MXA INTERVIEW: JIMMY DECOTIS TALKS EAST COAST SX
After coming off his best 250 Supercross season to date, 2017 looked especially good for New England’s Jimmy Decotis as he was offered a fill in role with GEICO HONDA for the 250 outdoor series. But just as quickly as it started, the summer of racing ended for Decotis. Hampered by mental and physical fatigue, “the rippa” ended up being diagnosed with lyme disease. Now a year later, Jimmy is ready to line up for Supercross again. Signed with the JGR/AUTOTRADER/YOSHIMURA/SUZUKI TEAM, Decotis is determined to make 2018 his year!
BY JIM KIMBALL
JIMMY; LET’S FIRST TALK ABOUT YOUR 2017 SUPERCROSS SEASON, YOU MADE SOME NOISE! My Supercross season was really good, and I had some extreme highs that were awesome. I led San Diego for 11 minutes, and I think that if I were a little bit mentally stronger, I would have won that one. But I somewhat fell apart with four minutes to go. After the East Coast break, I went to Charlotte and stayed with Cooper Webb. I was training with Gareth Swanepoel all season. It was my first year with him, so it was somewhat a learning time. Learning about my body, and all different type of things that Gareth had me go through. So I just put my head down, and I went to work. I really made big, big strides, and then when the series resumed I came out for Seattle, Salt Lake, and Las Vegas, and I was like a new guy.
IN THAT TIME OFF YOU REALLY IMPROVED? Yes, I was a little bummed on how short this series is sometimes because I felt like I came into my own those last three rounds. I felt like I was the most fit I had been. I definitely was the fastest I had been. I was 25 last year, so to still be getting better, and making progress, even though I have been in the class for so long was really cool to see. There were a lot of guys that had either given up or plateaued. Even now I still feel like I have more to give, and more progress to gain. To me that is huge, and that is what keeps me striving for the progress. I do not feel like I have hit my peak yet. I still have more, I am still hungry, and I still enjoy racing. Last year showed me that “hey if I put a little more hard work, and I get a solid training program that I can be up front”. If I dedicate myself to Gareth’s program, then good things will come. So I am excited to be going into my second year with Gareth. Yes I am on a different team now, but I think Supercross this year will go really good.
YOUR SUPERCROSS RIDES WERE DEFINITELY ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF GEICO HONDA TEAM LAST YEAR. Yes, absolutely, but I know that we all did not have the best year. I think they got one podium in Supercross, and then Christian Craig and I finished top five in the series. I was about the best guy in the team, but for that level of team, a top five is not what they were looking for. I was the best guy on the team, but I think we were all kind of pooped, so I was the least smelly of the poop (laughing). Overall for me, I think it was cool to be the best guy on the team. It was a career best for me getting fifth in the series, but I want to be in the top three, and fight for the championship. With Geico I learned a lot, and it set me up to be on JGR this year. I would not want it to go any different now. I am blessed to be where I am.
YOU HAD A SUPERCROSS DEAL ONLY WITH GEICO, BUT STARTED THE OUTDOOR SERIES RIGHT? Last year I signed Supercross only deal with Geico, but there was an option to go Outdoors if anyone was hurt – but it was just not guaranteed. Going into the first three rounds, Craig got bumped up to the Factory Honda Team, so that opened up a spot for me. I felt like I was riding pretty well, but I could not get through the motos. I could not last. My motivation level was down, and I just felt like something was off. My training, heart rates were different than normal. We kind of sat down as a team, and decided “something is wrong; something is going on.” I saw a Doctor that really saved my life, because with testing we first thought that I had Epstein Barr, but ultimately I was diagnosed with Lyme disease. I went to a Lyme specialist in Massachusetts, and after three weeks of waiting, I got the results that I was positive for Lyme disease. I spent four months on antibiotics and it was the most miserable time of my life. I lay in bed every day. Just doing an hour of cycling spinning the pedals was like hell for me. It definitely changed my perspective on life. Lyme made me change my diet. I was super bummed for the season, but the things I learned from Lyme disease as far as taking care of your body was tremendous. I don’t eat any gluten, no cheese, or any of that stuff. I don’t even drink coffee anymore. To see how much I was really poisoning my body, and then on top of it having Lyme disease was crazy. I now feel that I have much more mental clarity, and physical ability. I just feel like it was a blessing in disguise. Unfortunately, I still have some symptoms, and will throughout my entire life. But as long as I keep my diet clean, keep everything balanced, and I focus on recovery, then I can be even better than I was last year.
LYME DISEASE IS MYSTERIOUS, AND VERY SERIOUS. Yes, and I was fortunate. I had it pretty bad, but there are some people that have had it worse than me. I think part of why mine was not so drastic was because I was on antibiotics, and I really did the diet 100%. Basically with Lyme disease, it gets in all of your systems. It gets in your bones, joints, and inflames your whole body, so if you are eating foods that are not anti-inflammatory foods, you are never going to heal your body. I got my liver function right with liver flushes, and all these different things to ensure that I was going to be better for this year. It just showed me that I was not taking care of my body enough before. It is amazing how good I feel compared to last year when I had negative thoughts, and just was not myself. Even the year before that, I was not myself. I believe I had Lyme for a good year and a half, but it just took so much training, and bad eating habits for it really to come out and start seeing symptoms when it did.
THAT COULD HAVE BEEN A HUGE DETRIMENT TO YOUR CAREER! Absolutely, but as I said there are people that have it much worse than me. I just took the right steps to really heal my body, and that for sure saved my life. Living the way I did for those four months of antibiotics is no way for you to live. It is just so hard to live like that, having no energy and feeling like complete garbage constantly is hard.
RETURNING TO RACING, LOT OF PEOPLE THOUGHT THAT YOU WERE WITH GEICO HONDA AGAIN FOR 2018. I did not have a contract for 2018. I had a couple of clauses in my 2017 contract, that me, Ziggy (Rick Zielfelder, co-owner), and Jeff (Majkrzak, co-owner) made that if I got a podium, they would keep me on board for next year. I got three 4th place finishes, so I felt like I did not seal the deal. I felt like I earned the ride, felt like I earned it on Geico, but I did not follow my word and get that podium. I was so close, but I just didn’t get it done. It did not come down to me not performing; it just came down to them having too many riders signed. I think they are working on making that team eventually a four-rider team, so with me on board, it would have been six riders. I just think that was too many riders, and not something that Honda would want to do. I respect their decision, but it was tough at the time, it really was. I felt like I earned the spot, and I should have been on that team. Especially with Supercross, where we all did not do the best, but I performed the best out of everyone. I was a little bitter, but honestly, now that I am at JGR, and am on a great bike I’m very happy. These guys have worked so hard to get me comfortable, and it all worked out for the better because I am in a great place. JGR has given me a full year deal to even do Outdoors and showcase my skills. Geico would have just been a Supercross only deal, so I am truly happy that the Geico deal did fall through because I would not want to be any place but JGR. I would not want to be on another brand except for Suzuki. The guys have gone above and beyond for me.
THERE WAS A LOT OF COMPETITION FOR A SPOT WITH JGR RIGHT? Oh, absolutely. I knew that there were a lot of guys looking for a spot, but I knew out of all the free agents that were available I was the best guy. I called Jeremy (Albrecht, Team Manager) and I probably bugged him more than anyone else. I phoned him like three times a week, sent him texts, and just pushed as hard as I could because I still know that I am a great rider. I know that I can be a podium guy and actually win races. I was not aware that (Justin) Hill was going to leave Pro Circuit, so actually he ended up being the best guy available. Once Hill got signed, I knew there were still spots open, so I did not stress it. I knew Jeremy was a smart man and I was not asking for crazy money. I know what I am worth, and until I get a win or podium I am not worth the big bucks yet. The hardest part for me for the whole deal was pushing to get the Outdoors because I don’t have Outdoors results like I do in Supercross. But I truly believe with Gareth training me that I can do Outdoors.
I ASSUME YOU GUYS ARE LEARNING SOME DIFFERENT THINGS ABOUT THE BIKE FROM THE WEST COAST SERIES. Everyone in the industry wants to say off-season is great, and everything is perfect. But for me, honestly I struggled on the Suzuki the first two months I was on it. We tried suspension, and all of these different things, but all I was looking for war a little more front-end traction. We made some clamp changes to bring the wheel in a little closer, and push the floor tight up. Once I got that front-end feel I was looking for, it allowed us to correct the suspension, and stop chasing some things that we were. So there were two months where I had some frustrating days, but that is what this sport is about. You just try to get everything comfortable. I knew that this bike was fast enough to win on. It was just getting the chassis set up for my liking because I am such a smaller rider compared to other guys, so my bike set up is a lot different than Hill’s, (Kyle) Peters’ or (Phil) Nicoletti. We all have different settings. We all have different riding styles, so once I dialed in the chassis for my liking and this just happened about two weeks ago, I really turned a new leaf. I really started riding like myself. I have been able to get my lap times down for 15 minutes plus 1 lap and consistently be fast. Everything came together at the right time, where a month ago, I would not have told you this.
These guys went above and beyond for me. They trusted in what I was looking for in the bike and now I am excited to go racing, where three weeks ago, I was nervous. JGR truly put’s the work in, and they get their guys comfortable. I want to bring this team some success, show this industry that these guys work hard, and Suzuki believes in them. The beginning of the off-season was tough but we have made huge strides and I am finally comfortable, and now I would not want to be on any other brand. I absolutely love my bike. I am making minimal changes during the week now and everything has just been flowing really well. Everyone in my corner is very proud of the way I have been riding. I am excited to go racing and I am looking forward to it.
SOME PEOPLE HAVE CRITIZED THE STOCK SUZUKI 250 AS SLOW, BUT THE HONDA 250 WASN’T EXACTLY THE FASTEST STOCK 250 WAS IT? Of course, and that is the thing too. If you take a Suzuki and a Honda straight out of the box, they are both not the fastest horsepower bikes; that is well known within the industry. But the engine guys, and teams put in so many hours and they develop such a great engine. I knew this engine was going to be good. I was for sure a little nervous before I signed the deal. But, the first day I rode it, I said, “This engine is awesome!” “Let’s just get this chassis suited for my little riding style and I will have success.” From day one as soon as I had rode the bike, my worries went away. I think the JGR guys were happy that they had me, and Hill who just came off Pro Circuit say “this thing is fast.” I said the same thing, so they were like “okay we got two guys who came off factory bikes and they are saying the bike is fast”. Another thing with the Suzuki, even for privateers and other guys, it is a very easy bike to make fast. I rode them as an amateur, and my engine guys said “these things as so easy to make fast.” Technically they may not come out of the box with a lot of horsepower, but if you give them to an engine guy, the Suzuki is a very easy bike to make power with. I was very impressed with what Dean Baker has done with the engine. Everyone talks smack, and everyone has negative things to say about everything in the world, but when you really get on the bike and you ride it, you are like “wow”! All these people really have no clue because they have never rode the bike, so they don’t know. I kept an open mind and I did not assume anything. We are going to be awesome and we got the chassis to how I like it and fit my style and I am very confident that I have a bike that can win right now. If I am not winning or getting on the podium it is I, not the bike.
IT SEEMS LIKE JEREMY ALBRECHT AND THE GUYS AT JGR TRULY LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE OF BUILDING A RELATIONSHIP WITH A RIDER RATHER THAN SIMPLY FOCUSING ON RACE RESULTS. Absolutely, and every day you go to the shop and you work with all of these guys, so it really builds the relationship. I believe that Jeremy really likes that in me is that I have learned that relationships matter. I was not a home school kid my whole life. I went to school, so I had relationships. I enjoy talking to people and building relationships. That side is important, but at the end of the day, he wants results and I want results too. Results is what I mostly what I want to bring. I want everyone to like me on the team, but I also just want them to like me because I am getting results too. It is definitely cool to see how JGR is, and that they stick with riders even if they have a tough year or they struggle. Jeremy is willing to put his butt on the line, as long as he believes in you. I feel that if I bring success to this team in the 250 classes, I can have a couple of years here in the 450 class. It is a good home for me where I feel that I have a bright future moving into the 450 class. I just want to bring success to them and then hopefully I can get a 450 deal later on and we can continue to build and move forward and bring in some success and that is the goal.
LAST QUESTION JIMMY, WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET FOR DALLAS? My mindset is to go out there and be Jimmy D. Go ride like myself, have fun, smile, don’t put too much pressure on myself. Just be myself, and nail the 15 minutes plus 1 lap main event. I just want to ride to my ability at the race and show everyone what I have been doing during the week. As long as I go out and execute a good start, I will be happy, because then the rest will fall into place. My father used to always say that, “if Jimmy is smiling under his helmet, it is going to be a good night.” As long as I stay happy I am good, so I am just going to keep a good mindset and be happy and the results will come with that.