In 2006, while riding a factory KTM, Zach Osborne led the field at Budds Creek in just his third professional race. Unfortunately, a severe case of Epstein-Barr would ultimately cause him to fade back to 18th place. From then on, Osborne faced struggles with his health and would spend the next several years rebuilding his career, at one point even moving to Europe. Ten years later at Budds Creek, Zach would once again find himself in the lead, but this time there was no fading back. Zach won the second moto that day, and with 4-1 scores, he would claim his first overall victory in the 250 class. Now, just a year later, Zach once again took the second moto victory, and with that win, he clenched the 2017 250 MX National championship. We talked with Osborne before and after the races about winning the championship, his streak of success in 2017, and being selected for Team USA to race at the Motocross of Nations.
You've had the red plate all season long, and while you can never speak too soon, the odds look pretty good for you to wrap the championship up today. Take me through this whole season and how things have been going.
It's been a huge adjustment for me, I had the red plate in Supercross as well and that was a good start to this outdoor season. At the same time, it wears on you a little bit at this point in the season. You want to be perfect, but you're tired and you can't really be perfect. It's a tough thing and it's been a little bit of a learning curve. It's come with a little bit of struggle, but it's been a big learning experience.
The 250 class has been crazy this year with all sorts of mixed results, and on paper, you've managed to stay really consistent, but you've actually had plenty of ups and downs yourself. What has your mentality been like in those moments and how have you gotten through them?
Yeah, it definitely hasn't been holeshots and rainbows all summer. It's been a hard-fought battle and I feel like I've come from behind a lot or been in sticky situations where I've kept my cool and made it happen. There's been a lot of different scenarios, but overall, I've been able to stay consistent. I think my worst moto was an eighth. I've gotten eighth twice I think. Other than that, I've tried to stick to our original plan from the beginning of the season to stay in the top five in every moto. I've only been outside of the top five two times so I'm going to continue to stick to that plan today and take this thing home.
You won the Supercross East championship this year, things look pretty good to win this outdoor championship as well, and you've been selected to race the Motocross of Nations. Talk to me a little bit about the season as a whole and your excitement to race for Team USA.
My be all end all goal at the end of the season was to be on the des Nations team and I knew that in order to do that I'd have to be in the position that I'm in with the points in the outdoors, and it helps to have done well in Supercross. It's an honor to be selected and I've dreamed of being on Team USA my whole life. To go there and race at Matterley Basin, which is a place that is close to my heart, is an unbelievable opportunity. It's really a dream season.
A lot of guys turned down opportunities to ride for Team USA this year, but for you, there obviously wasn't any hesitation at all.
I put my name forward really, really early. Actually, at Hangtown, I went to Roger [DeCoster] and I want to go on this trip with you to England. It's something that I really want to do. He said that if I keep going in the direction I have been, you'll have a good opportunity to do it. I tried to continue showing grit and determination and all of the things that it takes to be on the team. To be selected as team captain as a 250 rider is a pretty big deal. I'm the oldest and I probably have the most experience racing in England. Thomas [Covington] is going to be a huge benefit as well, he's already there and he has his whole program already there. I feel like if Cole [Seely] and I can get there and get prepared we'll have a really good shot.
As you mentioned you have a past racing in Europe and doing the MXGP circuit. How much does that play into your 2017 season?
It's huge. MXGP and my time in England saved my career. If it weren't for that opportunity and me having to go there, I wouldn't be where I'm at today. For me, it's been a huge molding tool and it made me who I am today.
When you were racing there, did you ever see yourself ending up in the position you're in now?
There were days where I was a long, long ways from where I'm at right now. I remember one time specifically, I think it was Lommel in 2009, I went 21-23 on the day. I was coming back from an injury that wasn't my fault, my bike had blown up and I had broken my wrist just after winning a GP. It was a transition from a career high to a career low, and then here I am eight weeks later still struggling with the injury getting 21st at Lommel, which isn't even a point. That seemed a very long way from where I'm at now.
A lot of guys in this sport reach their peak young and retire young, but you've come on strong later in your career. What's behind the improvements and progression that you've made?
I enjoy it, I like the work and I like the ride. I really enjoy everything about what I do. I've been pretty open about not enjoying it when maybe I should have been as a kid. It's kind of a flip-flop career-wise, I'm enjoying it more now than I did when I was younger. It's something that my family and I have fun at. My little girl is here at the races and my wife is a huge factor in my program. It's something that we do as a family and all three of us enjoy. It's a different time in my life and a different scenario.
Looking at next year, will you defend your 250 championships?
Next year I'll be riding 250 East Coast Supercross and then in the outdoors I'll be on the 450. That's pretty set in stone and that's my plan.
After the race, as we always do, we caught up with Osborne for our post-race video interview, How Was Your Weekend, and here’s what he had to say.
Alright, you just won the championship, so it’s probably safe to assume the answer to this one, but how was your weekend?
Incredible. The first moto was really tough. I fell in the first turn and was able to come back to eighth, but it was a hard eighth. There were times where it was pretty touch-and-go for a little while, and I wasn’t sure I was going to score points. I fought that out and I knew that I had four points going into the second moto, so I dropped the hammer there and took the moto win. It was time for me to get a start too. I get great starts at home during the week and I’ve been really frustrated with not getting off the gate good. In that second moto I just believed in what I could do and gave it a little extra throttle to get through the thick stuff, and I came out second or third. I got up in there real quick so I was happy with that, and I dropped the hammer halfway and took the win.