As he rode across the finish line, Dustin Renteria pumped his fists in a moment of euphoria. The San Benito High junior had just won the most prestigious race of his career, in the 250C first category of the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Amateur National Motocross Championships in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.
“I was in disbelief of what I just did,” said Renteria, who won the race on Aug. 4 in Tennessee. “I rode into where all the top 10 riders stop at to see if anyone protests the race, and saw a couple of buddies and my dad there. It was the best feeling in the world right there.”
The win meant a lot on a number of fronts. Even though Renteria has literally over 100 first-place trophies to his credit, this was the biggest race of his career—and it came in the midst of his racing comeback. From the end of March 2017 to December 2017, Renteria didn’t compete in a single race due to a variety of factors.
It was basically nine months of purgatory for Renteria, who admitted to being “a little depressed” during this period.
“It was hard on everything,” he said. “My school grades were dropping, and mentally it was hard because for my whole life I had been racing on weekends (and that helped me focus on school during the week). Everything had been motocross and in those nine months I had to forget about it.”
That’s why the victory meant so much to Renteria, who has been racing competitively since he was 6 years old.
“It makes winning so much better knowing how hard it’s been to get there,” he said. “I’ve won a lot of cool races, but this is the biggest race I’ve ever competed in. It was great.”
Renteria, who saw a number of his fellow riders get caught up in crashes, rode with precision and controlled aggression, knowing he was in control to win the championship. Sometimes it’s the decision to hold position and not risk a daring pass that results in the victory, and this was the case for Renteria.
Before the start of his third moto (stage), Renteria had an 11-point cushion ahead of the second-place rider in the standings.
“I had a good cushion, and so many things were going through my mind as I was sitting there for the race to start,” he said. “My heart was racing like crazy.”
As the final run started, Renteria knew he only had to keep the second-place rider in his sight. Early in the run, that rider and the one who was in the lead of the particular run crashed. Once that happened, Renteria knew as long as he didn’t crash, the championship was his to lose.
“A bunch of kids ended up crashing and falling everywhere, so I backed off a little bit and finished fourth in that moto and got the championship.”
Renteria had to go through two qualifiers to earn a spot in the National Motocross Championships. In the first area qualifier, Renteria took the fourth and final berth to the next stage of regional qualifying, where he finished second. To compete at a high level in motocross, Renteria does CrossFit and works out weekly with a personal trainer. Strength-training helps Renteria with overall stamina and grip strength, which are key in a rider’s quest to excel in the sport.
“You need really good grip strength to hold onto the bars when things get wild,” he said. “You need balance and technique, because if you don’t have the right balance and technique, it’ll be hard to hold onto the bike after a while. I’m really happy with my training because it has got me to where I am now.”
Renteria’s father, Dusty, plays a vital role as the crew chief/mechanic and team organizer, responsible for all things related to the motorcycle.
“My dad runs pretty much everything,” Dustin said. “He does everything except ride it.”
Renteria first rode a bike when he was 3 and started competitive riding at 6. By age 9, Renteria had won dozens of races and displayed the ability that he might have a future in the sport. In his first-ever race at the Los Banos Fairgrounds, Renteria was in the lead when he pulled off, thinking the race was over.
However, it was a two-stage moto format, and upon one of the race directors explaining to Renteria that he still had more laps to go, Renteria got back on track to win the event—at age 6. Ten years later, Renteria’s vision is as clear as ever: he wants to be riding at the pro level one day.
“Once I’m done with high school, I can really focus on racing,” he said. “The main thing is to try to get on a team and make it pro and try to win a championship.”
A year ago, Renteria was often sitting on a couch, and in his own words, “doing nothing.” Now that he’s racing again, Renteria has never felt so alive.