We caught up with “The Thunder” following his bronze medal performance at the X Games to get his impression of the event and his season up to this point.
Obviously you had a great X Games, how was the total event for you?
It was unbelievable. I hurt myself right before last year’s and I was pretty bummed and I didn’t really go down and take advantage of the whole X Games. This year I was all about it, so I went down on the Friday and hung out Friday and Saturday and watched as many events as I could and just took it all in. It was awesome.
You have had a couple of injuries, what were your expectations coming into X Games?
Well, my last season I pretty much missed the whole thing, excluding that, the year before I was fourth in the championship and the year before that I was fifth. So following that, I really wanted to be top three. It didn’t really happen the first couple rounds, I got a seventh and a fourth, which was a little bit closer, but top three is really where I am trying to get, so I got my goal exactly.
What is the atmosphere like at the X Games Endurocross compared to a regular Endurocross?
It was quite a bit different, pretty much everything is different. The biggest thing for me was in practice; they actually left the water out of the track, so the track was really dry and then they put the water in before we started racing on it. Usually they have the water in for practice so the track is a lot more similar, so that was the biggest difference. I am not sure why they did that but everyone wasn’t expecting the track to be as slippery as it was when we started racing on it. A lot of other things too- the qualifier format was changed, instead of having heat races, a semi and an LCQ, now they just went straight from the heat races to the LCQ. So it was a little bit more cutthroat in qualifying; if you didn’t make it out of the first round you have one more chance and usually we have three chances to get in. That was a little bit different, just the whole way that the event was run because of the time constraints of the TV coverage, that’s a little bit different. Sometimes we would be sitting on the line and they would say, “Wait, wait, wait, we have time,” and other times they would be like, “We need to go now.” You just had to be prepared at all times. But as soon as the gate dropped everything was pretty much the same as a regular Endurocross.
You didn’t feel any added pressure from the bigger crowds and added attention?
I think before the event started, definitely, just being part of X Games and all the stuff that happened before the racing actually started even through the practice and the hot laps. Everything was just that much bigger; all the people, all the international riders that were there was a lot different. As I said, once the gate dropped for the racing, I just kind of forgot about everything except for the racing part.
How was the track design compared to a regular Endurocross track? Did they switch it up for X Games?
I think it was pretty typical, the obstacles were very similar to what we are used to racing on. All the tracks are a little bit different. It seemed like it was going to be easy and it was easy in practice, but once the water got into the firewood section it became the hardest firewood that I have ever ridden through. That was the one thing that I don’t think anyone saw coming, because in practice we were flying through it, feet on the pegs with no problem, but through the qualifiers and the main event you could hardly get through with the feet on the pegs. Maybe one or two times in the main did I get through clean, it was a lot harder. The rock uphill became horrendous, you could hardly get up it. Because of the way the log was at the bottom you couldn’t really carry any momentum into it, you were starting from almost a standstill, and you had to gain some momentum going up it and it was really slippery. A lot of people, I think, didn’t anticipate that. They were all talking about doubling at the top; that wasn’t even a thought to me because I knew that by the time the races started you would have a tough time getting up there and wouldn’t be able to double. I kind of had that figured out a little more than everyone else.
Outside of the wood sections where the water wasn’t being dragged it looked like the soil was really slippery. Was it a really hard packed surface?
It was. Actually, it seems like they are going more towards that, even the first round in Vegas was the same. I don’t know whether they roll it or something but it is like concrete and as soon as the water starts to track on it it’s like ice. Some of the flat turns you can’t even use the front brakes coming in to them, you have to be really careful not to wash the front end because it is so slick. Another part that was really tough was in the matrix because it was kind of a double, triple rhythm section and every time you landed the dirt was so slippery you could hardly get the momentum or the drive to do the next double or triple, whatever it was. We were constantly going left and right trying to search for traction.
Does that make tire selection tough, or do you just go for the standard tires for each event?
I don’t really change it up, I just use the Dunlop MX51 and make some modifications to it. I definitely like it the best for anything slippery and it still works when there is traction, so I use it everywhere.
Has the novelty of winning the X Games medal worn off yet?
Yeah, definitely. Last weekend I took a vacation at Lake Havasu for a little while and just took some time off. It has been years since I have done the vacation type thing. It was awesome to just kind of bask in the victory.
It seems like several Canadians are having success in Endurocross, do you think you have paved the way for them?
I wouldn’t say that, Bobby Prochnau has been doing them as long as I have and maybe even before I was racing them. We used to come down a lot together and I think the success that we’ve had has really convinced a lot of other Canadians to try it. The type of riding and racing that we do in Canada prepares us for Endurocross better than I think almost anywhere else that you grow up. It is almost a little easier, I would say, to come from there and adjust your style to Endurocross.
I guess the western terrain is almost typical of what you would find at an Endurocross race.
Definitely, we’ve all ridden all those obstacles before. It is a little bit different riding an Endurocross track with all the obstacles stacked on top of one another, but it is less of a surprise when you get to the track. For people that race down in Southern California, here they don’t really have that many logs to ride over.
How was it having Taddy behind you during the final?
It was a little nerve-wracking the last half of the race with Taddy breathing down my neck, but I knew that he was making mistakes and I knew that if I could make less mistakes than him I would stay in front of him.
How aware were you that he was behind you?
Very aware, he was making his presence well known.
Did it feel good to finally beat him?
It felt really good. He is one of the guys that I see as the toughest competitor. I have definitely beaten every other rider out there before, and I don’t think I have ever beaten Taddy. There was a mistake on his part and that left him way back and I don’t think I have ever beaten him straight up, he was behind me and that was a bit more nerve-wracking than any of the other riders. I was just as concerned about him behind me as I was about trying to pass Cody. It is that fine line between going fast and being aggressive and making a pass, while still not making a mistake and getting passed.
You and Cody were pretty close throughout most of that race, was it tough to get out of your head and not make a mistake trying to catch him?
Yeah that was the biggest thing. I’ve watched the videos a couple times and I got stuck in the uphill rock section one lap and he passed me; if I hadn’t done that and assuming that the rest of the race went the same, I probably would have finished ahead of him because I was a tenth of a second behind him at the finish. It was really tight.
You have also had a tremendous amount of success in the WORCS series. Endurocross and WORCS are two completely different types of racing, do any of the skills transfer?
A little bit, WORCS has what they call a WORCScross, but it is an Endurocross section that they only run in the pro race, so there is a little bit of that in there as well. It also trains me to work on my aggression quite a lot because that is something that you really need in Endurocross. WORCS is basically motocross these days; you have to be very aggressive and carry corner speed.
You raced a bit of moto growing up, that is obviously helping you with the WORCS series.
Yeah definitely, I think I have come a long way in the WORCS series. I think back to the very first one that I did at Glen Helen in 2009 and I couldn’t believe that people raced a course like that. It was wide open and there were rocks and it was dusty, fast and choppy,( headshake) and I just couldn’t wrap my brain around it; it was something that I had never done. I have definitely adapted to it and now I am very comfortable at it.
It seems like you adapt quickly to things, does that come from racing everything growing up?
I think so; I started doing off-road and moved up to the pro class, then tried motocross and then got into Endurocross, then Six-Days. I kind of covered the whole spectrum, even rode trials bikes a bit for training, but I really tried to get into everything that I could and become one of the more well-rounded riders.
Your team must be pretty happy with you. You have been getting a fair amount of attention for Husqvarna and your team.
It is really good and everyone is really pleased with the results; it was extra special to have all the Italians over here also and to perform well in front of them. I have gone over to Europe and raced Endurocrosses over there in front of them and not done too well, it is good to prove myself to them a little bit.
You find that the Husky suits you well for Endurocross?
I think so. The 310, I think, is one of the best bikes for Endurocross. Right out of the box. We don’t actually make very many modifications at all. Obviously we do the suspension and just a little bit of motor work, nothing really that noticeable, other than that we don’t make any other big modifications. It suits us really well and last year we had Jamie Lanza running it as well and we lowered it a bit for him. I think it is a bike with a lot of potential for any rider in Endurocross.