By Brendan Lutes
Motocross is a tough sport. And unfortunately injuries are a major factor, determining the future of many racers. Injuries can either make or break a rider, forcing them into early retirement or allowing them to become even more driven to succeed. One rider that has managed to maintain a positive outlook in spite of a string of injuries since turning pro is Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil/Honda’s Christian Craig.
Christian turned pro in 2009 and since that time has suffered a laundry list of major injuries, causing him to miss more races than he has been able to line up for. Most recently, the California native suffered a broken wrist at the end of the 2011 season. After thinking it was healed, he returned to action at Anaheim I, only to discover it needed more time and another surgery to be back to 100 percent. With the SX season long over and half the outdoor tour wrapped up, Christian returned to action at Red Bud and since then has been racing himself back into shape in hopes of climbing back to where he once was before 2010. We caught up with him recently to get his thoughts on his abbreviated 2012 season, his future, and how he has managed to stay positive in spite of injury.
You’ve had a rough year. What exactly happened to you?
I had a really rough year this season. I broke my wrist at Southwick last year, had surgery on it, but my wrist wasn’t healing properly. I tried to race Anaheim I, and wasn’t really prepared or ready for that. I ended up pulling off during qualifying there and went to the doctor later that week. He told me that it wasn’t healed yet. I had to get the screw taken out of my Scaphoid, and then I got a bone graft and all that. I basically had to go through the healing process all over again, which really sucked. I took a long time to heal and I was out for the entire Supercross season. I was planning on healing up and coming back for the outdoors, but the bone was taking a lot longer to heal than anticipated—which sucked—but the Scaphoid is a slow-healing bone no matter what you do. I came back at the sixth round and I have been working my way up every since.
Have you had any issues with the wrist?
It’s actually really good and I’m happy with it. It’s still kind of tight here and there, so I wear a wrist brace and keep it taped to support it, because it’s a little weak from being off it for six months. I don’t have any problems when I’m riding, though, so that’s good.
What were your goals when you came back to racing?
Coming back, I didn’t have any expectations at all. I just wanted to go out there and finish out both motos. I knew I was going to be behind the eight ball big time, but it didn’t go too bad. At my first race back at Red Bud, I almost took the holeshot in both motos, but after that, I faded really badly. I wasn’t fully in race shape yet and that took a lot of time to get to. I think I was out of race shape for the whole season. I mean, I was in shape and I’ve been going to the gym and all of that, but once I was at the races, I’d struggle. I think I just didn’t have enough time at the races to really be fully ready. Each moto was just survival for me. At a couple of them, like Washougal, I could push through the entire moto, but at the ones back east where it was really hot, it was miserable for me. But it all finally came around at Elsinore, which kind of sucks because it was the last round. It was hot during the first moto and that’s where I rode my strongest to get seventh. It sucks that my best ride came then, because the season was ending, but I’m definitely looking forward to next year. I feel like I’m back to where I left off when I broke my back in 2009. I’m finally back up to the pace I was at back then, I’m finally healthy, and I think it’s going to be a good year for me in 2013.
You’ve been struggling with injuries since you turned pro. Has it been frustrating and maybe a little discouraging at times?
It definitely sucks. I haven’t been 100 percent since I turned pro. I broke my back and was out for all of 2010. Then in 2011, me and [Tyla] Rattray got into it—it kind of wasn’t my fault—but I ended up breaking my kneecap and that took me out of Supercross. Then in outdoors that year, I broke my wrist. Ultimately, that bone didn’t heal—I did everything I could to heal it properly—and I was out for most of this year. It has definitely been frustrating; I’ve been on the couch more than racing. In spite of everything, I’m really grateful to have a ride still. The Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil/Honda team has stuck behind me through everything, and I just hope I can put in some good results for them next year.
So you’re back with the Troy Lee Designs team for 2013. What class are you going to be riding?
I’m going to be doing Lites indoors and 450 outdoors. I feel like I ride the 450 pretty good outdoors; so I’m planning on riding that bike, unless I do really well on the 250 indoors then maybe I’ll stay on that bike [laughs].
Do you enjoy riding the 450 outdoors and that’s why you do it, or did the team need to have a 450 rider and you were the best choice?
Honda needed the team to have a 450 rider outdoors, and when it came time to ask if I even wanted to ride the bike, I said that I would try it out. I felt really comfortable on it right away, and ever since then, that’s been the plan for me. I definitely feel more comfortable on the bigger bike, and I don’t struggle with horsepower going up the hills or anything like that. I weigh about 170 pounds—a little bigger than most of the Lites guys out there—so it was a good switch for me to ride the 450 outdoors.
What’s your plan for the upcoming off-season?
I’ve been riding Supercross for a week now, and I’ve been riding really good and feel strong. I’m going to race the Monster Cup and hopefully do some overseas races—maybe Bercy. I’ve never done any overseas races, so I’m hoping I can do some. I just really want to stay racing the whole time. But most of all, I want to stay healthy. I really want to come out swinging at A1—that’s the plan.