Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs/Honda rider Cole Seely has had one heck of a season thus far. In addition to winning Anaheim 2 and battling tooth-in-nail with Rockstar Energy Racing’s Jason Anderson for the Western Regional 250 Supercross Championship, Seely was recruited to fill in for the injured Trey Canard on the Muscle Milk Honda team, starting with last weekend’s Indy Supercross. Seely shocked many by finishing a solid third aboard the factory Honda CRF450R, and hopes to enjot similar success at this weekend’s Daytona Supercross and also at the following event in Detroit. TransWorld Motocross spent some time in the hills with Seely yesterday aboard mountain bikes, and we interviewed him in between hills…
This is your third stint as a replacement rider for the Muscle Milk Honda team. Were you sort of expecting the call, since Trey has been hurt all year and Barcia crashed out of Dallas?
Well, I figured if there was a bike sitting there that they would have called me earlier, like right after San Diego, but, nothing wound up happening. And then I was actually watching the race last Saturday and I saw Barcia crash in Atlanta and I kind of had a feeling that if he wasn’t able to ride that week or something like that, that they would call me. I didn’t get the call Sunday, and I was like, “Alright, I guess they’re good to go.” So I was planning on riding, doing my outdoor stuff, testing and all that, and then I actually got the call on Monday, which was cool. It was cool to get the call and everything, but I was kind of panicking because at the same time I only had Tuesday and Wednesday to ride the bike and get used to it. The huge storm was set to come in on Thursday to California, so I did as much practicing as I could on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The factory 450 you rode last in 2012 was a completely different generation of bike. Was it hard to get used to the new factory Honda CRF450R?
No, it wasn’t. Yes, it was a totally different bike from what I rode out there two years ago. Even last year, I really liked the new chassis they came out with on the 450 and was excited to ride it. They adapted it to the 250 this year, 2014, so I’ve had a lot of good experiences with the new chassis already. I’ve found some really good settings that work for me, and we were able to kind of transfer that and translate it to the 450 setting and find a good setting on Tuesday and Wednesday. I got really comfortable right away. I actually wasn’t doing much training during the break, just because throughout the first six rounds I was sick, on and off. I got some kind of stomach virus for a couple weeks and then finally got over that. Then I got food poisoning and I lost like 12 pounds, and I didn’t really have the twelve pounds to lose, so, I was really just trying to get my diet back on track, just trying to gain some weight back before I got back into the swing of things with some heavy training and all that.
I saw a big chocolate cake on Valentine’s Day.
(Laughs) Yeah, I mowed right through that, I’m not gonna lie.
Well, hey, I think hand holding and cuddling can count as some of workout…
(Laughs) Well, if it does, then I guess I need to get more of that. W, training right there.
Well, the two days you had before Indy, were they long sun-up to sun-down testing days? Or were they pretty casual?
It was pretty casual. I’ve got a really good relationship with the guys at Honda, just because this is my third time filling in, so, we’ve become pretty close. So, Ryo, their friction tech and Shane, their engine tech and their drafting tech, they’re the best in the business. They can see something going on with the bike, then I can kind of tell them what Im feeling, and then we can put our heads together and think of a setting, or, they can think of something for me to try and I can tell them why it’s better, or why it’s worse. I think the three of us work really well together. And as far as being laid back, it was. It just happened and we were just at the test track and we got some settings, and I just rode with it. It really didn’t take that long to get comfortable on the bike and find a good setting.
So how was your confidence level going into Indy and what did you expect from yourself?
I just wanted to have fun and that was the main thing that Dan Betley told me when he called. He said, “If you want to race Indy, then you can just race Indy, and if you’re having fun then you can go to Daytona,” and so on. So it kind of took some pressure off of me and kind of allowed me to just focus on having fun and, I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that, obviously, I’ve been going fast and have had success and all that stuff, but, there are so many names in the 450 class, that it was hard to say, “I’m going to go out and be top five, or get on the podium,” because there are so many fast guys. It definitely boosted my confidence to finish well and helped me know that the 450 class is is where I belong next year.The work that I am doing for the 250 is also helping me for the 450.
What was the best 450 finish you had previously?
Previously it was fifth in Indy in 2012.
You finished on the podium in the 450 class and you’re a fill-in part-time for a 450 guy right now. How did the feeling of getting on the podium in your first ride on the bike this year feel compared to when you win a race on the 250 class?
I was nervous all day long. Just, going out there with those guys, just seeing the amount of big names that I was out there with: Villopoto, Stewart, Dungey…just all these fast guys and it was just crazy. Obviously I watch them ride every weekend, but to be on the track with them and all that stuff, it definitely kind of shook me up and gave me a reality check. But I kind of took a risk in general, just saying yes to the whole deal, because where I’m at in the 250 points hunt and all that stuff. It’s kind of a crucial time right now to stay focused on that. But at the same time I kind of had to think about my future and, you know, this is my last year in the 250 class. It’s going to be a pretty crazy off-season this year with so many rides opening up. I really just have to open some eyes and show teams that I can be competitive in the 450 class and I have what it takes, so that’s the reason I said yes, and obviously also just to get out there on those factory Hondas is a huge opportunity in itself. There were just too many pros versus cons, and I had to say yes.
So how much tougher is it to handle the extra power, and the extra five laps?
To answer your question, yes, it is harder to ride a bike with more power and more laps and all that, but the 450 fits my riding style so well that it does make it almost a little easier on me. But this past weekend, the main factor was the track. My strategy was to take it lap by lap, and I’d say every three or four laps I’d have to change my line, because it would be one of 20 lines going across the track and when it’d get too deep, I had to switch it up and find a new line. Then, three laps later, I’d realize, “Now this line’s too deep,” and have to go to a new line again. That was very tricky and mentally exhausting.
You mentioned the bike suiting your riding style, but at the same time Barcia seems to be struggling with it. Explain that…
To me, when I ride the bike, it wants to be ridden in a low rpm and it wants to be lugged a little bit, and that suits me really well. I don’t like to override the bike; even on a 250 I ride it at a lot lower rpm then most riders do and the 250 is more of a high strung, wide open style of bike. The 450 for sure fits my riding style a lot better. It always has, but this bike especially. I don’t know, just the way my settings are, I can ride it exactly the way I want to and the way that the bike handles and reacts is exactly the way I want to ride it, it just kind of works together and works really well. Barcia likes to rev his bike and ride it very aggressively, and I think that’s why he may not be as comfortable on it as I am.
These 450 races will be a big boost in confidence, especially when you finish the way you did in Indy. Will the racing be an advantage when the 250 West resumes?
Yeah, I think it will definitely be an advantage. You know, other guys are going to be riding and testing for outdoors, but I’m going to be in the stadium each weekend so, it’s going to be the real deal. But at the same time, my competitors are going so fast that it’s not going to be a huge advantage. I’m not going to go into the West Coast round being cocky or overconfident, or anything like that. I know the task at hand and I know how fast the guys I am racing against are going, so it’s going to help, but I’m still going to have to give it my all to win the championship.
Was it hard to convince Tyler Keefe and Troy Lee to let you race the 450, or are they all for it?
Yeah, they’re all aboard. The whole team has my back 100 percent, which is really nice to have. Actually, Tyler is the one who called me and asked if I wanted to do it, and I asked him, “Well, what do you think I should do?” He thought I should, and said it was a great opportunity. There are some sponsors that kind of have to step down and let me do it. I’m really thankful to those guys for letting me do that. It’s just something that’s going to help me in my career. It’s definitely nice to have sponsors like that.
Okay, so we have Daytona this weekend; the the big, gnarly, treacherous, Supercross. Have you raced Daytona before as a fill-in?
Yeah, I raced it in 2012 and it was a complete mud race. So I’m excited because if it doesn’t rain, I get to actually race the legendary Daytona track when it’s dry.
How many races do you plan on doing? Are you going to do it up until the week before West resumes, or will you take some time off to get back in the 250 mode?
I haven’t really decided yet. I think my last round will be Detroit. So that makes three rounds for me and then I’m going to hop back on the 250. I might do Toronto, I’m not sure, but probably just Detroit and then I need to give myself some time, A: to get some testing in for the outdoors on 250 and, B: adapt to the 250 again for super cross. It’s really easy for me to go from the 250 to the 450 for super cross, but it takes me a little bit of time to go back to the 250 just because I have to get that wide open riding style back.
Okay, I know it’s impossible to “get in-shape” in a short amount of time, but when you decided to do the 450 did your trainer Brian Lopes change your program up at all to accommodate the heavier bike and longer race?
Well, we only had three days! (Laughs)
(Laughs) Yeah, I know, but even now. Are you doing things differently to help?
No, not too much of that. My main job right now is to race the 250. We are just sticking to what I have been doing and that is obviously going to help me. Brian helped me with so much in the preseason, and throughout the season he’s just keeping my base fitness up. It feels good to have that strong base to where I can get sick for a week and still come back and feel confident when I’m on the bike and strong enough to win or be competitive. Having that base is the most important thing and I’m thankful for him for that.