It’s crazy to think that we’ve only had three weekends off since January. There was one only small break between Toronto and Houston during the Supercross season, then a weekend off between Vegas and the kickoff of the Nationals at Hangtown. We are now four rounds into the summer, one which will include numerous weekends off and a much earlier conclusion at Lake Elsinore.
This past week was quite remarkable because both Yamaha and Suzuki released their 2014 model year race bikes. Both of Suzuki’s full-size motocross bikes, the RM-Z250 and RM-Z450, claimed TWMX’s 2013 Bike of the Year honors and the brand only made refinements to the award-wining machines for the next year.
Although Suzuki stayed with their same machinery, Yamaha announced their YZF250 and YZF450 will be all-new for 2014. Both bikes now use Yamaha’s reversed cylinder design and wrap-around exhaust, which centers the weight of the engine as much possible. This is quite important for the brand, since both bikes have received criticism as of late; the 250 has had the same carbureted powerplant for years and the debates on the 450 are just the beating a dead horse.
We’ll swing our legs over all four bikes soon…
This week’s Kickstart is a collection of content, including interviews with a number of riders, photos from the track, and the inspiring story of Japan’s Cloud Toda. Get to clicking.
Freshman Year: Justin Barcia Is Learning What It Takes To Become Top Of The Class
By Michael Antonovich
Photos by Jeff Kardas
This is your first full year in the 450 class, but it's not your first time racing the class outdoors. Now that you are fulltime and going for a championship, how much different is mindset than 2011?
In 2011, I was riding the edge, but now I am trying to be smart and get on the box every weekend. I am going for the win still, but I am in a different mindset, for sure. I just want to stay on two wheels and get as many points as I can.
Is there extra pressure that comes with being the rookie and landing on the podium every weekend?
I don't think there is a lot of pressure, really. I think that people don't think of this as my rookie year really because I have ridden the class a little bit, but I'm still going out there and trying to race with the best guys. They are gnarly and have been out there for a long time, and I need to learn from them to do the best that I can.
Dan Bentley became the Team Manager for Team Honda Muscle Milk earlier this year. Did you have much experience with him before he took on the role?
I worked with him before on things like motor development. When Dan came in, we had already worked together, so it wasn't such a big change.
What have you taken away from the first four rounds?
The thing that I have learned is that I want to win really badly. It's been tough not winning races lately. I have been close, but I need that little extra. I'm not sure what that is going to take. I have learned that being consistent and that being on the podium every weekend is huge. Currently I am third in points, and my second moto at High Point was my worst moto of the year and I had to come through the pack.
Has not winning been a big thing for you to overcome mentally? Since you started, you have been considered one of "the guys," but now there are two people ahead of you.
I feel like it is something positive for me. Obviously, I'd like to go out there, win, and make it easy, but it's not that simple. Those guys are so fast, so it's not bumming me out. They have been around a long time and I know that if I keep working hard, I will get there.
I just think that I am gaining a lot of experience. In the 250 class, I was a rookie and I was racing against rookies. We were all learning off of each other, but now there are two guys and I am learning off of them.
You already had won a main event by the fourth round of the Supercross season. Did it just come easier for you?
I just put in some good races and I think it came a little easier for me. Supercross is almost a different sport than motocross. The outdoors are a lot tougher and harder, so it takes a lot more. But I am trying to get there. It's not easy when you want to win so badly and it takes a while.
The tracks this year seem extremely gnarly. Colorado looked horrible and High Point was pretty rough...
(Laughs) Yeah, they are. I think they are letting the tracks go and get brutal. They are developing some sketchy stuff, some braking bumps, some square edge; it definitely doesn't make the racing any easier.
Ryan Villopoto has been consistent each moto and he stays at about the same speed throughout the entire race. Is that different than the 250 class?
I feel like in the 250 class we were wide-open from start to end, but there was just a tighter pack of riders. I think that right now Villopoto has a little edge on us. At Muddy Creek, I ran with him in the first moto before I made a little mistake, and with that one mistake, he got away. It'll take a perfect race to beat him and it won't be easy, but I don't think it's impossible.
I think that it is a pretty hard thing to dispute that of everybody in the class, you are the third guy. It was obvious at High Point when you went down while running third, but still had a huge gap on the rest of the field.
Like I said and tell everyone, those two guys are gnarly right now and I need to find that next step. I don't think it is anything mental or physical, I just need to find that speed and what they are doing to get on that level. I am biting at the bit and out of all the other fast guys, I think it showed in that second moto at High Point. I was in fifth behind Alessi and Rattray and was about to make the pass before I went down and had five guys pass me. There are no slouches out there.
How is the new Honda outdoors? It was basically designed for someone with your aggressive riding style in mind.
I think that our bike is pretty good right now. With the air suspension, it takes a lot of getting used to and takes some learning. We fought it a little during Supercross, but got a good setting at the end. What we have right now is pretty good and the bike is working for us.
Do you think that air suspension is here to stay or that because so many riders had problems that it will be a 50-50 part?
I think it is the new thing and won't be going away. It was something that was new. For racers going as fast as we do, it was tough to get a good setting right off the bat. But it has its keys.
Back At It: Despite Lingering Injury, Darryn Durham Is Ready To Race
By Michael Antonovich
Injuries sidelined your for the early part of the year and you didn't get to race any of the Supercross season. How did you fill your time until Hangtown?
I did a lot of rehab on my injuries; that was my main focus. Once I started riding, I was riding everyday. Even though I couldn't ride at 100-percent, I was riding to build myself up. I spent a lot of days riding in the hills, which is in the video that just came out. It captured a lot of the good days, the shoveling and was a good shoulder workout. It was fun.
How is your shoulder?
It's not great yet, but it is getting better. I have had a couple of crashes and it has held up. When I am on the bike, I don't have the strength in my left shoulder that I need to for when the track is gnarly. I'm just working on getting stronger.
How is your Achilles’ tendon?
That is pretty good. It is still a nagging injury, like I can't run, but when I have my boot on, it doesn't affect me too bad.
For someone who has never had it, what does it feel like?
My ankle is always tight and the bottom of my foot is still tingly, like when your foot falls asleep. It is super annoying, but I am dealing with it.
Does it feel like that all of the time, or is it hit and miss?
It's all of the time, but it is slowly getting better. It's my braking foot, so with my boot on, it doesn't affect me on the peg or anything. I still have good range of motion in my ankle, but I just lack the feeling on the bottom of my foot.
Which injury is the one that kept you from racing Supercross?
It was a little bit of both. When Supercross started, my Achilles’ had only been four months. I could have went out and raced, but I wouldn't have even been close to 100-percent. I'm not 100-percent now, but riding Supercross wouldn't have been a smart decision. I would have ended up on my head again.
It's an injury that's not very common, but when you hear about it, like with Kobe Bryant, it takes people out. What is the average recovery time?
They said that for me to do normal things, like running, would be a year, which won't be until the off-season. So, I am just trying to get through this year the best I can. And I'm starting to turn it around and get healthy now. We have a little longer off-season this year, since the Nationals end in August, so hopefully I can build myself up and come out battling for championships in Supercross. I want to take a month off of the bike and build myself up again.
Is there anything you can do to speed up the healing process, or is rest better?
I have been doing everything I can do. I have magnets, stimulation machines, I put it in ice buckets every night. I have of that and do it at home. I go to Doc G and Eddie Casillas, and everyone has helped me get back to where I need to be.
How did the Volcom video come about? That is one of the best edits we have seen this year.
It was pretty fun. We went on a few different trips to Beaumont and Reche Canyon, and Twitch let us come out with him. It was kind of dry, but we had a few weeks with good rains when I was just getting going on my back. I wasn't event that comfortable yet, but that was my way of getting comfortable; going out into the hills with my buddies and getting to the grassroots style. That's how I learned to ride and is how I needed to learn to ride again. Even some of the trail rides out there are insane. You would get on some single-track for miles.
How has your season gone so far? We are a few rounds in and you had a setback at Hangtown that is giving you issues still.
My leg is getting better. It sucks that I got the injury on my thigh on the same leg as my Achilles. I have been off balance on the bike and it has been affecting me. The first few weeks after it, I couldn't even ride. The first moto at Hangtown was good and I was in the top-five for almost the entire moto before I ended up sixth. I thought that was going to be a good building block for the rest of the season. I ended up going down in the second moto, but we have a week off and I think it will help me out.
When you and I talked in the morning at Thunder Valley, I could see that you were hurting pretty bad. Did the adrenaline take over at Muddy Creek and block the pain out?
Yeah, it takes it out a bit. But it was so nagging to go from standing to sitting, and we do that so much when we ride. My lower back was kind of jacked up after that for a couple of weeks.
What do you think of the tracks so far this year? Muddy Creek was new to the circuit and it seems like all of the tracks have been rougher than ever.
The tracks have been gnarly this year, more than in years past. They haven't been grooming them as much, which I think is good. The new track at Muddy Creek was fun; I raced there as a little kid and to see a National with that many people there was cool.
Even though we are on a break this weekend, you are still out riding. Will you stay on the bike through the rest of the week or will you take a small break?
No, because since my crash at Hangtown, I have only practiced two or three times and tried to save myself for the races. I will get some practice time in to get my speed back.
Jason Anderson At Milestone
Photos by Chris Kimball
Even though some riders took the week off, Southern California’s race tracks were still getting the once-over. On Friday, we spotted Rockstar Energy Racing’s Jason Anderson putting in motos at Riverside’s Milestone MX Park. Getting laps in on a Friday is typically all but impossible, since everyone spends the day traveling to the weekend’s race, but Anderson took advantage of the clear track.
Catching Up With Lance Coury
Catching Up With Ryan Morais
Revival: Cloud Toda
While practicing with his team in 2008, Japan’s Cloud Toda suffered a practice crash that would ultimately end his career. Toda’s spine was severely damaged in the accident and his doctors stated that he would never walk again. Rather than settle, Cloudy began researching and rehabbing his body to its current level: he has taken aided steps and is back in the saddle of a motorcycle. Cloud Toda’s story is an inspiration.