Catching Up With…Mike Alessi

by Donn Maeda

Rockstar/Makita/Suzuki star Mike Alessi has been a man on a mission all season long, trying to dethrone the dominance of James “Bubba” Stewart. Not only has Mikey been the only rider to attempt to run the pace of Stewart, but he has also mastered the art of the holeshot. However, as many may know by now, Alessi sustained a horrific crash a few weeks ago at Red Bud where he was rendered unconscious for almost three minutes. We were able to chat with the Suzuki rider this afternoon and get the latest prognosis on his condition and his perspective of how his season was going.

Obviously our first question is: how are you doing?

I am doing pretty well. I am just trying to heal up and recover, you know? I am taking as much time as possible to get back to a 100% so that I can ride again.

Do you remember anything from the crash, or do you remember the entire thing for that matter?

I don’t remember anything. I was knocked out for a good three minutes, and I don’t remember anything from that weekend at Red Bud.

So you don’t have any recollection of Michigan at all?

Correct, I don’t remember anything.

There is a video of your crash floating around on YouTube. Have you watched the video yet, or is it one of those things where you don’t want to see it?

I am not allowed to see it. Danielle (my girlfriend) said it wouldn’t be a good thing for me to watch it. She said I could watch it after my racing career is over.

You broke both scapulas, so that’s got to be gnarly. Are you in a lot of pain?

Actually, believe it or not, I am not in too much pain. My right scapula is more severe than my left scapula because I broke it in three places. I also had a concussion, and I broke a rib. I also broke a rib near my C4 vertebrate in my back, and I suffered a Charlie horse on my leg, but that’s about it.

Even though you don’t remember it, has anybody told you how you crashed?

My dad said it looked like my front end washed out as I was coming over that jump. My bike didn’t cause it; me riding too hard caused it, and trying to beat James Stewart and pass him right back.

At the Colorado race, you led James for quite a while. Is that inspiring you to ride harder and hang it out more?

Yeah! I was starting to ride a little bit better every weekend; I was beginning to build up some confidence, and I was starting to lead James, too. I knew if there was going to be a weekend that I could lead James and possibly beat him, it was going to be at Red Bud. Last year at Red Bud, when I was on the KTM, I rode so well there; I knew I that this year I would be right there with James, and I was. On Sunday morning my practice times were only .7 seconds off of his. In the first moto, he only beat me by 12 seconds, and in the second moto I thought it was going to be my time to break through and go for the win. Unfortunately, I think I was trying way too hard on the start and ended up crashing. I gave it everything I had, and I think the fans really respect that. I wasn’t giving up, you know? I gave it everything I had every lap of the race. Unfortunately, I crashed trying to beat James. It is difficult for me to be sitting on the coutch, knowing that I was at least the second best guy out there, but now it’s all gone.

It seems that some guys who have a big lead over the rest of the field will back it down towards the end of the moto. However, you will ride as hard as you can until you cross the finish line. That’s one of the commendable things about you: you try as hard as you can from start to finish.

Like I said, I gave it everything I had the entire moto. I think that the fans truly respect that. I wasn’t just riding around at a comfortable pace. I was charging and giving it everything I had, and I never gave up.

How long is your recovery going to be until you’re able to get back on a bike?

Within another two weeks I can probably start riding again, so you’ll probably see me back at Millville.

That’s incredible considering the severity of your injuries. Are you guys doing some crazy therapy to get you back on the track?

I am just going to the doctor twice a day, and I am trying to do as much therapy as possible. I try to be smart with my time during the day and not give up too much time to sitting around and doing nothing. I go to the doctor during the day and make sure I do something to help my body.

How were you feeling before the crash? You were pretty much head and shoulders above the rest of the competition, aside from James.

Definitely! I was trying to run with James and keep the pace he had. You just need to step up your game in order to run with him. James isn’t afraid to hang it out and that’s his riding style. The level it takes to ride at James’ speed is a little more than some of the guys may want to go. I think I was one of the only guys who wanted, or even tried to run his pace. Unfortunately, I got hurt trying to go that fast. I can’t say enough about the guys at Rockstar/Makita/Suzuki! They’ve done a fantastic job this year, and I feel like I’ve kind of let them down, you know? I felt like this was going to be my year to win a championship, but I ended up crashing and that’s disappointing for me. I’m sure Suzuki is disappointed in me being hurt, but they have to know that this is racing and anything can happen.

Aside from Hangtown, when you had some trouble, haven’t you been consistently running in second?

(Laughs) I am consistently second and consistently getting every holeshot. I was the only rider to ever get seven holeshots in a row. The closet rider to me was Jeff Emig with five holeshots (laughs).

I was at Bubba’s house not too long ago, and I asked him if he was tired of seeing number 800 in front of him. He said that he just accepts it now.

(Laughs) It was kind of funny because when the Budd’s Creek race on television they said, “James Stewart with the holeshot, only because Mike Alessi isn’t here.” I thought that was kind of funny, but James has always been a good starter.

How was the Colorado National?

I don’t really remember anything from that race. I can’t really explain anything from Colorado because of my concussion. The last thing that I remember was testing and training at Mammoth. That’s the last thing I really remember. Everything is pretty foggy from the last two or three weeks.

Obviously it’s important for you to heal up. Do you think Millville is enough time to let your head settle?

I hope so. My head is definitely clearer now, opposed to four or five days ago. Every day is getting a little bit better. Everything with my injury is getting stronger, but it’s going to take some time to get back to normal. Injuries are a part of the sport and they aren’t always good, but you can’t do too much about it.