Every rider is different. Some excel instantly while others take time to mature. Some seem to stick around for years, while other are so injury prone, we rarely even see them. Broc Hepler is a mixture. The Pennsylvania native and resident turned pro back in 2004 and had an outstanding rookie year. If it had not been for James Stewart, who was absolutely on fire that year aboard his KX125, B-Hep would have won both the East Coast 125 Supercross series, and the 125 Nationals. The following year, many expected Broc to take the lead in that class, and it looked to be going in that direction early on. However, a few really bad crashes and concussions that year and the next few seasons have haunted the Iceman ever since.
Following another concussion at the end of Supercross, Broc thought it best to take some time to recover. No one has heard much from B-Hep since then so we thought we would check in on the former Yamaha and Suzuki factory rider to see what he has been up to lately. We caught him in the middle of a Las Vegas trip with some buddies, but he still took the time to give us an update.
What happened with you this summer? You had an injury right before the Nationals started up and that was pretty much the last we have heard from you.
Yeah, I had a little tip over with (Davi) Millsaps at the Las Vegas Supercross. It is really just too many concussions over a short period of time; a lot of little falls that just keep adding on to my big concussion from a few years ago. I wasn’t feeling right. In this sport you have to be on top of your game. You can’t go out there and ride your best when you can't see perfect. I didn't want to take a chance and fall and have an even worse injury.
You had a pretty bad crash at the beginning of the year in Supercross at Anaheim I as well. Was that part of the problem?
Probably. Any wreck can have that effect. You might not even know that you have a concussion when it happens. Even the small falls just keep adding to the initial injury. Lots of little falls can make it seem like one big one.
You have worked with the UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) a lot in the past with injuries and concussions. Did you continue working with them this summer?
Yeah I still work with the UPMC. They have a lot of my history on record there so they know what all of my symptoms were and what I need to do to get back on the bike at some point. They really monitor me and that has allowed me to start training again. I've actually started doing a little bit of riding recently. It's definitely fun to be doing that again. I just did some riding in San Jose, CA on Thursday and just had some fun out there. So I am back on the bike again but I need to start doing some real training because I have been slacking pretty good (laughs)!
What were you up to this summer since you were not racing? Just laid low?
I wasn't doing any training or riding. I honestly was not feeling good and didn't start to notice any real improvement until the last few nationals. It takes a while to get over some symptoms. I wanted to make sure I was good to go before I did any kind of riding or training. So I just stayed at home in Pennsylvania and this week was my first time in California since May.
All right, the big question: do you have anything lined up for next year?
No. At this point I haven't even been trying. With how tough the economy is right now, some really good riders don't even have contracts yet, so I knew it was going to be difficult. So I have decided to sit out the Supercross season. That will give me enough time to make sure all of my symptoms are completely gone. Hopefully by the Outdoors I will be 100 percent and maybe there will be a ride open that I can fill in somewhere.
So you are not even going to bother riding any Supercross?
No, unless someone has a good bit of money to throw around. If the right money is there maybe I'll jump aboard. But right now I am just planning on staying in Pennsylvania, and will do some snow and woods riding with some tire studs this winter.
I have heard for a long time that once your MX career is over, you are probably one rider who could transfer pretty easily over to GNCCs.
I love woods riding. When I first came into the pros I was a really good mud rider, but staying in California all winter, I kind of lost my mud practice. Hopefully doing some riding this winter back east will get me back into it and help me pick of some of the things I have lost.
Any reason why we didn't hear what had been happening with you?
I have some close industry friends that knew but otherwise I guess I am just pretty quiet and keep to myself. So overall I don't think too many people know what's going on with me.
Perhaps it is good just to lay low, keep away from the dangers of Supercross for a year, and just come back strong for the Nationals.
As long as I can stay on two wheels and just take my time getting back into shape. I always ended up getting hurt in the past and then it has been a rush to get ready for racing. Then I have to take chances to get back up to speed in a hurry. I have a lot of months left to the Outdoor season so I can just take my time and work my way up slowly and be a little more careful.
I know the rumor had been tossed around that you might even hang up your boots, but that probably because no one knew what was going on with you. But really, you are still young, so you have plenty of time to come back and make your mark.
Yeah, I'm 23 right now. I could even take five years off and come back like John Dowd has done (laughs). If he is 44 and can get second place at Southwick, I can be 44 and do Steel City.
Minutes after our interview finished up, Broc sent this text message along
“You have to put at the end of the interview, I don’t need SX. I just won 238 bucks on the craps table. This is sick. Vegas baby!”
See you at the Nationals, Broc.