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Pour fan de Dominico Izzi, rookie 2008 ...

ALBANY — Two concrete blocks on Onorio Izzi’s racing haven were the foundation of his past livelihood — building manholes while living in Michigan.

“That was my trade,” he said. “That’s what I did for 30 years of my life.”

The two blocks are said to be there by chance. Nonetheless, it’s fitting that they lie between the property’s motocross and supercross tracks. That’s because those tracks, in turn, are the foundation of a potential livelihood for his son, Nico, racing motorcycles.

“That’s what got my son to where he’s at today,” Onorio smiles.

When Nico situated himself on a bike at age 3, he was just a kid fascinated with a gadget with two wheels. Now at the age of 18, he has a dream.

Living in near anonymity in Albany and yet being a celebrity on the Internet (there are even myspace.com pages dedicated to him), Izzi is relishing his recent American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) Motocross/Supercross Rookie of the Year award for the Lites classes (250cc). Supercross events are mostly held during the first part of the year in domes or stadiums where the surface is put together for that night or weekend, and Motocross races are held on natural courses.

Nico’s first full year of pro competition could not have gone much better. He had six top-10 finishes, including two among the top five in Supercross to finish third in the Lites East division. In Motocross, he finished among the top 10 eight times, including four times among the top five to place fifth overall in the Motocross Lites.

“It’s good, ya know?” Nico said. “I’ve been racing since I was 4. It’s been a goal and dream to make it this far. To get Rookie of the year is awesome. It’s certainly nice. They have a nice facility in Albany and it’s a great place to come back and train. It’s awesome.”

It’s easy for Nico to stand out, if nothing else because of his first name.

“I like it and I don’t know of anyone else who has it,” he said of his first name. “It’s nice to kind of stand out a bit and be a little bit irregular, I guess.”

Nico, actually, is the byproduct of his real first name, Dominic. The Italian word for Dominic is “Dominico,” so his friends simply call him “Nico.”

Being a devout Italian Catholic family, the Izzis have a mini-statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary next to the Supercross track. Nico refers to it as his guardian angel.

“I believe in religion,” he began, “and it never hurts to have the ‘Big Man Upstairs’ on your side, that’s for sure.”

A couple of Nico’s fans were on the family’s property Saturday, learning the tricks of the trade from their hero.

“I’m a big fan,” said 12-year-old Landon Jones, who has raced for six years. “He’s just fast.”

Landon’s brother, 9-year-old Paxton, had been racing since the age of 2.

“I like the way he rides, smooth and fast,” Paxton added.

The Jones brothers were admiring Nico on a 42.6-acre piece of land that Nico had been periodically practicing on since he was a little kid. Then, the Izzis moved here full-time in September 2006 and bought the property earlier this year from Gary Applewhite, who built the training facility for his children through Applewhite Properties LLC. After several reported noise concerns, muffler inserts reduced potential problems and Albany’s city commission voted unanimously to approve the rezoning of that land so the Izzis could buy it and use it as a practicing facility in late July.

“If an athlete has no place to train, you cannot reach your goal,” Onorio said. “(Mayor) Willie Adams was very important in the decision. He, (commissioner) Tommie Postell were behind me 100 percent.”

Now, that decision is beginning to pay off.

“It’s my little stomping ground, to come here and work hard and then do my job on the weekends,” Nico said.

It’s not that hardly anyone notices him while he’s here.

“It’s good,” he said. “Like I said, I love the town and everything about it. It’s kind of low key, and it’s a beautiful property out there. I love the people, they’re really nice. It feels like home to me.”

At Nico’s original home in St. Clair, Mich., his father was not sure how long Nico’s fascination with bikes would last. Surrounded by worries he would quit after the first time he fell off, Nico became intrigued by the sport.

Riding a bike was not enough as he followed in the footsteps of his father who used to ride four-wheelers. Racing it through demanding terrain was more in Nico’s element as he won nine prestigious amateur races — two U.S. Opens and seven Loretta Lynns.

“I took it to another level, I guess,” Nico said. It’s going to be a long road, a lot of bumps and ups and downs, but it’s going to be an exciting road, for sure.”

Adversity did happen when Nico was about to turn 16. He hurt his right knee in practice, and then tore his left anterior cruciate ligament during a race, causing him to be away from the track for six months.

“When I woke up from surgery, I thought it was just going to be a couple of weeks before I started riding again, and then Mom (Betsy) told me it would be six months and then I started bawling,” Nico said. “I thought it was over, ya know?”

Riding a Suzuki, the motorbike company rewrote his contract and waited until he became healthy again. During this year’s two separate schedules, Izzi had three podium (top-three) finishes, the first of which happened March 8 at Indy where he was third. Another was second in the Motocross season finale in Pennsylvania.

“To get on the podium, it’s something because there are so many fast guys,” he said. “At least 15 guys can make it to the podium, so you’ve gotta have your stuff together and make sure you get everything right. It’s a big accomplishment.”

That in itself raises Nico’s expectations for the upcoming season opener in Supercross, Jan. 23 in Houston.

“I’m expecting to win quite a few races and win a national championship,” Nico said. “Now that I’ve got the experience and I know what it’s like and stuff like that, it’s expected that I go out and win now. So, I’ve got to do that.”

Training at his Albany facility at least four hours on each of his three days there each week, combined with swimming, running and mountain-biking, Nico knows his window of opportunity is rather small considering it’s possible for a motorbike racer to retire in his or her mid-20s.

For an 18-year-old, home-schooled racer with diploma in hand, Nico doesn’t look too much on a childhood mostly dedicated to racing.

“My dad said I had to grow up really fast,” Nico said. “But if you work hard and do everything right and you win everything in the pro ranks, you can retire at 24 or 25 and then you can be the biggest kid you want to be, then.”

For now, Nico doesn’t seem to let his celebrity status in the racing world affect him. He lives in an Albany apartment while his parents live in an RV on the property. A dream one day is to build a house on that property.

It’s a dream of many.

These days, from helping Onorio stack wood for people to helping with anything else, Nico has realized the value taught by those two concrete blocks on the family’s racing haven.

“Without a hard work ethic, you’re not going to achieve anything,” Onorio said.

http://www.albanyherald.com/stories/20081207s4.htm

ALBANY — Two concrete blocks on Onorio Izzi’s racing haven were the foundation of his past livelihood — building manholes while living in Michigan.

“That was my trade,” he said. “That’s what I did for 30 years of my life.”

The two blocks are said to be there by chance. Nonetheless, it’s fitting that they lie between the property’s motocross and supercross tracks. That’s because those tracks, in turn, are the foundation of a potential livelihood for his son, Nico, racing motorcycles.

“That’s what got my son to where he’s at today,” Onorio smiles.

When Nico situated himself on a bike at age 3, he was just a kid fascinated with a gadget with two wheels. Now at the age of 18, he has a dream.

Living in near anonymity in Albany and yet being a celebrity on the Internet (there are even myspace.com pages dedicated to him), Izzi is relishing his recent American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) Motocross/Supercross Rookie of the Year award for the Lites classes (250cc). Supercross events are mostly held during the first part of the year in domes or stadiums where the surface is put together for that night or weekend, and Motocross races are held on natural courses.

Nico’s first full year of pro competition could not have gone much better. He had six top-10 finishes, including two among the top five in Supercross to finish third in the Lites East division. In Motocross, he finished among the top 10 eight times, including four times among the top five to place fifth overall in the Motocross Lites.

“It’s good, ya know?” Nico said. “I’ve been racing since I was 4. It’s been a goal and dream to make it this far. To get Rookie of the year is awesome. It’s certainly nice. They have a nice facility in Albany and it’s a great place to come back and train. It’s awesome.”

It’s easy for Nico to stand out, if nothing else because of his first name.

“I like it and I don’t know of anyone else who has it,” he said of his first name. “It’s nice to kind of stand out a bit and be a little bit irregular, I guess.”

Nico, actually, is the byproduct of his real first name, Dominic. The Italian word for Dominic is “Dominico,” so his friends simply call him “Nico.”

Being a devout Italian Catholic family, the Izzis have a mini-statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary next to the Supercross track. Nico refers to it as his guardian angel.

“I believe in religion,” he began, “and it never hurts to have the ‘Big Man Upstairs’ on your side, that’s for sure.”

A couple of Nico’s fans were on the family’s property Saturday, learning the tricks of the trade from their hero.

“I’m a big fan,” said 12-year-old Landon Jones, who has raced for six years. “He’s just fast.”

Landon’s brother, 9-year-old Paxton, had been racing since the age of 2.

“I like the way he rides, smooth and fast,” Paxton added.

The Jones brothers were admiring Nico on a 42.6-acre piece of land that Nico had been periodically practicing on since he was a little kid. Then, the Izzis moved here full-time in September 2006 and bought the property earlier this year from Gary Applewhite, who built the training facility for his children through Applewhite Properties LLC. After several reported noise concerns, muffler inserts reduced potential problems and Albany’s city commission voted unanimously to approve the rezoning of that land so the Izzis could buy it and use it as a practicing facility in late July.

“If an athlete has no place to train, you cannot reach your goal,” Onorio said. “(Mayor) Willie Adams was very important in the decision. He, (commissioner) Tommie Postell were behind me 100 percent.”

Now, that decision is beginning to pay off.

“It’s my little stomping ground, to come here and work hard and then do my job on the weekends,” Nico said.

It’s not that hardly anyone notices him while he’s here.

“It’s good,” he said. “Like I said, I love the town and everything about it. It’s kind of low key, and it’s a beautiful property out there. I love the people, they’re really nice. It feels like home to me.”

At Nico’s original home in St. Clair, Mich., his father was not sure how long Nico’s fascination with bikes would last. Surrounded by worries he would quit after the first time he fell off, Nico became intrigued by the sport.

Riding a bike was not enough as he followed in the footsteps of his father who used to ride four-wheelers. Racing it through demanding terrain was more in Nico’s element as he won nine prestigious amateur races — two U.S. Opens and seven Loretta Lynns.

“I took it to another level, I guess,” Nico said. It’s going to be a long road, a lot of bumps and ups and downs, but it’s going to be an exciting road, for sure.”

Adversity did happen when Nico was about to turn 16. He hurt his right knee in practice, and then tore his left anterior cruciate ligament during a race, causing him to be away from the track for six months.

“When I woke up from surgery, I thought it was just going to be a couple of weeks before I started riding again, and then Mom (Betsy) told me it would be six months and then I started bawling,” Nico said. “I thought it was over, ya know?”

Riding a Suzuki, the motorbike company rewrote his contract and waited until he became healthy again. During this year’s two separate schedules, Izzi had three podium (top-three) finishes, the first of which happened March 8 at Indy where he was third. Another was second in the Motocross season finale in Pennsylvania.

“To get on the podium, it’s something because there are so many fast guys,” he said. “At least 15 guys can make it to the podium, so you’ve gotta have your stuff together and make sure you get everything right. It’s a big accomplishment.”

That in itself raises Nico’s expectations for the upcoming season opener in Supercross, Jan. 23 in Houston.

“I’m expecting to win quite a few races and win a national championship,” Nico said. “Now that I’ve got the experience and I know what it’s like and stuff like that, it’s expected that I go out and win now. So, I’ve got to do that.”

Training at his Albany facility at least four hours on each of his three days there each week, combined with swimming, running and mountain-biking, Nico knows his window of opportunity is rather small considering it’s possible for a motorbike racer to retire in his or her mid-20s.

For an 18-year-old, home-schooled racer with diploma in hand, Nico doesn’t look too much on a childhood mostly dedicated to racing.

“My dad said I had to grow up really fast,” Nico said. “But if you work hard and do everything right and you win everything in the pro ranks, you can retire at 24 or 25 and then you can be the biggest kid you want to be, then.”

For now, Nico doesn’t seem to let his celebrity status in the racing world affect him. He lives in an Albany apartment while his parents live in an RV on the property. A dream one day is to build a house on that property.

It’s a dream of many.

These days, from helping Onorio stack wood for people to helping with anything else, Nico has realized the value taught by those two concrete blocks on the family’s racing haven.

“Without a hard work ethic, you’re not going to achieve anything,” Onorio said.

http://www.albanyherald.com/stories/20081207s4.htm

 
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