Once the princess of women's
amateur motocross racing Mercedes Gonzales of Arleta, California
went down in the motocross history books as one of the all time
best female motocross champions. She was 5 time Women's MX Champion
at Loretta Lynn's Amateur Nationals, 9 times Women's MX National
Champion WMSA, WMXA, WMISA. And she has many multi-women's titles
at Mammoth Mountain MX in California over the last two decades.
Her first bike was a Honda 50 trail bike that she piloted through
the woods. At age 15, she mounted her first 125cc machine and then
moved on to competed on both the Kawasaki KX 125 and KX 250 bikes.
Throughout most of her racing career her toughest competitor was
Lisa Akin Wagner, another all time female motocross champion. Gonzales
and Akin had heated battles through the years, especially at the
AMA Amateur Nationals in Hurricane Mills, TN. Akin held the National
Number 1 plate until 1986, when a flat tire cost her the title and
Gonzales earned the checkered flag to claim the 1998 Women's AMA
National Championship. In 1987, Gonzales at the AMA Amateur
Nationals, Gonzales rode with smoothness and consistency to sweep
all three motos to earn the national crown for the second straight
year. She also won in 1989, '90 and '91
Gonzales rode mostly on the West Coast, where there is little humidity,
and she always had to make a special effort each year to prepare
for the Loretta Lynn's Nationals. She always liked the tracks in
the East because they were so different than those in the West.
"I like the soil content on the East Coast better." the
friendly Californian explained. "The tracks are slower but
are a lot more technical than those in California. The humidity
in Tennessee had a big affect on me. Year after year, I tried to
train with a couple of jerseys on the hottest days in California,
but you really can't train for it out there. The only way to prepare
for it is to be in the humidity. I made sure I drank a lot of liquids
before I came to Tennessee. I always trained so hard for that race,
yet I always got tired."
Gonzales was fortunate in her
career to have had but a few injuries. She believed training helped
keep her injuries to a minimum. She bicycled three times a week
for 20-25 miles. Then she would ride her dirt bikes twice a week
for two hours on her private practice track. She would also try
to make time to jet ski. And then at night she would spend a couple
of hours playing tennis, which she used to play a lot in high school.
Besides her training, Gonzales also believes good nutrition is vital
to keeping fit for motocross. "I love mom's cooking. I always
tried not to eat a lot of greasy foods. I would eat lots of fruit
and spaghetti. The night before a race, I would usually eat any
kind of pasta and salad. I would drink a gallon of water the day
before a race. My race-morning breakfast usually consisted of a
bowl of nutritious cereal and a cup of coffee. I have drank coffee
since I was five-years old."
Gonzales offered this advice,
"Training takes alot of time and dedication. You are probably
going to have pain, and if you stay with motocross, you probably
will get hurt. But if you want to be number one, you have to sacrifice
yourself. Also, take care of your sponsors. I would like to encourage
other women to go out and race because there is not enough female
competition during the regular season. It is growing though. On
a regular race day, I would race with guys, which helped me improve.
Without the help of my mom and my family, especially my brother,
Jose, who was my mechanic, I wouldn't even have been racing."
Mercedes Gonzales was deemed
the "Fastest Woman in Motocross" in 1992 but as she was
at the top of her motocross career she made a decision to leave
the sport to begin a new career in mountain bike racing. She became
very successful in this sport also as she won International Titles
including the 1995 Silver Medallist Downhill Mountain Bike World
Championship in Germany, 1996 Bronze Medallist European Championship
in Italy, and 1998 Spanish Downhill National Champion. She also
was the first woman to win a Mickey Thompson Off-Road Series event.
Mercedes worked for a while
as a full-time AXO-Sinasolo sales representative while still training
for motocross. She is married to former Loretta Lynn's motocross
competitor Derek Natvig and they have one son, Cameron. She is an
active supporter of the Women's Motocross League.