As good as this year’s MX Lites class action has been, it’s easy to forget about the riders who are still out of competition and on the injured list. But if the tail end of last year’s outdoor battles taught us anything, it’s not time to count #60 out. After missing most of the 2006 MX Nationals series due to injury, Hepler stepped in with just enough time left to put an end to Ryan Villopoto’s dominance by taking three overall wins in a row. Fast-forward a year later, and it’s like déjà vu: Near the halfway mark of the 2007 Nationals, and Broc is back after a season plagued by injury, and he’s ready to shake things up in the Lites class once again. With his head injury now a thing of the past, Hepler is healthy and ready to return to action in just a couple of weeks, at Unadilla. We caught up with Broc today at Glen Helen, where he was just finishing his third day of outdoor testing…
TWMX: It’s great to see you out here again, Broc. How long have you been back on the bike now?
HEPLER: I think it’s been almost a month. You know, of course I had to start out slow and be careful before doing too much. I had to get my confidence up and remember how to ride on two wheels again!
How long were you out for, total?
I didn’t even add it up exactly. I wrecked at the end of January, and I rode one time before the East Coast opener, but I knew it wasn’t the right time to get back on the bike, so I took off until about four weeks ago.
How do you feel out there? Are you having any problems with your head, or is everything crystal clear now?
It’s pretty good. For a while there, I was still working out some issues with the heart rate. Usually when you get a concussion, you get headaches and dizziness whenever you elevate your heart rate, so I had to really watch that for a long time before it slowly went away and I knew it was safe.
We heard you were having issues with dizziness out on the track, so bad so that you were barely able to jump at all. Has that problem completely gone away?
Yes, I feel good on the track now, no problem. Before I would work out for 45 minutes and then have to rest for three hours because I had some side effects. Now, I’m testing every day that I can to get ready for racing again, and I get about a five-minute break before they send me out there again. If I wasn’t feeling good, I definitely wouldn’t be able to do that.
Speaking of testing, do you feel like you are way behind the game now compared to your competition, or are you pretty confident with your set-up?
Yeah, I have some catching up to do, for sure. This is only my third day of testing, and I have never tested the Yamaha outdoors before this season, so we have a lot of work to do. We haven’t done any motor work yet, just trying to get the handling set-up right. Glen Helen is one of the hardest tracks to set it up for, so here we are!
What plans do you have for the rest of the summer? When will you be back in action at the races, and are you going to be staying in California or going back to Pennsylvania?
The plan is to finish testing here for another week or two, and once I feel that I’m good enough to go, I’ll be back at the races. The plan right now is to do Unadilla, and we are hopefully sticking to that, so I should be ready for it. Then I’ll be going back to Pennsylvania after Unadilla, and hopefully I won’t have to do any more testing if everything goes right, so I’ll just stay in Pennsylvania.
What are your expectations this year, with the new bike and the lack of racing?
It’s hard to say right now. I’m just doing a few days of testing and hopefully making a few improvements by the end of next week. I’d say that at the first race, I’d like to be inside the top-five; that would be the goal. I would definitely like to win three races. I wouldn’t expect much more than that, because that would be a hard goal to achieve like it was last year.
How is the 2007 Lites class looking to you, as far as competition is concerned?
I have only been to High Point and just watched the rest of them on T.V. I was really impressed with Townley at High Point, because him and Villopoto started really close together in the second moto. I thought Townley was the guy to beat, but then Villopoto just walked away from him at Budds Creek. I guess they just both have their different tracks and that’s the same with everyone; like me at Steel City, and Alessi at Glen Helen. Everyone has their favorites, so I think they are pretty close and it just depends on who you are going to be racing that weekend and who will be the fastest. Those two are definitely the fastest right now, though, I can tell you that!
Judging from where you are now, where would you set your percentage?
I would say my cardio is at about 90%, and my riding is at 80% right now. Hopefully I’ll be near 100% by Unadilla, and of course it would take a few weeks to get going and be comfortable.
So of all the tracks coming up, we’re sure you are looking most forward to Steel City, right?
Well, that’s one of the reasons I was hoping to get back kind of early, so I would be all warmed up by Steel City. I definitely can’t let anyone else win that race, since I have won the last four motos there! [BRACKET “Laughs”]