spreckels Park BMX track opened in Manteca in September, Perez got the itch back.

“When the track came to Manteca, his friends were like, ‘Hey, go get a bike and join us,’” Mike Perez said. “So we got him a stock bike at Anderson’s 209, and that’s what he rode in Reno. There were bikes out there that were $1,500-$2,000, so that just shows how competitive he can be even after taking all that time off.”

Zach aims to return to the expert level by this point next year, but that will require five national events, such as the one he entered in recently, and 15 local races.

Next is the ABA SoCal Nationals in Chula Vista this April. The season ends in November with the Grand National in Tulsa, Okla., where Perez once played second as a youngster.

“It’s time to get serious again, time to start training and riding more,” he said.