Josh Van Den Heuvel wakes up at 7 a.m. every day — sometimes 7:30, when he gets to sleep in.
On some mornings he goes to the gym first. On others, he meets Jeff Pastana, his mentor, trainer and a professional motocross rider.
After meeting his trainer at the Eastside Santa Cruz bike shop where his seven pristine motorcycles reside, he gets the bikes ready and rides from about 12 to 5.
“And then the next day another cycle begins,” Van Den Heuvel said.
Van Den Heuvel’s quiet manner doesn’t reveal that this 15-year-old has hearty aspirations of becoming a professional motocross rider by the time he turns 18.
Van Den Heuvel’s training regimen is a blistering one.
“What do I do?” Van Den Heuvel asks aloud. “Jeff Pastana helps me out with my riding and technique. I usually do springs, 29 meadows, plus two laps, and then do motos and staggered starts.”
One might wonder how, with his busy schedule, Van Den Heuvel deals with the time-intensive business aspects involved in being a rising motocross star. This is where Brook Johnston, a Formula 1 racer and fourth-year UC Santa Cruz business management economics major, steps in.
“Anything I can do to make Josh’s riding easier for him is probably the biggest step,” Johnston said of his duties as Van Den Heuvel’s manager. “For somebody in Josh’s position, he’s going riding every day, he has to go to the gym and do his workouts, [and going] to these races over the weekend. In order for him to do that, I need to make sure that all seven of his bikes have enough parts and he’s got everything that he needs.”
Indeed, Van Den Heuvel does have a busy schedule. Winning over 100 races and 12 titles doesn’t leave a Santa Cruz teenager with much time for anything else — including traditional schooling.
“I do independent studies,” Van Den Heuvel said. “I go once a week to pick up my homework and turn it in. It’s just so I can do my riding. It’s tough to ride every day and [do] my homework, but I get it done.”
Van Den Heuvel’s father Larry agrees that home-schooling is the best option for his son when it comes to everything else he has on his plate.
“It’s tough at times, but it works out because of what he’s doing and all the traveling he’s got to do,” Larry Van Den Heuvel said.
With the support of his family and manager always behind him and his budding career, Van Den Heuvel has been able to climb the ranks of amateur riders nationwide. In fact, Larry, a Harley man himself, was the one who got his son hooked on motorcycles in the first place.
“I was the one that actually got him into it,” the elder Van Den Heuvel said. “I went and bought him a motorcycle. I thought it’d be great — go out trail riding and stuff. He took to it so fast, before I knew it he was riding a KTM 125 and before I knew it we were at our first race.”
Johnston and Van Den Heuvel have found a balance between work and play, going on what they describe as random, interesting adventures with each other, especially on the road.
“Seatbelts get wrapped around heads, that kind of stuff,” Johnston said, laughing, as Van Den Heuvel chimed in.
“Eggs thrown at cars, soap on windshields…”
But despite the thrill of doing business, performing in races and going on random road adventures, Van Den Heuvel admits he misses having the everyday life of an average high-schooler.
“It’s hard, I miss it a lot. I miss all my friends and for sure the girls,” Van Den Heuvel said. “I miss it but I also love doing what I do, riding every day.”