By Brendan Lutes
Since bursting onto the professional scene a few years ago, Austin Stroupe has shown some amazing speed along the way, but has also seen his fair share of set backs. During the 2011 season--his first in the 450 class--Stroupe ran up front on some occasions, but struggled with a shoulder injury that ultimately put him on the injured list at the end of the Supercross season. Now, with a few months of riding under his belt, Stroupe is feeling the best he has in years, and looking to run at the front when the gate drops for Anaheim I in a couple weeks. We talked to him between motos today.
You had some ups and downs last year. Can you talk about the 2011 season?
Just plain and simple, we weren't prepared. It was just a long off-season again with my injury, and I just came into the season not really knowing what I should have, being that I was racing in the 450 class for the first time. I came on a little bit at the end, but my shoulder was the main issue--I popped it out a few times throughout the season. In Vegas, I was feeling the best I've felt during the first practice then I dislocated my shoulder. I raced that night, but then ended up having to get surgery and that was pretty much the end of my season. It was a big let down for the season, and I've been pretty bummed out up until this point. But now that I have something to look forward to and A1 is about two weeks away, the hard work is starting to pay off and I'm starting to look a lot more forward to the season.
What have you been doing to prepare for the upcoming season?
Right after August, I started riding again and came back to California right after the Pala National. I then started testing right with Factory Yamaha and I haven't had any major set backs from August up until this point, which has been something that has made my confidence come along really well. Just getting to ride a lot has built my confidence up. It has been a year or two since I've been able to get a lot of riding in and actually have a pre-season before Anaheim I, so it has all come together. Yamaha has been a big supporter of me, and came to me wanting to help me out. I was supposed to ride the Vegas race [Monster Energy Cup], but I had a little shoulder problem right before that. I took some time off, but then got right back at it. Since then, I raced The Day In The Dirt, which was kind of cool and some people got to see me back riding. So it's been cool; I've just been back riding and waiting for A1.
You're kind of trying to keep it fun, right?
Yeah, that's something that I've told myself around August. If I was going to give it a shot, I was going to put everything into it that I used to with training and riding. I think the riding time has made me more comfortable and allowed me to have more confidence all around. It's been a pretty good couple of months. I've been happy lately and I've been happy that I've been able to ride a lot and haven't been hurt.
You mentioned Factory Yamaha's support. How big of an advantage is that when heading into the season?
Yamaha approached me right after the final National and wanted to help me. With James going to JGR, I think it opened up a lot with them, and they have so many experienced guys over there that can help out. I've been with Yamaha for almost two years now, and they've done everything that they can to give me as much as they can. It's made my bike just that much better and given me one less thing to worry about. I love my bike, it's a lot better this year, and I'm just really happy to work closely with the team and get factory support. I haven't been a factory rider since I was with Factory Suzuki, so it's cool to have that again this year and have them behind me.
What are your expectations for Anaheim in two weeks?
I think they're a lot higher than last year. All the guys in the class are good this year, but my goal is to have good starts and have good finishes. I want to finish out the season and have a good strong 20 laps in the main events. I would love to see myself in the top-five, maybe the top-seven. I basically just want to have a good all around first Anaheim.