By Dave Southorn The Idaho Statesman.
NAMPA A group of motocross riders and their dirtbikes blared through a dirt course at the Ford Idaho Center on Thursday, each tearing through turns, blazing through straightaways and soaring through jumps.
One rode just like the others, but the long blond hair coming out of the back of the helmet was different.
Vicki Golden, used to having eyes drift her way, became the first woman to compete in a pro arenacross event against men three years ago. She will battle the boys Friday and Saturday in the AMSOIL Arenacross event in Nampa.
"I feel I've proven I'm the top chick on a dirtbike, so it just makes sense to do it against the guys, do something intense to stay competitive," Golden said. "If I want to get it to my full potential, I need to go against these guys."
When she made her debut at 18 in Denver on Jan. 28, 2011, Golden didn't set out to become a trailblazer, but it's a role she's grown to accept.
Now 21, she has won three straight X Games gold medals in Women's Moto X. In August, she competed against five men and took bronze as the first woman to compete in the Moto X Best Whip -- a high-flying event where jumpers hang the bike horizontally and add twists and spins.
"I get what has happened has been a big deal, but I never sought it out, never wanted to be the first girl to do this or that, I just like riding," Golden said. "... I just see myself as a dirtbike rider, but sometimes kids will come up to me, say I've inspired them somehow, and I'm stoked the rest of the day."
From when she started racing at 7, until today, most of Golden's competition has been of the opposite sex.
"There wasn't really a girls class, so I just raced however I could," Golden said. "It's a big challenge, but it doesn't really faze me because this is how it's always been. I don't think anyone really's gunning for me or anything like that."
Golden will ride in Nampa with the top team on the arenacross circuit, Team Babbitt's, which includes three-time defending series champion Tyler Bowers.
"She's one of the most technical riders there is," Bowers said. "There's a little bit of a target on her back. I've got her on my team, so I don't worry about it, but I think there are definitely guys out there who don't want to lose to her. She's got a great work ethic, and she's super competitive, that's made her able to do well out here."
After competing in a handful of events in 2011, Golden broke her collarbone before the 2012 season. She said she was too eager to get back and had subpar showings once she got back in competition.
"I had people say, 'Oh, no you were great,' but it felt like they were being nice because I'm a girl," Golden said. "I sucked, I'll admit it."
Golden did not compete on the AMSOIL circuit last year, partially because of her performance the year before. She did well in other series races, enough to get onto Team Babbitts, which has the top two points scorers this season in Bowers and Zach Ames.
This weekend's competition is her first of the AMSOIL season, and it's been a long time coming as she works toward the ultimate goal of competing in supercross -- longer tracks held in Major League Baseball or NFL-sized stadiums.
"It's feels like it's been forever," Golden said. "It's kind of my return, I'm really excited. I haven't felt this comfortable and confident in a long time."