Features 26 Feb 2015

Q&A: Pre-season races

How much does racing help in the lead-up to the MX Nationals?

With the 2015 MX Nationals cranking up in just over four weeks time, plenty of Australia’s top guns are embroiled in pre-season racing in international championships in an effort to get their heads in the game before the serious business begins. But are pre-season races all they’re cracked up to be? We answer some of the most common questions surrounding the growing trend.

Image: Simon Cudby.

Image: Simon Cudby.

Q: What are the benefits of pre-season racing?

A: The biggest reason some of the racers opt for some pre-season races is to get tuned in to race pace before their main focus, the MX Nationals, begins. In effect, they do it to try and get a head start over those who keep hammering out laps of the practice track. There’s nothing quite like racing others to find the level of intensity and fitness needed to compete at the highest level, and the theory is they can then come into the series already nearing peak form instead of having to build momentum through the opening handful of rounds.

Q: What are the risks?

A: Injuries and rider burnout are the two big risks when it comes to pre-season races. Racing is a brutal sport and doesn’t have favourites. Injuries are practically a given at some stage and there’s a big risk that operating at such a high level before the season begins can lead to crashes and injuries before the main game begins. Even if you’re injured early on (such as Jake Moss who broke his leg in January while in the US) and are back on the bike before the MX Nationals begins, you’re then weeks or months behind the rest of the opposition. The other big risk is rider burnout towards the end of the season. Everyone has their limits and trying to maintain five months worth of peak form for the full MX Nationals is hard enough without adding three months worth of pre-season races on top of that.

Q: Can you still win without doing any pre-season races?

A: Yes. Pre-season race training is no guarantee that you’ll find yourself suddenly on top of the podium. In fact, by keeping quiet and working hard, there’s every chance you can enter the Australian championship under the radar, fresher and able to spring a nasty surprise on the favourites who have gained attention (and the subsequent pressure) from racing regularly in the lead-up to the series. Case in point, many people believe Jay Wilson is going to be a hot favourite this year because he’s cleaning up the MX2 championship in New Zealand, but the likes of defending champion Luke Clout and more will gladly ambush him at Horsham on 29 March after quietly going about their business during the off-season.

Image: Andy McGechan (BikesportNZ.com).

Image: Andy McGechan (BikesportNZ.com).

Q: How does racing AMA Supercross prepare you for Australian Motocross?

A: Sure, supercross and motocross are poles apart, but the level of intensity needed to be competitive and just make the night show for an AMA Supercross race is crazy. Throwing yourself in at that deep-end might be a shock to the system the first couple of weeks, but the subsequent learning curve is that much greater because of it. Being based in the US for six weeks, such as Matt Moss, Jake Moss and Adam Monea did this year, also gives them valuable track time on quality motocross tracks in SoCal and provides them ample time to build priceless contacts within the industry for the next stage of their career.

Q: Is it better to head to the US or to NZ?

A: It depends what you’re after. KTM Australia bowls a couple of birds with one stone by opting for New Zealand. Not only is it cheaper and more MX-oriented to send Kirk Gibbs and Luke Styke to New Zealand, but the Perth-based branch of the manufacturer also covers the Kiwi market. In that respect, it makes sense to have a significant presence over there. Other positives for NZ is the ability to pop there and back for the weekend and spend the rest of your time training at home, plus the fact that Kiwis are notoriously fast and hard to beat on their home tracks. As for the US, it might be further away and carry a very heavy supercross focus during our off-season, but the opportunity to train and ride with the world’s best on incredible tracks certainly carries some heavy positives.