Originally printed in the June 2018 issue of TransWorld Motocross. Subscribe for more monthly tips!
Never Give Up!
Recovering from Less-Than-Ideal Race Scenarios With Eli Tomac
Words by Mike Emery | Photos by Octopi Media
When it comes to racing, we've all been through moments when everything goes sideways early on in the race. Sometimes it happens as early as turn one! These are the defining moments that separate the men from the boys, as well as moments when you're either going to accept defeat or regroup and make moves. Eli Tomac is a perfect example of a high-pedigree rider who has shown an exceptional ability to charge forward in times where all the odds are against him. Remember the Salt Lake City Supercross in 2017 when he made a miraculous charge from a bad start and went on to win the main? Or perhaps you remember a very recent Daytona Supercross, where Tomac found himself on the ground on lap one and remounted for a charge all the way to second place. The fact is that every racer will encounter terrible odds at some point, and it's how you react to them that will make you stand apart from your competition. Tomac didn't become a champion by giving up, and he was nice enough to give us some solid pointers on the subject.
Assess the Damage and Adapt
When you're in the moment, it's really hard to stay collected because it's so crazy--especially when you crash on the first lap. The first thing that goes through your head is, 'Where is my bike?' Then you try and get to your bike as quick as you can while still thinking, 'Am I clear to get to my bike?' You want to make sure you're not going to get hit by anyone and then make sure you can get going safely. When you get back on your bike, you want to make a quick check and figure out what you're working with. Most of the time you want to assess the damage as you pick your bike up, start it, and begin riding it. It's tough because you have to get going as quick as you can, but at the same time you need to be safe and assess if the bike is okay to start charging on. The last part of that it being able to adapt to anything that's bent or broken, like a lever for example. Keep focusing forward.
Fitness and Warm Up
Fitness is huge. A lot of times I'll warm up even more and get better throughout the moto. You want to make sure you're warmed up and ready to go. I think a lot of riders start out really cold, and that's not a good thing for your body to be starting cold. It's just like your motorcycle; you want to be warmed up for your best performance. You have to be physically fit, and to get those lap times down lower late in the moto, that is when you'll see who is fit or not.
Practice and Confidence
When you're practicing at your local track, try different lines, even if they may be slower on the clock. It's something that keeps it new and keeps your brain sharp. It gives you an open mind on the track, so if you are in a situation where you're buried in the pack, you can make those line changes and make the pass. I don't really do any specific mental training, but I know what I'm bringing to the race and I have the confidence in my training back home. I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything, and that all comes with experience with what works and what doesn't.
Passing and Line Selection
I think it's really easy to get yourself into a rut to where your vision is somewhat closed and you use the same line every lap. If you've hit that pothole five times in a row, why are you going to hit it a sixth? You have to have an open mind and continually look for those better lines. You want to be methodical, too, because you don't want to be going outside or inside on every corner that it may not work on either. It's a thinking process, and if you can do it while you're racing, then you're going to eat the other guys up. You have to be willing to look instead of following the next rider. You have to try that second rut, or third rut, and that can also change throughout the moto. The inside line may be good early, but if you move to the outside it's oftentimes a lot better. And a lot of guys will get stuck in the rut of going inside the entire moto, and you can make up a lot of time on a faster outside line. I made up a lot of time in Daytona by opening up the turns, and I was thinking, 'Why isn't anyone going out here? You can rail these things!' It's all about being open-minded when the track gets tough.
Mental Strength and Effort
All I'm thinking about in these situations is getting to the front as quickly as I can and that I'm going to try and minimize the damage that's being done. At my level, for example, I know a guy like Jason Anderson or Marvin Musquin is running away while there are points to be made. I'm just thinking about getting to the front, but at the same time you don't want a second crash to happen and you don't want to be out of control or do anything dumb. But if you're feeling good, then it's time to put on that big charge. My outlook always is that I'm going to go out there and give it my all and do whatever I can. I think of it like, if you're not trying, then why are you even out there? As long as I'm giving it a 100 percent, then that's all I can do.
Follow Eli on Instagram: @elitomac