Countdown to EnduroCross: Interview with Topar/Edge Powersports/KTM’s Nick Thompson


Team Topar/Edge Powersports/KTM’s Nick Thompson has become a familiar face in the main events at each of the EnduroCross rounds. Thompson’s racing career began at the age of 11 on a motocross track and he soon began desert racing, too. He progressed quickly and was chosen to race on a DH1 team in the WORCS Series at the age of 17. After breaking his leg and dealing with a staph infection, Thompson quit racing altogether and began attending college. After a four year hiatus from competition, he began desert racing again and won the 2011 Expert Class Championship in the Utah Sports Rider Association (USRA) Desert Racing Series. Thompson entered his first EnduroCross race in 2012 and has steadily improved in the past five years. We caught up with the Utah racer to hear what’s in store for the 2017 season.

You briefly spent some time away from the sport after breaking your leg. What was it that brought you back to racing? “Just the passion of racing. I think we all kind of have that bug. Once you’ve raced a dirt bike, it’s hard to fill that void. Just finding the love for it again and wanting to take it a little bit more serious. I think a big thing that brought me back to racing was thinking back so many times on when I didn’t put in the work and almost a regret of not achieving what I thought I was capable of. Maybe some unfinished business I felt. That was the first thing that brought me back and that’s kind of what drove me to pursue it again. I had never raced EnduroCross [at that point], so that was one of my unattained goals. I got sucked into that because they had some local races in Utah. I raced those and really enjoyed it, so that’s where that came in.”

You finished inside the top ten several times last season. What do you feel you need to improve on to make it into the top five? “I think I went the wrong way [last season]. I separated my shoulder a week before the first race last year, so coming in healthy [this season] will be huge. I trained differently last year and went to more of a strength training and I felt like that was the wrong direction. The season prior, I had better results and felt like I was riding better. I was on more of an aerobic based training. That was my heavy focus. To better my results this year, I think I need to go back to more of an aerobic based training and stick to that.”

You transitioned from being a desert racer to EnduroCross. How was it going from a wide-open style of racing to a relatively slower, more technical type of racing? “It’s definitely been a struggle. My motto is if you don’t make it, just hit it harder. I’ve found out the hard way, more times than not, that’s the wrong way to approach it. It’s been extremely challenging to try to pick up that finesse and trials skill. The biggest trial for me has been learning to slow it down and really trying to learn different techniques. I’m one of those guys who just feel like beating my head against the wall over and over again is going to work. So trying to slow my training down and instead of burning 50 laps a night, maybe step back and just focus on working on a particular section like the rocks so I can try and learn this skill. I’m still not very good at it. I still don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything unless I’ve pounded as many laps as I can and I’m dying to go to bed by the time I’m done. I don’t know if that’s the way I’m programmed or if that’s the way that all of us work. That’s probably my biggest weakness is almost trying to take a step back to move forward.”

There aren’t many current EnduroCross racers from Utah. Who do you ride with in preparation for the EnduroCross series? “Two years ago, I actually started riding with my buddy, Rich Larsen. He’s a local here [in Utah]. I had my own track, which was basically the only track in the state. A mutual sponsor, Edge Powersports, contacted me and asked if I’d be willing to let him come out and ride. He came out, rode, and he’s been hitting it hard with me ever since. I recently moved from the employer I was with, who had the track on his land. I’ve got a track in my backyard now that we train on. It’s a little further of a drive for Rich, so we only ride once or twice a week now. He makes the drive down and it’s made it a little harder for him, but it’s definitely been extremely good for me to have the track in my backyard instead of somewhere else. It was nice before and it worked, but now having it at my house gives me a little more time.”

Where have you set your goals for the 2017 season? “It’ s hard to say. You don’t want to sound overconfident or like you’re overshooting your expectations. I feel like anything behind [Cody] Webb and [Colton] Haaker is attainable. I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t say I wanted to get a podium. I think top five is an attainable goal. Everybody works so hard. You don’t work your butt off to be getting top tens when you’ve already achieved them. I’d like to see myself inside the top five consistently and be able to get a podium by the end of the year.”

Have you done anything differently to prepare for this season than in the past? If so, what? “I recently purchased [Colton] Haaker’s old trials bike at the last round last year in Ontario. I’ve been trying to get on that once a week. Life’s been pretty hectic and crazy with moving to a different area and remodeling the house. To be honest, my training is a little bit lacking right now. We’re at the three-month mark [until the series starts]. I like to put in a hard push for two months and then I’ll back off the month before and try to reevaluate where we’re at. I’ll try to ride my track on the dirt bike three days a week and then one night a week on the trials bike. I’ll also road bike two nights a week as well.”

What is your favorite EnduroCross obstacle? “Well, it wouldn’t be the pond because that’s broken my arm and KO’d me before. Everybody gives me a bunch of [grief] over the pond, so it’s definitely not that. I think where I feel best is in the Matrix. I don’t know if it’s my suspension, but I feel like I make up a little bit more time entering the Matrix. It could be because I run a stiffer setting in my suspension and it lacks other places, but I feel like the Matrix is one of my favorite sections just because of the sheer fact that I seem to find a way to drive it in a little harder.”

What is your most memorable race? “It’s got to be the 2015 X Games just because when I first started doing EnduroCross, that was my number one goal. When I accomplished that and got to go to X Games, it was an experience I will never forget. It was the last year they had EnduroCross in the X Games, which we didn’t know at the time. That was just an experience I will never forget. I got seventh, which I’m not bummed about, but it’s not the result that was so satisfying, it was just the experience.”

What is the most difficult part of EnduroCross for you? “The rock section, especially when it gets wet. Trying to find traction is the name of the game in EnduroCross, but especially in the rocks. When the rocks get wet, that’s when you see Haaker, Webb, and those trials guys make their money. That can make or break your race real quick.”

If there was one thing you could change about EnduroCross, what would it be? “That’s hard to say. More practice. I’m not good at hot laps, so take those out. Let’s go on practice times for seating. After reading some of the direction they’re going with multiple main events, I’m excited about that. Let’s do multiple main events, seat everyone off practice times, and give us three practice sessions. Instead of two five minute sessions, let’s do three five minute sessions or two ten minute sessions.”