Features 18 Jun 2020

Conversation: Geran Stapleton

US-based privateer on his time in 250SX West during 2020.

Words: Simon Makker

Australian race fans might’ve been surprised to see a familiar name racing Monster Energy Supercross in 250SX West at Salt Lake City 5 and even winning the LCQ on Monday afternoon. Victorian Geran Stapleton, 27, has been based in the US since December, but his Supercross campaign was cut short with injury. Now, after remaining in California during the COVID-19 lockdown, he’s returned and started to find his feet in a talent-packed field during the final western regional round of the season.

Image: Octopi Media.

Geran, I’ve gotta say it was a bit of a surprise to see you on the starting list at Salt Lake City. How did you get over there with everything that was going on?

I never left! I flew over in mid-December to race the west coast championship and I ended up staying here right through all the lock-down carry-on. I tried to qualify at A1, but my bike that I’d sent over was nowhere near fast enough, then it was a bit of a stretch to travel to St Louis for round two. I missed that round, then at Anaheim 2, I went over the ‘bars in the same whoops that Jett [Lawrence] crashed in and tore the labrum in my left shoulder. Six weeks later it was good enough to ride, but the west championship had been in a break as the series headed over to the east coast, so I ended up racing the last three rounds of the Arenacross championship.

How did you find the Arenacross experience?

Arenacross isn’t what it used to be, but it’s still cool. The top five are good riders, but then the depth drops away considerably. I raced two rounds in Utah and then the final round at Texas and finished fourth each time. I should’ve got a podium at the second round at Utah, but got cleaned out on the last lap. That’s Arenacross though! A week after that final round everything went into the coronavirus lockdown.

Why did you opt to stay in the US and not come home?

My parents kept calling me to come home and everyone was messaging asking if I was okay, but honestly, where I’m living in Murrieta we weren’t really affected too much. Restaurants and gyms were closed, but we could still go riding four days a week. Back home no-one could do anything, so I really didn’t see the point in returning. I’ve got myself pretty well set up here now and have a visa sorted, so it made sense to stay.

You briefly mentioned earlier that your bike that you’d shipped over wasn’t fast enough. Did you get some work done to it during the break, because you’ve now qualified for a main event on it?

Yeah, I thought if Supercross was going to come back I wanted a good bike that was more competitive. The one I have now is done by Twisted Development and is practically the same as what Luke Clout and the Penrite Honda team’s riding. I couldn’t imagine lining up at Salt Lake’s high elevation on the bike I had – it would’ve been ridiculously slow.

And how’s the elevation treating you, physically?

It’s messing with me a bit. After my first heat race last week I was trying to control my breathing and it took me a lot longer to recover. Generally you have to work a lot harder to get oxygen and the recovery after race-day takes noticeably longer. Honestly, I don’t know how the 450 guys are able to race two rounds a week at that level.

What are your thoughts on this rapid-fire, condensed finish to the championship?

It’s nice not to have to travel to each round, but there is a bit of hanging around in the meantime. We’re making the most of it with mountain biking on our days off and getting bikes and everything ready in the hotel’s car park. The teams are all staying in the same few hotels, so it’s been super-easy to get out mountain biking with other guys – we try and get out a couple days a week.

You’re known as a supercross specialist, but are there plans to race the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship as well, seeing as you’re already over there?

I don’t know, mate – I don’t think I’d make the fast 40 over here, as these guys are so quick! I originally wanted to do the Canadian nationals again, but with everything changing this year, I just want to get through these Supercross races and make a plan from there. With the MX Nationals being on so late, I was looking at potentially coming home, but I don’t want to go through the 14-day quarantine when I know I could still be riding here in the US. I’ll sit tight for a couple of weeks after the Supercross finishes and see how things unfold.