THE TEDESCO CODE: Ivan Goes Mental In’04

By Ryan Cooley

 

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t–you are right.” Henry Ford

After going on a terror and taking home five straight 125 West wins to start out the 2004 Supercross series, nobody in their right mind can argue the fact that Ivan Tedesco is a very talented rider. But what does it take to win? What is it that snapped inside of Ivan, ultimately leaving a lackluster season behind and replacing it with one so dominant? Don’t get us wrong, 2003 wasn’t a total loss altogether. Although missing three of seven rounds to injury, Hot Sauce captured his first Supercross win at the final East Coast round in Pontiac, MI, and went on to finish second at the East/West shootout in Vegas. Ivan followed up his solid Supercross finish with an inconsistent outdoor series, however, and entered an off-season full of change, and, one would think, uncertainty. A change in scenery, a new bike, and a new supporting cast have no doubt been critical tools to IT’s new found success. But when we asked Ivan what one single change is responsible for his winning ways, he quickly answered, “Attitude.” What is it that makes a decorated athlete so mentally strong? Throw on your latex gloves and safety goggles, and take a look inside the mind of 125 Supercross’ newest hero, Ivan Tedesco.

“…focus without the fear…”

If you’ve ever competed in anything, you know what a huge factor confidence plays in your success. In Ivan’s case, we wanted to know which came first; the confidence, or the success? “The win at Pontiac last year felt good, but because it was at the end of the season I wasn’t really able to build on the confidence it gave me. I had some confidence prior to Pontiac because I knew I was riding well, but it definitely wasn’t confidence that carried me to that first win.” One might say that Ivan snuck that first win in without having the total championship package in place. The key, however, was to take what had been learned, and actually do something with it. “Last year was a learning process for me and I recognized the mistakes I was making mentally. I knew I needed to learn to focus without the fear of doing bad.” Ivan will tell you that the most important thing he’s learned is what it means to stay focused without letting fear intrude. Once he had that emotion in check, everything else began falling in place. “I went into Anaheim One this year with more confidence because of that, and I knew I was ready. Winning the opening round helped to build more confidence, and it’s continued to roll since.”

“I am a pretty motivated person…”

Prior to that Anaheim opener win, Ivan was faced with an important decision as he looked toward the 2004 season. Mitch Payton from Pro Circuit offered him a ride on his team. For most riders this would be a dream come true, but would it be the right fit? Mitch has been accused in the past of using negative motivation in an attempt to keep his riders on the right track. Mike Brown elected to move over to the Yamaha of Troy team, reportedly because of their more relaxed atmosphere. IT ultimately made the opposite decision, and accepted Payton’s offer. “I’d talked to a lot of different guys, and I think everyone has a different opinion of Mitch. I think the guys that work hard and give it 100% really like Mitch, and the guys that just kind of slack get run pretty hard. I am a hard worker and I give it 100% every time I am on the bike, so I wasn’t worried about it.”

The importce of having great equipment in the sport of Supercross cannot be emphasized enough. The fact that a good bike can have a huge impact on a rider’s success is true, but not without the rest of the package. “My bike’s great and that’s definitely a part of it, but I think my attitude and training coming into the season have made the real difference.” Ivan entered his new opportunity with Pro Circuit Kawasaki determined to work hard and do whatever it took to win races. Any flags that have been waved in the past about Mitch’s approach to racing became the furthest thing from his mind. “I am a pretty motivated person, but Mitch does know how to motivate people. He knows what he’s doing and he always has good advice. He’s never been negative toward me at all, and we get along great!”

“It’s all in the attitude.”

It’s one thing to have talent and be exceptionally good at something. But to be a champion, it’s absolutely necessary to execute your talent and your skills more predictably and more often. The body-mind connection ensures that the state of your mind affects your physical behaviors. Championship-caliber athletes train their minds to match or exceed their physical fitness. If you are both mentally and physically fit you will achieve your potential, bottom line! Have you ever wondered why some athletes falter under pressure while others seem to feed on it and excel? Mental fitness is the edge that winners have over their competition.

“I think I learned a lot from the mental mistakes I made last year,” said Ivan. “I went into the series so worried about the championship that I didn’t have the right focus. I didn’t start the season very strong and it really affected me mentally. I rode out of control and made some bad decisions, and ended up with a few injuries. By the end of the season I started coming around, which is when I had it in me to take that first win. You’ve got to believe in yourself and be confident with what you know you’re capable of doing. Realizing that is half the battle. Once I did, I had the right focus. I trained as hard as I could coming into Anaheim One, and I knew I was ready! It’s all in the attitude.”

The biggest change in Ivan was realizing that his focus was in the wrong place. Rather than worrying about failure, he learned to focus on success. Sounds pretty basic, right? Well, as basic as it may be, it’s probably the single largest factor that separates the RCs, Reeds, and Tedescos of our sport from everyone else. Learning to take those distractions that you have no control over, accept them as reality, and not worry about them is key. Focusing is the ability to take the things that are in your control and exploiting them. Ivan does this well. “When you’re emotionally stable you simply ride better. If you’re up there nervous about not doing well, you probably won’t. I use to worry about the negative things like, ‘what if I don’t get a good start?’ Now I just don’t worry about it. I just think about getting a good start when I am on the line because I know I’ve done my homework during the week, and I am ready. I am not worrying about failure.”

Of course the proper conditioning and a good bike cannot be totally overlooked, but we think that pretty much goes without saying, and so does Ivan. “I think to win you have to be strong in every category. You have to have a good bike to win. You have to be in good shape to win. And if you’re not mentally ready and your confidence isn’t there, the package is not complete. To be the best you have to be strong in all areas.” Pro Circuit and Kawasaki have worked with Ivan to get the bike just right, and by the looks of things, they did their homework. To get his body as physically ready as possible, Ivan enlisted the services of his trainer, Derin Stockton. “I’ve been working with Derin for a little over a year now, and last year was a big learning year for us. I think this year we finally have a good program down. We’ve learned what works for me and what doesn’t. Everybody’s different and you just can’t hire a trainer and expect to get results. You need to work together and decide what fits for you, and I think I’ve finally found that.”

“…I know I am going to get the holeshot.”

Most athletes perform a certain routine before every moto, game, or whatever it is they’re competing in to get them into their “zone.” Ivan claims that he doesn’t really do anything special, but we think he may just be holding out on us. After all, he can’t give up all his secrets. “I just try to keep it fun, and not get too serious. I prepare all week, so I know I am ready.”

When the 30-second board goes up, however, it’s a whole different mindset. Just like a professional golfer practices his or her swing to the point that it’s grooved and can be accomplished unconsciously, Ivan practices his motions on the bike all week. When he gets on the bike his subconscious takes over and his polished ability kicks in and does the work. But what about the conscious? Does Ivan consciously do things like envisioning a holeshot while in the gate? The answer’s yes. Just like a golfer envisions exactly where his shot’s going to land, IT sees himself in the first turn first. “Sometimes it’s weird when I am sitting on the line. I’ll think to myself that I know I am going to get the holeshot. I can see it. When I envision it like that and I think with such confidence, I usually get the holeshot. The mind is pretty powerful!”

“…I am still moving my way up.”

It’s pretty obvious when talking to Ivan that there’s still plenty of untapped potential locked up inside of him. Perhaps the confidence he’s gained in winning the first five straight 125 West races will help push him to that next level. What that level is depends upon more than one factor of course, but we’d assume that the ultimate goal has something to do with a dude named Bubba. Those weren’t Ivan’s words specifically, but if you’re going to set a goal to surpass, aim high, right? James Stewart seems to be in the process of taking what McGrath and Carmichael have done in the past and pushing it beyond to new heights. The biggest difference between these guys and most is that most simply don’t realize what they’re capable of achieving. Bubba does, and look where he’s headed.

Ivan’s come a long way in just one short off-season, and now that he’s realized his potential, why not take it to new heights? “I’ve got a good winning streak going and that’s on a very difficult coast. There are a lot of great riders out there, but I am confident in myself. Bubba’s an amazing rider and he’s just one of those guys like an RC, McGrath, or Reed that come up and win right away. I am moving up in steps. I was a fifth place guy and I am moving my way up. Maybe someday I’ll be at Bubba’s level. I don’t think I am quite there yet, but I think I can be. You can’t sit around and say that you can beat that guy if you haven’t before. A lot of guys try to front by saying ‘Yeah… I can beat that guy,’ but in the back of their minds they know they can’t because they haven’t done it. I think confidence comes with results.”

“Winning the chaey did their homework. To get his body as physically ready as possible, Ivan enlisted the services of his trainer, Derin Stockton. “I’ve been working with Derin for a little over a year now, and last year was a big learning year for us. I think this year we finally have a good program down. We’ve learned what works for me and what doesn’t. Everybody’s different and you just can’t hire a trainer and expect to get results. You need to work together and decide what fits for you, and I think I’ve finally found that.”

“…I know I am going to get the holeshot.”

Most athletes perform a certain routine before every moto, game, or whatever it is they’re competing in to get them into their “zone.” Ivan claims that he doesn’t really do anything special, but we think he may just be holding out on us. After all, he can’t give up all his secrets. “I just try to keep it fun, and not get too serious. I prepare all week, so I know I am ready.”

When the 30-second board goes up, however, it’s a whole different mindset. Just like a professional golfer practices his or her swing to the point that it’s grooved and can be accomplished unconsciously, Ivan practices his motions on the bike all week. When he gets on the bike his subconscious takes over and his polished ability kicks in and does the work. But what about the conscious? Does Ivan consciously do things like envisioning a holeshot while in the gate? The answer’s yes. Just like a golfer envisions exactly where his shot’s going to land, IT sees himself in the first turn first. “Sometimes it’s weird when I am sitting on the line. I’ll think to myself that I know I am going to get the holeshot. I can see it. When I envision it like that and I think with such confidence, I usually get the holeshot. The mind is pretty powerful!”

“…I am still moving my way up.”

It’s pretty obvious when talking to Ivan that there’s still plenty of untapped potential locked up inside of him. Perhaps the confidence he’s gained in winning the first five straight 125 West races will help push him to that next level. What that level is depends upon more than one factor of course, but we’d assume that the ultimate goal has something to do with a dude named Bubba. Those weren’t Ivan’s words specifically, but if you’re going to set a goal to surpass, aim high, right? James Stewart seems to be in the process of taking what McGrath and Carmichael have done in the past and pushing it beyond to new heights. The biggest difference between these guys and most is that most simply don’t realize what they’re capable of achieving. Bubba does, and look where he’s headed.

Ivan’s come a long way in just one short off-season, and now that he’s realized his potential, why not take it to new heights? “I’ve got a good winning streak going and that’s on a very difficult coast. There are a lot of great riders out there, but I am confident in myself. Bubba’s an amazing rider and he’s just one of those guys like an RC, McGrath, or Reed that come up and win right away. I am moving up in steps. I was a fifth place guy and I am moving my way up. Maybe someday I’ll be at Bubba’s level. I don’t think I am quite there yet, but I think I can be. You can’t sit around and say that you can beat that guy if you haven’t before. A lot of guys try to front by saying ‘Yeah… I can beat that guy,’ but in the back of their minds they know they can’t because they haven’t done it. I think confidence comes with results.”

“Winning the championship is what’s important to me.”

To the outsider looking in Ivan may appear to be a very laid-back, humble guy, even through his success, which is exactly how he prides himself. “I just try to stay humble and know that I need to be myself. A lot of people tend to get cocky with success, and I hate to see them change like that. I just want to be myself. When I am done racing I’d like to be remembered as a rider that was aggressive and hangs it out a bit. I want to be flashy and exciting to watch, but at the same time smooth and in control. As a person I’d like them to see me as a humble guy who’s pretty laid-back because that’s how I am.”

Just prior to print Ivan suffered his first loss of the season at the hands of Nate Ramsey in San Francisco, the last race before a seven-week break. The circumstances of his loss were not ideal, but Ivan still handled it with grace. “I had a rough weekend, and nobody realized that I was really sick except those close to me. I didn’t want to say much about it because I am not one for excuses, but I don’t think I had a bad race. I got second after not even expecting to race when I woke up Saturday morning. I was happy with the way the weekend went, considering. I gained points on Preston and Roncada, and that’s all I am really worried about. Winning the championship is what’s important to me. Nate rode a great race and I think the win will definitely help his confidence going into the break, but I am not really worried about it. I’ll go to Dallas with the same confidence I’ve got now, and hopefully I’ll do some damage there and wrap up the title.”

Like every kid that’s ever dreamed of racing Supercross, Ivan’s ultimate goal is to earn a factory 250 ride. Although confident in his ability to ride a 250 well, IT’s in no hurry. “My deal with Mitch is for two years. I’ll continue to give it 100%, and then we’ll see what happens. Hopefully I’ll win this championship and be able to run that big fat number one next year.” We laughed at that comment because it seems to be such a rarity with the AMA’s new permanent number system to even see a number one plate these days. Ivan takes pride in his accomplishments, however, as he should, and at this point it seems a long shot that he not win the title, so keep your eyes out for that “fat” number one. “Oh, I’ll run it for sure! If I earn a number one plate I plan to run it strong!”

championship is what’s important to me.”

To the outsider looking in Ivan may appear to be a very laid-back, humble guy, even through his success, which is exactly how he prides himself. “I just try to stay humble and know that I need to be myself. A lot of people tend to get cocky with success, and I hate to see them change like that. I just want to be myself. When I am done racing I’d like to be remembered as a rider that was aggressive and hangs it out a bit. I want to be flashy and exciting to watch, but at the same time smooth and in control. As a person I’d like them to see me as a humble guy who’s pretty laid-back because that’s how I am.”

Just prior to print Ivan suffered his first loss of the season at the hands of Nate Ramsey in San Francisco, the last race before a seven-week break. The circumstances of his loss were not ideal, but Ivan still handled it with grace. “I had a rough weekend, and nobody realized that I was really sick except those close to me. I didn’t want to say much about it because I am not one for excuses, but I don’t think I had a bad race. I got second after not even expecting to race when I woke up Saturday morning. I was happy with the way the weekend went, considering. I gained points on Preston and Roncada, and that’s all I am really worried about. Winning the championship is what’s important to me. Nate rode a great race and I think the win will definitely help his confidence going into the break, but I am not really worried about it. I’ll go to Dallas with the same confidence I’ve got now, and hopefully I’ll do some damage there and wrap up the title.”

Like every kid that’s ever dreamed of racing Supercross, Ivan’s ultimate goal is to earn a factory 250 ride. Although confident in his ability to ride a 250 well, IT’s in no hurry. “My deal with Mitch is for two years. I’ll continue to give it 100%, and then we’ll see what happens. Hopefully I’ll win this championship and be able to run that big fat number one next year.” We laughed at that comment because it seems to be such a rarity with the AMA’s new permanent number system to even see a number one plate these days. Ivan takes pride in his accomplishments, however, as he should, and at this point it seems a long shot that he not win the title, so keep your eyes out for that “fat” number one. “Oh, I’ll run it for sure! If I earn a number one plate I plan to run it strong!”