When the news that the WMA tour had been chopped to three rounds, it left the numerous professional racers searching for a new career path and fulltime gig. Running the mens series would be next to impossible to make money on, since the top WMA riders times are still just a tick off of the top-40. Luckily, the GNCC series has a dedicated class for women at each and every round, and many have migrated to off-road racing. The 2013 championship kicked off today at River Ranch in Florida and the Women’s class was dotted with a handful of professional WMA motocross riders. Jessica Patterson struck first and took the win over Kacy Martinez by nearly a minute and a half, making her transition to the grueling two-hour endurance races a success.
What have you been up to since the final round at Lake Elsinore last summer?
I don't think many people knew, but I was injured the Tuesday before Lake Elsinore. My ankle was pretty bad but I managed through it. That kind of ruined a lot of things. After that, I ended up having surgery and I honestly only just started riding a month and a half ago. I have just been doing rehab and surgery to get my ankle back in shape. That has been a big deal because I tore up a lot of things. That has been one of the hardest injuries I have had to deal with afterwards.
What was the actual injury?
I tore ligaments and tendons in my ankle and a bunch of pieces of bone came out. I broke the tip of my ankle, going up it, and there was a hole in my ankle joint.
In the downtime, you were able to go to St. Martin. How was that?
It was awesome, but it would have been a lot better if I had not been on crutches (laughs). That was the only bad part. We had a few of our guys go there and we called it our " mini des Nations." The guys did really well and I always like going there for a little vacation and to hang out with everyone. We go there almost every year now and it is a blast to take time off and be away from everything here.
How does that come about every year?
I had some friends that were doing a job on the island and one saw a kid with a motocross shirt on, so they started talking and told him that they knew me. They invited me to go one year and I went to race and had a blast. We've become good friends with the guy that runs it, Robin, and he comes over here for the first race and hangs out. He just keeps it going. They always get sponsorship money and it is enough to bring some Americans there to race. I get to pick a couple of people I want to go and we have a good time.
You are fresh off a win at the Palmetto GNCC. How did the transition to cross-country racing come about?
At the start of the year, we only had three WMX races. I wanted to do more racing and we threw a couple of ideas around. I said, "You know, we will be in Florida, so we might as well try a GNCC." I told Yamaha, Fox, and Rockstar about it and they were okay with it. I had another meeting with Yamaha and told them that GNCCs will be what I really want to do, aside from the WMX races. The next thing I knew, everyone was super-pumped on it. They made everything happen and now I am fully committed to the GNCC series.
It is a full-time gig?
Yeah, it is. I was going to race Florida and try it out, but it is something that I have always wanted to do. I like trying anything and a new challenge is fun for me. Once I had everybody at Yamaha, N-Fab, and Saint Lawrence Radiology behind me and wanting to go for a championship, everything started to make sense and come together. And I thought, "Why not get a different kind of championship?"
Was there a lot of competition in your class?
Today we had a good amount of girls. We had Maria Forsberg and Kacy Martinez, who won all of them last year, then Tarah Geiger and Sarah Whitmore. It was a pretty stacked class and I think that the competition will be good all year. Each track is different and I am sure it will test everyone differently, but I am sure it will be interesting.
Do you prepare for GNCC racing any differently than you would prepare for moto?
Since everything was a last-minute deal and I was just trying to get back into riding, I only rode off-road a couple of times. I went to Randy Hawkins’ place, which is who I am riding the GNCC series for, and they taught me the basics and the other important things. We came down to Florida and I rode a little bit down here, but I honestly did not do too much to prepare. This week I won't do much either, because we race again on Sunday. After that, we have a two-week break and that is when I'll get to ride and prepare. I'm still not even running the big tank yet, because I'm not comfortable with it. There are little things like that I need to get used to, but for a two-hour ride, my endurance and everything is fine.
Mentally, do you change your race plan to prepare for two hours on the bike?
I wasn't too sure how it would be for me at first and I went into this whole thing a bit blind. I was not sure how I would be for two hours or how to set my pace. I followed everyone for about half of the first lap and I had opportunities to pass. The A class was right in front of us, so I saw what they were doing and followed their path. I thought I would have had to follow everyone a bit longer, but I caught on really quickly and think I'll be okay. I took it a lot better than I thought I would.
Do you find yourself getting bored when you are on the bike for two hours?
You know, I thought I was going to be. I did one hour and a half practice before this race and I did get bored. I thought it would be a big deal for me, but when I was racing, it was totally different. I think being in the race mindset, looking for the perfect spot, dialing in different sections, and having so many things going on kept me busy. I didn't get bored one bit.
You've said that this will be your fulltime gig now that the WMA has been cut to three rounds. What are your thoughts on the change in the WMA?
It's never a thing you want to do. Any cut down is not good, but it is what is happening. I am going to go with it and hope that with this step back we take two forward later on. Of course I will miss going to more races at my favorite tracks and not being there will be different, but I have a full plate ahead of me. I have plenty of racing to do and it is kind of cool in a way. You only have three races, but it gives me the opportunity to do the GNCC races also. I like it, but then I don't (laughs). I'm hoping that it gets better in the future for the girls that are coming up after me, that they have more races and something to shoot for. X Games is really good for us, pay wise, and a lot of girls like to do that for the publicity.
Did the cuts in the WMA make it difficult to find support?
It made it hard because some of the sponsors, the bigger ones, they want the most publicity that they can. And I don't blame them. You have to get back what you are giving. Luckily, I have had everyone stay behind me and give me the same deals, and I am thankful for that. But, it is harder. At all of the big races at the Nationals, you're riding in the middle of the day in front of 20,00 people.
Does finding the GNCC series add a few more years to your career?
I have had a lot of questions about my career and retirement, and at one point, I was thinking of when would be a good time to quit. I decided that the day I wake up and don't want to race anymore is the day that I will be done. I'm sure the GNCCs will be something I can do for a long period and will be something fun to do because it is different. I don't know when the end will be; I guess when I wake up and say that it is (laughs).