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Questions from 2018 St. Louis SX - Supercross

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Dome at America's Center St. Louis, MO St. Louis Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship

We  brought in 51Fifty Energy Drink Yamaha’s Kyle Chisholm, who finished 15th in St. Louis, as well as CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha’s Alex Ray, who is currently out injured. Also, our regular contributor Ryan Sipes is back.

1. The 250SX main in St. Louis went 27 laps. How weird is it to do that many laps?

Alex Ray: Twenty-seven? Wow! Yeah, that would get pretty crazy just because it is an East Coast track and with the dirt being softer, it would break down a lot more. That’s nuts to think they did that many laps! It makes the race feel like it’s going by at a turtle’s pace when you have a short track like that as well. 

Ryan Sipes: Yes, it gets weird doing that many laps. It sounds impossible to be on a frickin’ dirt bike on a supercross track and get bored, but that’s what happens. You hit the same jumps/corners/ruts/whoops long enough and you get tired of it. That’s where the mental strength comes in for these guys. That’s why when they practice, they are doing 25-lap motos instead of 20, and they ride hours on their road bikes instead of 30 minutes. I’m sure they still get bored, but they know how to push past it and still go fast.

Kyle Chisholm: Yeah, the main event was 27 laps! That’s pretty wild. After seeing how short the track was and how quick the lap times were, I knew we were in for a lot of laps in the main event. For me, the race always seems really long when you do more laps. Now that the races are all 20 minutes plus a lap, they’re generally all pretty close to the same length. But, like I said, I always feel like the more laps you have to do, the longer it feels. If a track has longer lap times and you do less laps, it always seems to feel shorter than when the track has shorter lap times and you do a bunch of laps. I think it’s definitely more of a mental thing, but I also think it’s because you have to do all of the obstacles over and over more times than on a longer track. Another thing is, the track typically gets rougher and more rutted because we’re hitting the obstacles more frequently, and I also think doing so many more laps makes it tougher to stay mentally sharp and focused since we hit everything so many times.

Rich Shepherd

Ray: That first rhythm looked big with that quad in there, and for him to pull off first lap of the main, he’s got some balls of steel! I’m sure he checked it out on the sight lap and had video of other people doing it from earlier during the day. I guess the disk/ding factor was nailing that three before it. If you downside that perfectly, you pretty much had the quad. He got the holeshot, so he had a clear track as well.

Sipes: I was standing up cheering when Big AF sent it on the first lap. That was some 18-year-old “I don’t care if it’s the first lap, I’m bulletproof” stuff right there. I remember feeling like that, too. But I was thinking to myself, this kid is legit. He takes command of the race with the quad on the first section, showing these guys he’s not afraid. And now he’s sprinting away from Osborne! Big AF is going to win this race! Wait, he’s getting tired… he skipped a whoop on the dragon… he’s down. It was impressive while it lasted.

In my opinion, he probably quadded that on pure adrenaline and instinct. I’m sure everyone planned on jumping it first lap, but you have to have the holeshot to do it. Forkner didn’t have the holeshot, but he knew if he jumped it, he could pass Osborne. In his mind he had to pull the trigger on that.  

Chisholm: When Austin jumped that quad right off the start and got his lead, it was pretty cool to watch. I do believe that was his exact plan and what he wanted to do, and he nailed it and put himself in the perfect position. As a rider, when there is a jump or section like that right off the start, we know if you can nail a good start and bust it out right away, it will give you a little gap on the field and some breathing room right away. This is very important so you can hit your lines right away and not have to protect them. This way, he can hit all the fast lines and try to build a nice lead early. So, I think he wanted to get the start and bust that thing out and try to check out. He knew going in to the race that if he can get a good start and have a clear run up to the quad, all he needed to do was nail the triple before it just right so he would have the drive to get the quad. And he executed it perfectly. I’m sure on his parade lap he checked out the takeoff and landings of both the quad and the triple before it to make sure if there weren’t any bad ruts or holes he needed to avoid hitting, and it must have looked good to him.

Rich Shepherd

Ray: It’s terrible and I hate it! I get hot flashes! Chills! I get all nervous and it brews a turd quicker than coffee! But once you do it and overcome something like that, it’s a pretty good feeling. At the same time, there have been moments where it doesn’t go as planned and I just end up sending it way too hard getting catawampus and I'll KO myself. Or I'll come not even close to clearing it and end up casing the jump, blowing my face off the crossbar pad, and riding back to the truck with a bloody nose. Hmmm, if I add it all up, I think the catawampus moments still outnumber the moments where I actually make the big jump perfectly. Oh well, I’ll learn someday!

Sipes: That sounds like my entire first year of racing professionally. I used to be scared to jump the big stuff. I remember walking the track at Anaheim 2 in ‘05 thinking, “I better get a good start and block well, cause I ain’t jumping that.” Back then, I wasn’t willing to risk getting out of my comfort zone to improve my finishes. Then one day I decided hey, if they can do it, I can do it. Before long, I was the first guy jumping stuff in practice. That theory has not always worked out in my favor, but it’s a strategy I had to adapt to be competitive.  

Chisholm: I actually have a very recent story of “oh no, I think I’m going to have to jump this.” Like, as recent as this past weekend in St. Louis. That very quad into the turn and the triple out of the next turn were two jumps that I thought that about. On press day, I watched the guys all ride and I thought that the quad into that corner looked possible. But I thought to myself, I hope no one jumps it because I really don’t want to have to do it. So, when Malcolm [Stewart] busted it out in practice, quite a few others followed suit. Thanks a lot, Malcolm! I never jumped it, and I’m kind of bummed I never did it because I know I could’ve jumped it and I probably should’ve. But I just never felt totally comfortable doing it and I couldn’t get a feel for how I needed to get it to be just right for some reason. It just didn’t fit my eye.

So, knowing there’s another race next weekend and not being really comfortable with it, I decided not to take the risk because if you were short at all, it was almost a certain crash. I’ve actually hit a few quads at a few tracks practicing lately and I’ve been feeling really confident with stuff like that, but this one just didn’t feel right to me. So yes, that type of thing happens more than most people probably think. 

Before every practice, a few of my fellow racers would come up and ask, “Hey, are you going to bust that jump out, what do you think,” etc. So, it was a hot topic for sure. Sometimes the opposite happens, though. In San Diego this year after the second triple, there was a step-on to a tabletop then onto another table and off over a single. When I walked the track and first rode the track, I thought it was possible to jump all the way on to the second tabletop and not even touch the first table. And I thought to myself, “Oh, great, someone is going to jump that and then we’re all going to have to jump it.” But no one ever did it and we didn’t have to bust it out.

One last story on that topic was in Houston this year. After the first rhythm section, you turned and jumped over a tabletop, then you could jump a table over two singles (a quad in my book). Well, quite a few guys were eyeing it up (250 and some top 450 riders) and I busted it out first. I was pumped. I felt good with it and was confident, and I went for it and made it perfect. It’s always a cool feeling when you’re the first to bust out something big like that. 

Jeff Kardas