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Countdown to EnduroCross: Interview with RPM KTM's Ty Tremaine

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RPM KTM’s Ty Tremaine has achieved a remarkable amount of success in off-road racing so far in his young career both domestically and internationally. The 21-year-old is the 2015 SuperEnduro Junior World Champion and a three-time EnduroCross Junior champion. Last season, Tremaine finished the EnduroCross championship in third overall just ahead of veteran racer Mike Brown. We spoke with Tremaine to find out how he's become so successful in off-road racing at such a young age and what the future holds for him.

When did you begin racing EnduroCross and what got you into it? “My first year, I think I was 17. I used to train a lot with Justin Soule and we were training with a trainer named Randy Lesovsky. At the time, Justin was riding for Monster Energy Kawasaki and I saw how good he was doing. I’ve always been a pretty tall kid and they said, ‘Hey, why don’t you give it a shot and just try it out and see if you like it?’ So I tried it out and I was not very good at it my first couple of go arounds, but I fell in love with it just because it was such a challenge. At the time, my primary series was the WORCS series, so I was focusing on that. I started doing some EnduroCross to mix it up and started doing better and better. I started qualifying for the night show in the Pro class. After that, it just kind of turned into what I wanted to do. I would say the biggest jump-start to my career was in 2014 when I got invited to go to the X Games. I was 18 years old and for me, that was just a huge accomplishment to be able to go do that. That was what really got me going.”

You’ve won the Junior championship in the Pro class three times. How does it feel to know you’ve consistently proven to be the fastest rider under 21 years old? “It’s been great. I work really hard and the first year I won the Junior championship was awesome for me. It was a huge confidence boost. It was great to actually get a championship in EnduroCross, even though it’s not like the AMA number one plate. Obviously, it’s the Junior class. I won that the first year and it was great. It kind of showed me where I was. The second year, I won it again and it was still great, but I feel like since then, everybody doesn’t really see me as a young gun anymore. I’m still only 21, but I was able to beat Mike Brown out by one point for third overall in the championship [last year]. I feel like people have kind of factored me out of the Junior class just because I’ve done well in the series points in the Pro class.”

What’s it like riding for the RPM Racing Team? Do you get support from Factory KTM? “Riding for the RPM team for me is great because they supply me with everything I need to go racing. I don’t get any factory support for parts or motors or anything like that. I’m on a stock bike. I have Allan Stillwell from Stillwell Performance do my suspension for me. He’s a huge part of my program. Other than that, last year it was my family - my dad, my brother, and my mom. Then it was my cousin, Tanner, and I going to all of the races, as he was my mechanic last year. He actually just got hired by Factory Husqvarna and now he’s Thad Duvall’s mechanic. So it looks like this year, it’s just going to be my dad and I trying to make it happen again.”

You only finished outside the top ten once last season. Is being consistent something you are able to practice, or does that come from race experience? “I think the best example for anybody in the sport is Ryan Dungey. I think he’s proved many times that you don’t have to win every race to be a champion. Winning is obviously what you go to the line to do, but being consistent is just a huge aspect of the overall championship. Like you said, I was outside the top ten one time and that race hindered me the rest of the season because going into the last round, I was four points behind Mike Brown. Trying to make up that four-point gap is huge. With EnduroCross it’s pretty cool because they give us series points for heat race wins, so going into that final round, I pretty much needed a heat race win and to do really well in the main event. I would say being consistent is huge just to set yourself up well for the championship.”

You ended up third overall in the points last season behind Cody Webb and Colton Haaker and you’re only 21 years old. Do you feel you are the next young gun to dethrone those two? “I have huge respect for both of those guys. Colton has been pretty much dominant the past couple years winning the World SuperEnduro Championship and backing it up with the US championship [last season]. Cody is a great friend of mine. We were teammates [in 2015], so I always look up to him. As far as the trials side and his technical riding ability, I think he is the best out of anyone. Colton just brings that aggressive style, like banging bars motocross-style out there. For me, it’s about working hard. I obviously want to beat those guys just because I feel like it’d be awesome. Being able to beat those guys on the equipment I have would be killer. Like I said, I have huge respect for both of those guys, but I definitely want to beat them. They’re hard to beat because they’re so good.”

You’re about 6’4”. Is being tall an advantage in EnduroCross? “I think it’s huge. Obviously, being able to use your legs as leverage and put them down when you need to. I’ve gotten myself out of some sticky situations just being tall. A lot of guys might fall where I can dab and stay up. But sometimes I feel like I’m too tall because my legs are in the way. It’s a huge advantage being tall. There are definitely pros and cons, but being tall is great. I think it’s saved me from a lot of close calls.”

The EnduroCross tracks have become progressively jumpier over the years. Do you like that or would you prefer the tracks to be more technical? “It’s so hard to say. I feel like I do better on technical tracks, but I enjoy jumpy fast tracks more. There’s something about hitting big jumps that’s just fun. It gets your adrenaline going and everything. There are definitely a couple of jumps that EnduroCross has had that have been really intimidating and scary. It’s like a love/hate I guess you could say. You’re always so nervous, but once you jump it, you’re like, “Oh, that wasn’t too bad.’ I would say I have done better on technical tracks, but enjoy jumpier tracks more.”

Have you done anything differently to prepare for this season than in the past? “I hired two trainers that work with me weekly. For me, that was what I needed to do to take that next step. I got a girl named Angie and a guy named Sebastian. I call him ‘Sea Bass’ – that’s his nickname. They sponsor me through Barton Health Memorial Hospital in Lake Tahoe, California. They sponsored me and turned me into an athlete because they’re working on building what is called The Center of Excellence. It’s going to be a performance training center and a high altitude training facility. I hired those two and they write me weekly plans and get me going. You see all of the guys from Arizona who train with Destry Abbott at DA8. I’m from a small town in Nevada, so I don’t have any of that. That’s why I think I brought it upon myself to hire somebody like Angie and Sebastian who can help me weekly and make sure I’m in shape going into every race.”

What is your favorite EnduroCross obstacle? “I really like a good rock section when I get through it well. There’s no better feeling than hitting a hard line with speed. If there’s a rock section that everyone is getting stuck in and you go out there and clean it fast, that’s awesome. Tire jumps are so much fun, too. I love just hitting a good tire jump, especially when they’re built right with a nice big landing so you can throw some style off it and get some good pictures. I’d say either the tire jump or the rocks. I’d say my least favorite section would be the Matrix just because they are so hard and they’re always different and changing.”

What is your most memorable race? “My most memorable race would be the Everett, Washington race last season because I finished third, which was my first podium. I got a great start and rode a solid race. That was my first-ever podium racing the Pro class in EnduroCross. I got close so many times that year. I got fourth in South Dakota, fourth in Denver, and it was kind of like a long time coming to finally get that. That was my probably my most memorable and enjoyable moment just because it was such a good feeling. I think that’s what has driven me to want to do it again because there’s no better feeling than getting on the podium.”

What is the most difficult part of EnduroCross for you? “Probably the Matrix and just the mental aspect of things. As much of a physical and technical race EnduroCross is, you need to be mentally ready. I would say that is one of the toughest parts.”

If there was one thing you could change about EnduroCross, what would it be? “So many people ask that all the time and I think as riders, we talk about it a lot. I raced the Rookstool MX race a couple weeks ago up in Oregon and I felt like it was a great track for racing and a great representation of what EnduroCross could be. I think the perfect track would be something that has a couple dirt jumps or rhythm sections, but then a couple of really hard sections to where myself, Cody Webb, Colton Haaker, and Max Gerston could get stuck. Something that’s tough, but then the other half of the track would be fast and flowing to where it’s like, ‘Okay, these guys are racing and banging bars.’ That made for such exciting races. If I could see them change one thing, it would be making tire jumps proportionately bigger so that if they build a huge lip, build a huge landing, too. That way you’re not skyrocketing so high and coming down onto a three-foot roller that just hurts every lap. It’s cool to have big jumps, but in the past, they’ll build a [rad] lip that shoots you so high, but then there’s no landing. When there’s no landing, it’s like, ‘Why even jump it?’ Because then you’re just smashing your ankles every lap.”