Pedal to the metal: Greg Junge’s enduring passion for competitive racing

Published 10:00 pm Friday, January 9, 2015

By Mark Schmerling

Tryon’s Greg Junge took up two-wheel racing honestly. His father was a motocross racer while in the Air Force. Junge’s brothers, Kevin and Scott, have also raced competitively in that sport. Now, however, Scott has become involved in skateboarding, while Kevin still rides motocross, for fun, but does not race.

“I was pretty much the main one,” Greg remarked.

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Was his dad’s racing an influence?

“For sure,” he replied.

A decade or more ago, Greg Junge was a competitive motocross racer, having achieved the goal of many such riders — competing in the Amateur Nationals at Loretta Lynn’s ranch at Hurricane Mills, near Nashville, Tennessee.

To reach the nationals, Junge had to qualify at area and regional levels. Though he began his career at the novice level, he moved up to intermediate by 2003.

In 2002, he earned a second-place moto finish, where riders’ scores are based on a total of three times.

Non-competitors might not comprehend the drive possessed by racers, but that drive takes on a higher dimension for professional and aspiring professional athletes. At 2002 regional competition, Junge suffered a partial broken wrist, but qualified for nationals by modifying an older arm cast, from a previous injury, to allow him to grasp the handle bar.

“It’s kind of addictive,” Junge said of the urge to work through pain to win a race.

Shifting that drive into overdrive got Junge to the Nationals, twice, and took him through a great deal of East Coast territory from New York to Alabama.

However, fourteen broken bones later (counting motocross related injuries since his high school days), he has shifted his two-wheel passion to bicycle racing—specifically short track and cyclocross. The latter is a combination of paved road and softer surface, with a touch of obstacle course, where riders must carry their bikes over barriers.

Cyclocross bicycles sport the familiar drop bars of road bikes, but are outfitted with skinny, but knobby tires, to handle various riding surfaces.

“The longest race you’ll have in cyclocross is sixty minutes of extreme pain,” Junge said, as compared to road races, which can be many hours long.

In 2013, Junge competed in the Endoro race, which was part of the new Green River Games. Riders were timed on three downhill sections of rough trails in Green River Game Lands, after cycling uphill on rough trails to reach those sections.

With bicycling, as with motocross and much other competition, obtaining sponsorship funding and other perks is nearly mandatory, given the cost of equipment, travel and training.

As a bicyclist, Junge started his own team, for which Rize Energy Drinks is the title sponsor. Other sponsors include, or will include Bright’s Creek, the Gorge, Nature’s Storehouse, and Henson’s Collision.

2003 was the last year that Junge could afford to compete full-scale in motocross, though, in 2004, he went to a handful of races on “a shoestring budget.”

In 2005, while training for a full season of motocross racing, he broke a leg. He suffered two broken legs while riding motocross, without falling off the motorcycle. Once he collided with another rider’s motorcycle; on another occasion, a stout sapling was the culprit.

“I didn’t have to quit racing motocross,” Junge admitted. “I just decided it was the end.”

As a racer, he had trained diligently, and kept his 6’1” frame to about 150 pounds. Without the need to stay in top shape, he relaxed his lifestyle, with a resultant weight gain to 200 pounds.

Since then, he’s re-committed to hard training and a more healthful diet. He lost over 50 pounds, but now is a lean, competitive 160. In 2013, ten months after the birth of his daughter, Sophia, he got back into racing, on bicycles.

“What got me racing bicycles was having Sophia,” he said. Not long after he began his new pursuit, races motivated him to be competitive once more.

“Our whole family lifestyle has changed to as close to one hundred percent organic (diet) as possible.”

As competitive as ever, “I’m just very passionate about what I’m doing,” Junge said.

Riding the downhill bicycle-available trails in the Green River Game Lands, said Junge, is like taking a slice of Pisgah National Forest and setting it in the nearby forest. Trails in Pisgah and Green River are generally much more challenging than those in DuPont State Forest, he said.

“Road racing,” entirely different than racing in the woods, Junge noted, “is as strategic as a chess game.”

On a road bike, Junge completed the Assault on Mt. Mitchell in a shade over six hours. That 102-mile event is not a race, but a “challenge” ride, with the final 28 miles from Marion featuring long and steep climbs.

However, mountain biking got Junge back in the saddle.

“I needed something to fill that gap inside of me.” He explained. “I needed to compete and win.”

His initial focus was on cross-country mountain bike events. In his first race, in January, 2013, he placed 30th of some 40 racers. For 2014, Junge vowed to win a series.

“I did,” he said with soft-spoken pride. “I won nearly every race.”

He moved to Category One, a higher competitive level.  There, he encountered Ezra Lusk, a famous and highly accomplished motocross racer-turned bicyclist.

Regarding sponsorship in bicycle racing, Junge reported that team, rather than individuals, receive most of the funding and other perks.

His team consists of some 15 racers and 28 total team members.

“I had no idea, when I started a team, how much work it would be,” he said. “But, it’s worth it.”

Riding for Team Rize has some perks that some teams don’t have,” Junge observed.

Even so, Junge can’t quit his day job, which is being part of the Tile Specialties in Columbus, his family’s business.

Riding competitively once more means constant training.

“I train year ‘round,” noted Junge. “You really can’t stop training.”