Christian Craig Is Looking Ahead

By Brendan Lutes

Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs/Honda's Christian Craig is entering into his third Supercross season. On paper, one might think that he is a veteran of SX, however, due to numerous injuries and tons of bad luck, he has yet to finish a full season. With countless hours of preparation under his belt during the off-season, Craig went into Anaheim I hoping to run up front. Once again, though, bad luck struck, relegating him to a 12th place finish in the main event. We caught up with him to find out his thoughts on the race, his off-season, and what his expectations for 2013 are as a whole.

Christian had a night in Anaheim that he would probably rather forget. As evidenced by his sidepanel in this photo, he tangled with another rider in his heat race, went down, and was forced to ride the LCQ. In the main, he ran up front until going down and ultimately finishing a disappointing 12th.

What are your thoughts on how Anaheim I went?
It was a long day and it didn't really go as planned; I was expecting to be up front. I started off the day decent, and qualified 12th, which wasn't where I wanted to be. In the heat race, I came into the first turn a little too quick and just pile drove one of the other riders and went down, so I had to go to the LCQ. I had to go through that, and it was just whatever--I finished second. In the main event, I got a bad start, but when Jessy [Nelson] crashed, I ended up about fifth or sixth. I was running up there for a little bit until I had a little slide out. That kind of ruined my main event. After that, I just couldn't get into a flow and just rode out the rest of the 15 laps. It was not the way I planned it for sure.

Coming into A1, everyone usually says that they just want to make it through safely. Was that your goal or did you want to be on the podium?
It was actually the first Supercross that I've finished. Every other one I've crashed out of, DNFed, or something happened. Just making it through was definitely in the back of my head, but I did want to be up front, because I know how much work I've put in and that I belong up front with those guys. I was confident, knew I could be up front, and wanted to be up front. It was kind of both for me [wanted to finish and wanted to do well], you know?

Jessy Nelson and Craig have been training partners with their new trainer, mountain bike legend Brian Lopes.

You've definitely always had the speed to be up front, but bad luck always seems to strike. With that said, what are you expectations for the entire season?
I've never finished a whole Supercross season. I've either started one and then had to stop because of a nagging injury or stop because I get injured. I definitely want to stay healthy, make it to every round, and finish every race. I just need a full season under my belt. I'm still learning, even though it's my third year, so I feel like I'll just get better at every round. I just want to be safe and make it to every race.

Taking a step back a little, how did your off-season go?
My off-season was awesome. I got a new trainer, Brian Lopes, and Jessy and I started training with him and riding together every day. We did so much; we rode four days a week for a month straight. I think that's what helped me out so much, because I built my speed up really slow and put in the long motos. I was expecting it would pay off last Saturday night, which is why I'm bummed it all didn't work out. I know I have the speed and that I can put the laps in. Jessy and I ride every day together and we do all our motos together, and I think we just build off of each other.

So does Lopes take you guys on gnarly mountain bike rides?
Yeah, he takes us down some steep ones. I actually went down one yesterday. They're so steep that it's almost like you want to get off and walk, because you don't want to fall. I just follow him, though. I've proved to him that I can hang with him... Actually I can't really hang with him, but I can do what he does, kind of [laughs]. It's good, though, he's a great trainer at the gym and on the mountain bike too. He'll come to the track with us and watch us; he really helps us out with everything.

Craig is looking forward to Phoenix where the track is hard packed and slippery.

You're obviously pretty disappointed with A1, but was there anything that you took away from it that you're stoked about?
I was riding timid all day and fighting the bike. There weren't any problems with the bike and I didn't feel like I needed to change anything, it was just me. I couldn't get loosened up; the nerves just got the best of me. I mean, I finished--that's a plus--and I finished better than a 19th, which was where I finished in my last Supercross, so I guess I can be happy with a 12th. I guess I'm happy with just finishing right now.

What are your thoughts on Phoenix in a couple days?
I rode there in 2011 and I qualified good, but I also had bad luck in the first turn. I like the dirt there, it's usually really slippery, and I feel like I'm a good guy with throttle control. I know how to slide it around the corners and all that. I'm looking forward to it. I hope it's going to go good. I need to make it go good. I just need to qualify and have a good, solid day.