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Cole Seely On His Return from Injury

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Cole Seely had a pretty solid 2017 season, finishing seventh overall in Monster Energy Supercross and fifth overall in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, which earned him a spot on Team USA for the Motocross of Nations. As so many riders have done within the past 10 years, Seely moved from California to Florida for the summer to up his program. He knew the training and riding he was doing in California wasn’t cutting it, so he packed up his Sprinter and headed to the Sunshine State.

His results outdoors improved and even landed him a spot on Team USA at the Motocross of Nations for the first time in his career. His unfortunate shock issues cost him getting to the checkered flag at ‘Nations, but he also felt the Europeans were on another level in the mud in Great Britain. Shortly after the ‘Nations, he underwent surgery to have a plate removed from his hand—an injury he first sustained at the end of the Nationals in 2016. Seely is back to riding and training for 2018 and will compete in the Paris Supercross this weekend. We caught up with him at the test track last week.

Racer X: You’re out here doing some supercross training for next year. How’s it all going?
Cole Seely: It’s been going really well. Really kind of a smooth transition. Once I got home from des Nations, I had a surgery on my hand just to get a plate out. It was kind of bugging me. But after that, it’s been smooth sailing. Me and Christian [Craig] and Chase Sexton have been working with Blake Savage and it’s been super fun. I’m really excited for that and stoked for Blake’s commitment to us. I’m just having a lot of fun this year. It’s been really smooth sailing and I’m just kind of really enjoying the time being put into preparing for the next season. 

We haven’t really heard much from you since des Nations because you had your hand surgery. How is the hand doing?
It’s good. It’s really good. The plate, I shattered the first knuckle in my pinky, actually, last year in outdoors, and had a plate put in. You can’t really tell with an X-ray how big the plate is. When I had it taken out, I was like, no wonder it was bugging me so bad. The thing was huge. Granted, that’s kind of what had to be done. It was shattered into four or five pieces. A plate had to support a screw to go into each piece. Luckily I was healthy enough to race last year. Just getting that plate out, it’s less of an issue for me riding. I don’t get as sore or tired with my grip strength while I’m riding or while I’m training, so it’s kind of a necessity to get that thing out.

You actually had to put off the surgery a little bit because you had to wait for the des Nations. This surgery has put you a month behind schedule, right?
Yeah. Five or six weeks, actually. I was planning on doing it right when I got home from staying in Florida for the summer. When I got the call to go race des Nations, I kind of just put everything on hold. Obviously, I had to continue training. It was a thought to still get it done, maybe, but I didn’t really want to risk it not being prepared for the whole race. I’m glad I waited, but at the same time, I was really upset with the way things went at des Nations, so I was kind of like, man, I could have just got that thing out and not had to stress about it. But to have that on my resume to go to des Nations, it was such an honor to go represent our country even though it didn’t go the way we wanted it to. Still, no regrets. I’m glad I went.

Other than your bike problems at des Nations, how was that overall experience?
It was crazy. The whole European racing over there and the riders, the fans, everything is just so crazy. It’s on another level from anything that I’ve ever experienced. It was really cool. The fans were so cool. That was my favorite part—going to meet all the fans. Everyone is kind of excited that America is there and to meet us—to meet me and Zach [Osborne] really because Thomas [Covington] is over there pretty much the whole time. That was cool. I could not believe how fast those guys go in the rain. As soon as the rain came on Sunday morning, I was kind of stoked. When we see rain, it’s kind of like the great equalizer. There’s a chance so many variables can happen and so many different things. But those guys think the track is overwatered and they just send it. They send it every single lap and they’re super consistent. It’s just something that we’re not really capable of with the experience that we have. I was just so out of my element and out of my comfort zone with those guys, but I gave it everything I could. I felt like I rode pretty good on the Saturday qualifier race, other than my little tip-over. It was a fun experience, but unfortunately, like I said before, it didn’t go the way we wanted. 

You mentioned going over to Florida. You made a big step this year by committing to live and train there. Are you happy with the way things are going? Are you going to continue with that?
I’m really excited and happy that I did do that. It really kind of opened a whole new door for me. I was excited. There were so many moving parts to that thing, too. It really happened within a two-week span. It was a thought, and then before I knew it, I had an apartment lined up. Jason Baker gave me the okay to come out. All the riders that were there gave me the okay. Like I said, there were so many moving parts. We loaded up my van and my dad drove it out there for me, California to Florida alone. That was a huge help for me. Obviously, the team shipping a bike. Just so many things went into it, but I’m really happy that we were able to pull that off. I learned a lot while I was out there and definitely [there are] things that I’m going to carry into this year. I do plan on going back there, so I’m pretty excited about that. Jason Baker puts on an awesome facility. Just the whole vibe there is really cool—from the riders, the mechanics, the track crew. Everyone gets along. It’s just a fun little thing they got going out there in Florida. 

Last year about this time, there was a lot of hype with Ken Roczen joining the team and you two becoming teammates. There was a lot of good team camaraderie, and then he got hurt and it kind of just took the wind out of your guys’ sails. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Coming in to 2017, end of 2016, it was a fun time. Obviously, new guy on the team with a lot of hype and a lot of flair for sure. Kenny is definitely one of the most outgoing riders out there on the track. It was fun. Like you said, unfortunately it ended pretty quick. He came out swinging, won two races and then it was kind of a question whether he was even going to be able to ride or not, which I’m glad to say he’s back on the bike now and riding and looking good and training and all that kind of stuff. So, I think he’s on his way, if not already 100 percent. Stoked for him, stoked for the team. I feel like the morale is already kind of back to where it was. We’re all excited to go racing again. It’s crazy. At the end of outdoors, I was already kind of staring A1 in the face. I’m like, shoot, I’m going to go train for des Nations, then I’m going to get my surgery and then start training for A1. It feels like it’s already there. I really haven’t mentally kind of faded away from race mentality. It’s kind of a good thing. I’ve never really had a season like this. I leave for Paris next week, so that’s kind of cool to get a race under my belt before we head out to Angel Stadium. I’m excited to get back on the line for sure. 

Going back to Roczen’s injury, you became the main guy on the team. All the focus kind of shifted to you. Was that a lot of pressure?
Yes and no. I had kind of dealt with it before. As big of a talent as Trey Canard was, he was kind of known for getting injured. Every time Trey would get injured, I would be so bummed. We became really close over the course of when we were teammates. We still are good friends. But I kind of got used to it with that, as unfortunate as that is. I love Trey, but I hated seeing him going down. I hated being the only guy in the rig. I got used to that, and when it happened to Kenny, I don’t want to say I’m used to it, but I kind of was, just not with Kenny. He’s known for being one of the most consistent and really flawless riders out there. So it was kind of a big shock to our whole team, I think, more than just me being the only guy and kind of pressure being put on my shoulders. It just felt different for some reason. It was such a big crash. We haven’t seen a big crash like that in a long time where you’re like, how is he still getting up? Even though his arm was pretty mangled, how was he still conscious? It was just such a hard hit. Unfortunately, it happened, but fortunately he’s back riding now and has overcome a lot since then.

Focusing back on you, what is your training program like right now?
Right now, me and my mechanic Rich [Simmons] have been setting up my riding schedule during the week, which has worked in the past. We kind of went back to the drawing board and kind of just reassessed everything that we’ve learned over the years. Then, on the training side of things, every day I’ve been spending with Christian Craig. Actually, today is his first day back on the bike riding, but I’ve been in the gym with him on the bicycle. We did almost 250 miles last week on the bicycles. It’s been a lot of fun. And Chase Sexton is out here right now. I’ve been training with him when he’s in California. We’re all working under Blake Savage, who kind of just took me under his wing throughout the summer and things went pretty smoothly. I’m really excited for that. He has a lot of knowledge. He’s kind of a perfectionist when it comes to training and fitness and nutrition and all that kind of stuff. I’m very excited to have him in my corner this year. It’s been so much fun. It’s kind of just like a new birth for me. I’m just excited to be at the track. I’m excited to go to the gym, to be on the bicycle. It’s all going really well.

Seely will return to racing this weekend in Paris for the Paris Supercross.
Seely will return to racing this weekend in Paris for the Paris Supercross. Kyle Scott

You’re a California guy, and right now you’re back home. Do you have plans yet on when you’ll be going back to Florida for training yet?
Yeah, I’m still tentatively kind of planning my schedule, but yeah, I’ve been California-based my whole life, so this is home for me. This will be home when I’m done racing. Just having that at my disposal, I guess, for lack of a better term, to go to Florida and really use the Jason Baker facility. I want to go out there… there’s a lot of East Coast rounds in supercross, so I want to get out there and spend some time out there so I don’t have to sit on the plane for an extra six hours a weekend. When we go out to Daytona every year, we always spend some time in Florida testing and training, so I’ll probably do that. Then I think it’s around Indy, which falls in between February to March or March to April, I’ll probably do that [stay in Florida during that time] and then spend the summer out there again, just because the tracks are so good. California is awesome for the average rider. It’s amazing. It’s like a dreamland. You’ve got like 10 different tracks within a couple hours of each other. But what I need is a track that’s going to push me and a track that’s not going to be an easy day-by-day riding schedule for me. I need something that’s going to really just push me to the limit, and, really, just a track that is better than my ability, something that’s going to make me grow as a rider. I think that’s why Florida is the best choice for me.

Do you feel like the heat and all in Florida really made the difference for this summer? You did finish top five overall in the outdoors.
Yeah, Florida is known for its heat. You kind of get used to it when you’re out there. You think you do, and then all of a sudden one day it’s just 100 with 100 percent humidity and you just feel like you’re melting out there. I feel like we get to Nationals and sometimes we’re not so prepared for that, especially me being from California and having that California dry heat blood. It’s just we’re not used to the humidity. I think it definitely kind of put me outside my comfort zone. I got used to it a little bit, so at least when I got to the race it wasn’t so grueling. I kind of had the mental preparation to push through those kind of things, and maybe before I kind of lacked that. It just helped me get through that.