Yesterday, Ricky Carmichael made a triumphant return to the track, winning both motos handily aboard his Mike Gosselaar-tuned Honda four-stroke. We caught up with the champ shortly after the last autograph was signed and the impact of his win had time to sink in. It¿s obvious that Ricky is thrilled to be back at the track after his time off, and it¿s even more obvious that it¿s going to be a long, hard summer for his competition. Here¿s what RC had to say¿
What can you possibly be feeling at this moment?
Oh, I am just so happy, you know? It¿s funny; our sport has so much tabloid-type drama, thanks to the Internet and stuff, and I am just happy to have proven all of the haters wrong. Actually, let me rephrase that. More than anything, I am happy to have met my personal goal of winning today. Of course, Team Honda wanted me to win today, but they stressed that it was no big deal if I didn¿t, since it is my first race back and all. For me, though, it was very important to come out and make a statement: a statement that I am back and serious about winning this title for Honda.
Were you nervous as you lined up for the first moto?
I wasn¿t nervous, but I was just so excited to be back out there. I couldn¿t wait to get out there and do battle. It didn¿t matter what the outcome was ¿ I just wanted to get out there and battle with some other guys. I haven¿t been in a race situation for a long time now and I was ready for the challenge, you know?
From the time we saw you at your home in April to now, your speed has more than doubled. Would you say that you are 100% recovered from your knee surgery, right now?
It is still going to get better. I still get sore and I am still a little hesitant to stick it out there and stuff. Right now it is pretty sore, but I am sure that things will get better as time goes on. Physically, cardiovascular-wise, I am right there, as I have been training my butt off with my trainer Aldon Baker. I will still get better as I keep racing, I believe. I haven¿t really raced since the U.S. open in October. Training and practicing is one thing, but racing is something all together different. I just need to get back going again.
I remember when we were sitting in your barn in April, on your fourth day back on the bike, and you were commenting on how you needed to come to Hangtown and lay the law down with a double-moto win. Now that you¿ve done just that, how does it feel?
I did what I wanted to do – no questions about it. It was awesome, just awesome. There should be no ifs ands or buts about it, because those guys all had their chance to reel me in. It was good today. I was surprised with David Vuillemin today. After he faded in the first moto I didn¿t think he¿d last in the second, but he was right there keeping me honest.
So we hear that you used a fork lock holeshot device today¿
Yeah, for the first time ever. I have never really believed in those things, but with all the power that the CRF450R has I didn¿t really have a choice! (laughs) It was weird for me, using that thing. I lost my balance off the line in the second moto and I came over on Chad Reed, but it was purely an accident. I will need to practice and get used to using that thing, for sure.
So, does it feel good to be back ¿home?¿
It feels great. I am really excited to be racing the outdoors, because they come a little easier to me. I am excited to be on a new bike. That thing is so fun to ride and I am just super pumped to be on the four-stroke.
When you finished up your motos, were you more or less tired than you would have been on your CR250R two-stroke?
Heart rate-wise, I was less fatigued. Muscle and strength-wise, though, I was way more tired. You have to respect that bike because it has so much power. You really have to use your head and choose your lines on the thumper ¿ you can¿t just pin it like I used to do on the two-stroke.
Was that everything you had today, or did you have plenty in reserve?
Dude, I had arm pump today from the first lap to the last lap! (Laughs) I had arm pump all weekend long, even through the practice sessions. I would say that I was at 75 to 80%, as far as my speed goes. Every time that I wanted to go my full race pace, I would just blow up. But that¿s just from a lack of racing, you know? Once I get some races back under my belt, I am sure to loosen back up. I have a lot more in the bag, really.
So it¿s gonna be a long summer for your competition, then?
(Laughs) Well yeah, if I have anything to say about it! I am just so happy to be back racing and being a part of what I have always been a part of. I have always loved racing and being at the track, but being away with my knee injury has sure taught me to appreciate it even more.