2 December 2012 / Uncategorized

United States of Awesome

It was postponed and changed, but finally happened, and it was even better than I could had hoped.

You might have seen me getting a little wide eyed on Speed TV. Fully blessed with front row seats right in the middle of the stands at the Monster Energy Supercross I was spoiled with a close up view of Villipoto’s raw speed, Barcia’s loose riding style and incredible battles in the Super Mini class- epic entertainment for a MX mad kiwi. 

All of this was very cool but the greatest lesson came from the commitment, bravery and patience of Dungey as he lost his gear lever in both the first two races after clipping tough blocks yet kept trooping on when anyone else would have given up, especially with this being just a one off event like this. It could have won him the overall if he had been able to put together a blinder in the last race, but full credit to Barcia who played the game to perfection, including the so called “Joker” lane. I hope he can keep it together for a whole season like that on the 450 next year because he adds a load of spice and personality.

The events outside the stadium would have been worthy of the entry fee just by themselves. On the tarmac there was Gymkhana demos by some drifting aces tearing up their tyres which included a Mr Ken Block. Stunt road biking and a FMX exhibition by some of the best riders in the world including Bilko’s version of the 360’ was seriously cool. Does a rap concert by Paul Wall float your boat? Then on its own massive staging area was the Monster Energy setup with all its candy- including your choice of any of their new drink flavours. And we havn’t even talked about the racing pits yet.

Being a spectator was very cool, especially with the size and professionalism of the teams. Every spectator is able to get seriously close to the riders and bikes, making you feel right a part of the action. There was one rider I couldn’t resist but get my photo with, and I will not be losing that pic in a hurry. Thanks KW.

Sussing out the competition

Outside of the racing I spent a few very short hours browsing one of the “Bass Pro” shops, enjoyed one of the world famous buffet meals that Vegas is known for and enjoyed the gym, pool and complimentary all you can eat breakfast, all at a very reasonable price.

That was all I had time before before hopping my way to the Millsaps Training Facility on the other side of the country for my eleven day stay.

My time there was punctuated only by three days of practice in Florida at Gatorback, home of the Mini Olympic MX that was just a few weeks away. It wasn’t until I heard the commentator mention about something happening on the “Gatorback section” that I finally clicked how the track got its name, the long series of ups and down strongly resembling the spine of a knarly old Alligator. Took me a while.

The MX track was fast and flowing, like a hard-pack version of Taupo which is where the first half of the day was held, the other half using a tamed down supercross track. The obstacles seemed familiar until I realized that they were exactly the same as what they called the Amateur track at MTF. Literally, because this was the track that the builder at MTF had modeled his off, just one example of the lengths these Americans will go to in order to excel.

Some of the riders were seriously impressive, like Anthony “A-Rod” Roderigas with his opposite whips, or Andrew Maloney on the kind of bored out 85 that they call a Supermini. After a shaky start, the keen kiwi lad I was there to look after put in some solid rides, certainly proving he was worthy of racing the big event in three weeks time although there was still a lot of work to be done on his style.

One of our favourite chores….scrubbing

He is Callum Hay, what you could call a fairly mid pack 85 rider from Auckland, out to see how much better he could become. He went forward in leaps and bounds after I arrived, making swift progress and nailing a whole host of the jumps, but not all was peaches and cream. The first three weeks before I arrived had been difficult, struggling to get his head around the conditions and jumps. Even after I arrived there were problems such as the first day where he came up short and went over the bars on a supercross double that he had become a bit too casual on. He was cracking exhausts, breaking throttle housings and clocking up hours quickly enough to wear out a new bike in a matter of months.

Things got worse before they got better, due in part to a mistake of mine of adding too much two stroke oil to the mix thanks to “playing it safe” with the gallon to liter ratio, then, after another problem, the decision was made to get a second bike. This one was smaller again and caused some frustration in getting used to the sudden power delivery. But that is where things suddenly got much better for Callum.

Looking a new man aboard his new ride despite its size, suddenly the twitchiness he had under braking and turns was gone, welcomely replaced by stability and corner speed. He clicked with how to get his bum back when the front wanted to drop in the air, and even got the stutters better. Within a matter of two weeks he went from near the back, to battling with and in sometimes bettering fast kids aboard their Supermini’s, so much so that there was people wondering who this “new kid” was.

Meanwhile I went through something very similar. While blessed to be able to hire a bike, I felt terrible out there. A combination of the soft track conditions and the increase in temperature knocked me for six. I realize now how good it was that I didn’t try to race the AMA at Redbud last July because I would need to seriously prepare for heat and track conditions like that.

It turns out that my technique through the whoops needed serious work as well as you will discover in the next tip or two that I write for DRD.

Enjoying the ride

There were a few things that really stood out about the facility there. First and foremost, Davi Millsaps mum is passionate about the sport and her riders. She can’t bear to see them getting ripped apart by their parents after a race, neither can she cope with them riding unsafe or below their ability. She couldn’t even help herself from helping me out when seeing how bad I was messing up the stutter section. Nothing gets past her and every rider in the group feels like they are getting one on one because she is so intense and nothing seems to slip past her attention.

Secondly they have the ability to combine coaching with loads of focused riding, almost always with a trainer directing the flow and keeping everyone accountable. Finally they attract enough riders that there is always competition no matter your level and they have enough in the way of tracks and maintenance that these kids will happily ride here all year long without so much as needing to hop across to fence to ride at the Georgia Practice Facility directly next door. Not to mention Zac Osbournes place down the road or the many other options close by.

Their gym is also impressive but as with most things there must be a down side. It just seemed a bit strange to me I hardly ever saw anyone working hard enough to even break into a sweat, certainly nothing I saw that even closely resembled what you see the AMA riders doing on the spinners and weights in those racing videos.

Also it is hard to hide from the fact that there has been a bad spate of injuries over the last month. Doing countless hours on a completely redesigned track with its step on step off, sand whoop section and corner double for them to get used to after the break that they have after Loretta Lynns would have added to the tally no doubt.

School work definitely comes down to the individuals. Either the kid is very self motivated, needs motivating or is unlikely to get done. Unwinding on golf carts and hanging out with people their age having such a strong pull.

Ask any rider though and they would not want to be anywhere else. There are kids who refuse to go home even for a day when they just live a few hours away. They ride from 9am till their 2pm gym session and guess what they want to do in the afternoon. Ride some more.They just don’t seem get sick of it.

Josh up to his usual tricks

The concept is certainly a good one for those families that can afford it or riders with sponsors willing to pay for it, so long as the rider is not afraid to knuckle down outside of training time with serious school work. I can tell you first hand how busy it is just being a helper while Callum’s dad took a break for a week. Many times I completely ran out of time to ride myself being so busy with the cooking, cleaning, maintenance and everything else that comes with the job, and that is with just one teenage boy who is fairly good at cleaning up after himself. Never again will I wonder what an at home mum does with her time, that’s for sure.

While my time in America is now over, I am excited about the future and what lays ahead. Stay tuned and my greatest thanks goes to the Hay’s and Colleen for having me!

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