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Countdown to EnduroCross: Interview with GasGas' Geoff Aaron

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GasGas’ Geoff Aaron began his EnduroCross career back in 2004 after already having achieved a remarkable amount of success as a trials rider. Aaron is a ten-time AMA National Trials Champion and began focusing on the EnduroCross series full-time after retiring from trials competition in 2006. Aaron won his first main event at the Columbus, Ohio round in 2009 and has achieved several notable results since then including another win at the 2010 Denver EnduroCross. We caught up with the veteran EnduroCross racer to hear about how he’s become successful in two different motorcycle disciplines and what’s in store for 2017.

What got you started in Endurocross? “Eric Peronnard [the founder of EnduroCross] invited me to the original event in Las Vegas. He envisioned top riders from all disciplines - motocross, enduro, trials, and desert [racing on the same track together]. At the time, I was the [national] trials champ.”

You’ve spent most of your career on a motorcycle winning national trials titles. How difficult was it to transition to EnduroCross? “Every year after the Trial Des Nations was over, I'd fool around on motocross bikes. Since I was a trials guy, sometimes I'd do gnarly trails or trick riding. When EnduroCross started, I had a lot to learn, but was solid on the obstacles. Starting gates, cornering, and jumping was another story, but I realized that if I focused on EnduroCross, I could learn and potentially be successful at the sport. It was exciting to be doing new things after 20 years on the national trials circuit. It took a few seasons, but I got it together and scored lots of top fives, podiums, and even won a couple!”

You’ve ridden two-strokes and four-strokes in EnduroCross and you will ride a GasGas EC300 two-stroke this season. What are some of the advantages of riding a two-stroke? “Both motors have their advantages. The 4-strokes are fast and smooth. They arguably work better for the motocross sections, but are heavier, cough, stall, and have a lot of engine braking. The two-stroke seems to suit my style better. They work well in the rocks and the rougher terrain. I feel like I can coast across obstacles and keep my momentum better. I also like the low-end power and lighter weight. They seem easier to throw around and are less prone to stalling. Starts and jumping require a little more precision to get right. I'm excited to be racing the all-new GasGas XC300R this season.”

You’ve raced EnduroCross since the series began back in 2004. What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the sport since then? “The modern racers are much more prepared. They have their own practice tracks and they train specifically for the sport. In the beginning, we were still developing the proper bike setup. Now the bikes, tires, and tracks have all evolved and racers know what to expect.”

You live in Temecula, California, which is widely regarded as the heart of the motocross industry. Do you do much cross training on a motocross track to compliment your trials skills on the EnduroCross track? “Yes, I've used motocross as a cross trainer since the beginning. I enjoy motocross and it has definitely improved my riding. I feel like I'm riding my best when I can mix EnduroCross, trials, and motocross into my training program.”

You’re one of the taller racers on the EnduroCross circuit. What are some of the advantages of being tall in a sport like EnduroCross? “Being tall has its pros and cons. Long legs definitely help when you get into trouble. I have a lot of leverage on the bike and use my legs to soak up obstacles and keep the bike tracking well. The disadvantages are that I'm kind of cramped on the bikes. Going from sitting to standing is more of a chore and wears you out. Because I'm bigger, I'm also quite I bit heavier than the average guy, so my power to weight ratio is not as good for starts and corner exit speed. My legs have saved me many times, but ultimately I try to ride clean and keep them on the pegs.”

You won the main event at the 2010 Denver EnduroCross. What was it that clicked for you that night? “Back then I was living in Colorado, so it was my home race. The dirt is usually good there and I just felt comfortable that night. The guy to beat at the time was Taddy [Blazusiak] and he had crashes and some problems. I moved into the lead after a couple laps and rode solid until the checkers. It felt good to back up my previous win in Ohio in 2009 and put me in the history books as a two-time EnduroCross winner in front of my home crowd.”

The EnduroCross tracks have become progressively jumpier over the years. Do you like that or would you prefer the tracks to be more technical? “For the sport, I think it should be approximately 50/50. Motocross rhythms and finish line jumps all dirt-to-dirt mixed with harder, more gnarly, technical sections. [It’s the] best of both worlds for the fans. [I would like to see] less sketchy jumps and more carnage in the rocks, logs, and water. Personally, my skill set shines the rougher it gets... usually!”

Have you done anything differently to prepare for this season than in the past? If so, what? “This season is different because are developing an all-new bike. My training program is similar, but I am spending more time with settings and learning how to ride my new GasGas XC.”

What is your favorite EnduroCross obstacle? “It varies from track to track, but usually the rocks. What I like about Endurocross is the challenge. Being able to negotiate difficult situations cleanly takes skill. Jumping the obstacles takes guts and timing, but perhaps less technique.”

What is your most memorable race? “Ohio 2009 - my first national win. The previous year, Taddy and I had a battle right to the end. I almost made the pass stick in the rock section, but he cut me off in the final corner and I was forced to follow him across the finish. In 2009, my Christini was working better and I felt confident. I beat Taddy fair and square that night and did a giant trials-style nose wheelie at the finish. I was pumped!”

What is the most difficult part of EnduroCross for you? “I love EnduroCross, but as the tracks get faster and more jumpy, I'm not excited about adding more risk to my already dangerous job. Deciding risk versus reward is the most difficult part for me nowadays. More riders are getting hurt and I want to keep doing this as long as I can.”

If there was one thing you could change about EnduroCross, what would it be? “How about two things? I'd like to see more creative features on the tracks and better payouts for the pros.”