The Challenger: Chad Reed is the Hottest Thing on Two Wheels

By Donn Maeda

If there is anyone on this planet who has the potential to make 2004 a forgettable season for defending Supercross Champion Ricky Carmichael, it’s Chad Reed. Cool, confident and even cocky, Reed has reason to have his sights set on this year’s 250cc Supercross Championship. With eight Supercross wins in his rookie series, Reed took the premier division by storm last year and proceeded to win the last six races in a row with relative ease. Only Jeremy McGrath has scored more overall wins in his first full 250cc season, and coincidentally, it is McGrath who Reed is often compared to as his style is reminiscent of the smooth, effortless, fluid riding technique that carried MC to seven Championships and legendary status.

With the new season rapidly approaching, Reed is tuned up and ready to race. Fresh off a win at the infamous off-season U.S. Open of Supercross in Las Vegas, the Australian speedster can’t wait to get back to business when the Supercross GP Series gets underway in Seville, Spain. We caught up with Reed a couple of weeks before the first race of the season and threw the same questions at him that RC had answered earlier that same day. Here’s what CR had to say…

Looking back on the 2003 Supercross Series, what did you learn and what have you done differently to prepare for 2004?

I learned that there are a lot of races in a season, and to win the championship you need to be at least in the top three at every race. That is where Ricky is, and that is why he won the title last year. I had some bad races and finished off the podium, and even though I won more races than him it cost me in the end. I have dedicated the off-season to being more consistently strong, and I am completely pumped on everything in my program going into 2004. I think last year I got too wrapped up in the me-versus-RC thing, and the people who I surrounded myself with did as well. I think that I have matured a great bit as a rider and as a person during the last year. I respect Ricky a lot, and I think that I have earned his respect, too. We are two athletes that love to win, and I am looking forward to battling with him some more. I think our rivalry is great for the sport.

The 2004 bike is nearly the same as last year’s in stock form. How does your ’04 race bike differ from your ’03 bike?

My new race bike is completely new. We have a lot of new stuff this year that is quite amazing. We have new suspension that is unbelievable. I never though that there was such a thing as a perfect dirt bike, but I think that is what I have now. I love my bike. Having a bike that you are excited about makes a big difference when you line up at the starting gate. Last year I had some jetting problems with the bike. There were lots of times when I thought that it could have run cleaner. Initially, there were some concerns about the new unleaded gas rule, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned. Our bikes actually run better and cleaner on the new gas, and I am much happier with the way the new bike runs. Having Jim Perry on the team really helps. I have to be honest; at first, he was a different person to work with and there were some rough times, but he has come through with everything that he has said he would do. I appreciate people like that; who do what they say they will.

What is the strategy going into Anaheim 1? How important is it to win the first few races?

Well, this year Anaheim 1 will be the third race of the season for me, since I am defending my Supercross GP Championship. Ricky is racing the two European races this season and that makes the whole series more important for me. I am really happy that he has decided to race in Spain and Holland this year. Ricky is the strongest guy, and he is the guy to beat. Of course, I am going to Spain to win. I am going to every race this year to win.

How much of racing against Ricky is mental?I don’t really think that it is very mental. Racing against Ricky requires 100% physical preparedness. Ricky works really hard and he always comes completely prepared, and to race against him effectively you have to be at your best, as well. People that beat Ricky and people that can race against him are all people who work really hard. I know how much work I put into racing, and I can only assume that he is doing the same. There aren’t any mind games of psyche-out strategies between us. I know you magazine types would like to think so, but sorry; there aren’t. (laughs)

Is there any other rider, other than Ricky, that you are worried about in 2004 Supercross?

I’m not concentrating solely on Ricky. I am concentrating on myself, and being the best I can every weekend. If I can do that, I can win the title. Ricky will be the main guy, week-in and week-out. There will be some other guys like Ezra Lusk, who is riding on Yamaha now, as well as my two teammates Tim Ferry and David Vuillemin. 2004 will be an exciting season, because no one has any excuses anymore. Timmy has his 250 that he has been wishing for and Ezra is also now on a Yamaha; the same bike that we are on. He has no excuses for not winning now. All of the top contenders are on a level playing field now, and it is going to be good!

As a spectator, it is most exciting not knowing who will win the race you’re about to watch. As a competitor, is it the same way, or would you rather line up knowing that you will dominate?

(Laughs) Well, it’s always a great feeling to know that you will be the best you can be, but never once last year did I roll to the starting line thinking that I had a race won. I knew that I would have to work for each win, and that is what makes it exciting. Ricky has raised the bar, and now you have to race hard for all 20 laps. That is why I like racing against Ricky so much, because it is hard.

Do you still get nervous on the starting line?

Oh yeah! That’s the excitement of racing! That is what drives me; sitting on that starting line, not knowing what is going to happen. I love riding my motorcycle and I love racing. Competition and riding are two things that I can not live without.

Describe your pre-race mental checklist.

I don’t really have one. I am pretty calm, and I feel that if I do my job during the week, I can go to the starting line confident and ready to have fun. I like to make sure that the people in the stands get the excitement that they came to see.

 

Bubba has decided to stay in the 125cc class for 2004. Any thoughts?

Well, I was for sure surprised that he decided to do that. I don’t know the real reasons that he did decide to stay in the 125 class, but I do know that it has taken a little bit of the hype away from the 250 class. He is a young kid with a lot of ability and speed, and I think racing against him would have been a lot of fun. The sooner he moves up, the better, as far as I am concerned.

These days, contact between racers often results in boos and hisses from the crowd. Are the spectators overreacting?

I think that there is a fine line that we all ride on. Everyone can ride dirty, but having respect for the guy you are racing against dictates how we ride. It also depends on who you are trying to pass; some guys need to be stuffed. I think that Ricky is in a tough situation because it seems that no matter what he does, he can’t win with the crowd. I know that if I got booed, I would feel terrible. That is something that I have always been afraid of, as a non-American. I just try to be myself, and hopefully I will never get booed. That would really suck! (Laughs)

Do you have any routines or superstitions that are race related?

For some reason, I always put the right side of everything on first when I get dressed. I’ve heard that most people that have a habit like that do it left side first, but I’ve always done the right side, even as a kid. It all seems to work for me!

What is your strength?

I think my strength is that I love a challenge. I love technical tracks. I love racing against Ricky. I love the whoops because they are really challenging. I am definitely not afraid of a challenge, and I am never one to complain about a track or obstacle being too difficult.

What is your weakness?

I think my weakness is racing the Nationals. I really enjoy racing outdoors and I love being at the races, but it’s been tough for me. I have some ideas about what I can do to make my results better this summer, and hopefully it will all work out. By this summer, I want to be The Man! (Laughs)

What is the best thing about being a sports hero?

I think it is cool because everyone who is involved in motocross absolutely loves it. I love motocross, and being paid to ride and race for a living is unbeatable. It’s definitely better than a nine-to-five job.

What is the worst thing about being a sports hero?

The worst thing is the traveling, which wears on me at times. It’s all part of it, though. I guess the worst for me, personally, is being so far away from my family and friends back home in Australia. But that is what I have chosen to do. I want to be Supercross Champion, and to do that I had to move here. I really like my life right now, though. I am enjoying what I am doing and having fun.

If you could trade places with any other sports figure, who would you be?

I really like Valentino Rossi. I’ve always watched him and I think the way he came onto the professional road racing scene in the GPs was cool. I’ve always liked road racing. I’ve never tried it, but I think it is a cool sport. They get to ride some motorcycles that are super trick with lots of technology. I’d like to try road racing someday once I’ve met my goals in motocross.

Finish this sentence: I will retire when…

I will retire when I feel that I am done. When it is no fun to me anymore, I will stop racing. For sure, though, I will not be able to walk away from the sport. As it is now, I go crazy if I don’t ride for two days. I’ve watched the way Jeremy has retired, and I think he is a lot like me. He still rides a lot and he is racing motard now. He has a love for the sport and is passionate enough to keep riding. That is how I will be when I retire.

What is your most embarrassing moment in racing?

I think that it’s always embarrassing having a big old crash, cartwheeling through the whoops or something like that. When I was first coming onto the international scene, it was always embarrassing for me to crash out in front of the guys who were my heroes. They would be like, “There he goes again, cartwheeling off the track!”

In closing, how important are the fans to you, and what is the strangest request you’ve gotten from one?

Having fans in America is very important to me. Like I said earlier, I hope I never get booed! I think that I have enjoyed a very warm reception in America, and I really appreciate my new American fans. Some of them do ask for strange things, though! I get a lot of requests for kisses, or requests to kiss someone’s baby. That’s always king of awkward!

Thanks, Chad. And good luck in 2004!

Thank you, Donn.

t do it left side first, but I’ve always done the right side, even as a kid. It all seems to work for me!

What is your strength?

I think my strength is that I love a challenge. I love technical tracks. I love racing against Ricky. I love the whoops because they are really challenging. I am definitely not afraid of a challenge, and I am never one to complain about a track or obstacle being too difficult.

What is your weakness?

I think my weakness is racing the Nationals. I really enjoy racing outdoors and I love being at the races, but it’s been tough for me. I have some ideas about what I can do to make my results better this summer, and hopefully it will all work out. By this summer, I want to be The Man! (Laughs)

What is the best thing about being a sports hero?

I think it is cool because everyone who is involved in motocross absolutely loves it. I love motocross, and being paid to ride and race for a living is unbeatable. It’s definitely better than a nine-to-five job.

What is the worst thing about being a sports hero?

The worst thing is the traveling, which wears on me at times. It’s all part of it, though. I guess the worst for me, personally, is being so far away from my family and friends back home in Australia. But that is what I have chosen to do. I want to be Supercross Champion, and to do that I had to move here. I really like my life right now, though. I am enjoying what I am doing and having fun.

If you could trade places with any other sports figure, who would you be?

I really like Valentino Rossi. I’ve always watched him and I think the way he came onto the professional road racing scene in the GPs was cool. I’ve always liked road racing. I’ve never tried it, but I think it is a cool sport. They get to ride some motorcycles that are super trick with lots of technology. I’d like to try road racing someday once I’ve met my goals in motocross.

Finish this sentence: I will retire when…

I will retire when I feel that I am done. When it is no fun to me anymore, I will stop racing. For sure, though, I will not be able to walk away from the sport. As it is now, I go crazy if I don’t ride for two days. I’ve watched the way Jeremy has retired, and I think he is a lot like me. He still rides a lot and he is racing motard now. He has a love for the sport and is passionate enough to keep riding. That is how I will be when I retire.

What is your most embarrassing moment in racing?

I think that it’s always embarrassing having a big old crash, cartwheeling through the whoops or something like that. When I was first coming onto the international scene, it was always embarrassing for me to crash out in front of the guys who were my heroes. They would be like, “There he goes again, cartwheeling off the track!”

In closing, how important are the fans to you, and what is the strangest request you’ve gotten from one?

Having fans in America is very important to me. Like I said earlier, I hope I never get booed! I think that I have enjoyed a very warm reception in America, and I really appreciate my new American fans. Some of them do ask for strange things, though! I get a lot of requests for kisses, or requests to kiss someone’s baby. That’s always king of awkward!

Thanks, Chad. And good luck in 2004!

Thank you, Donn.