TFS was at the Orlando press conference on Thursday and did some quick interviews with the men on hand to participate: Team Kawasaki’s James Stewart and Michael Byrne, Team Makita Suzuki’s Ricky Carmichael and Ivan Tedesco, and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Chris Gosselaar. Anyway, his e-mail got lost in cyber space, and we just got it late last night! Regardless, it’s good reading going into tonight’s Orlando SX! Here’s what everyone had to say…
Ivan Tedesco: I did a lot of testing and a lot of riding and a lot of training, not much else. It's been good.
Outdoor testing too?
No. Just supercross. Just before Daytona we did some testing for that race, and then I just kept moving forward on supercross.
So are you happy so far with your first year in this SX class?
Yeah, I'm happy. I have had some good races and some bad races. I am learning every week, and it’s my rookie 250 season. I am trying to learn every weekend and it's tough. I am just trying to improve myself and get up there.
Some of the other riders have mentioned the intensity at the top-three level, and it's not that they do things no one else can, it’s just how nuts they are about it.
It's not like it's one thing, it’s a little bit here and there. It's a tenth here, a tenth there. It’s not like they are doing something a second faster in a section. I have been working on that. I have been working with Ricky on trying to get my speed up—that has helped my out a little bit. That pace is tough. Those guys go fast. I am getting closer and closer.
Last weekend you and Pastrana were quite the show in that heat race. Do you actually enjoy that with him or did he freak you out?
[Laughs] I wouldn't say I enjoyed it. I was a little nervous racing with him. He was going good. He was fast in the whoops! He makes for exciting racing. I like it a little more boring than that.
Well this isn't part of the interview, but a couple of photohounds who were over there at the whoops said they saw it coming, each lap he would get more and more nuts in those whoops.
With Travis, I hate to say it, but you kind of predict that. I was trying to watch myself so I would not get caught up in anything.
So, with six races to go and Daytona behind you, any changes?
Yeah, actually this week I made some changes on the bike. I think it is going to be better. I am going to try starting here at Orlando. I have never been here, and I hear it's softer dirt. We will see what happens. I am sticking with my own training program as far as that goes, and I want to make some more podiums.
Michael Byrne: Actually, I don't think Daytona is as rough as it used to be. It still gets rough and stuff like that. It was just a weird weekend. James crashed. I just really got good starts all weekend and I felt comfortable. It is a little more outdoor style, which is something we haven't had this year so far. I feel good about riding the 450. I never got to race Daytona last year and I haven't been here in a few years. I always enjoy riding it. It is a little bit sandier. It didn't seem quite as rough. I don't know if it is because we were on 450s, or what it was. I think they did a better job [on jump shapes] and it may have been not quite as brutal as it usually is. [In the past] it would go straight from sand to clay on the faces of them and holes at the bottom of the ramps. They did a good job with the surface to make it as good as they did.
What do you take with you after a strong race and a podium? Are you more aggressive or confident the next weekend?
You try and take that positive finish and keep the ball rolling, getting good starts and riding solid. Sometimes all you need is a little confidence booster. I feel good on the bike right now and I am just going to try and do it again this weekend. James and I have been riding together all week. It's been fun.
You did outdoor testing?
We did some outdoor testing, two or three days outdoor and two days supercross. We had a lot of fun riding together, and a different track, and it's good weather here.
Is there a series battle with you going on, like someone is near you in points and you want to beat them?
Yeah, Ivan is the guy just in front of me. He is only six points ahead. Nick Wey and I are pretty close, I think we are only 3 or 4 points apart. It’s pretty tight between myself, Ivan, and Nick. That is where the battle is for us each weekend, to try and get more points than them.
James Stewart: Yeah, I went back to the house Saturday morning and I rode Sunday until yesterday. I feel fine. Luckily it was not as bad as I thought. I thought it was a hard crash, and then when I saw it on TV, it was harder than I thought!
It looked like you hit your chest, then the Tuff Blox, then over and you landed on your feet, and everything looked so violent.
I was sore. It knocked the wind out of me for a little while. I was trying to stand up. I was so out of breath right then. I recovered. It was a hard fall. Being at the front of the pack, then falling like that and being at the back and trying to get up again, and the bike was bent, it was different. I was getting the blue flag myself this time, and that was a little tougher than I thought, but I think I rode pretty good.
Do you know what happened? Do you remember it?
No. Well, I remember when I was going off the jump, just like I did every lap, then the bike kind of kicked up. I think I wasn't prepared for it. If I knew I was going to get kicked I would have been better prepared for it. It was kind of like, "Where did that come from?" It was like Vegas 2003. It was just like [breathes deeply] “Ughh!”
It seems you had good speed. You won the heat race and were holding steady in the main. What was your race plan about the time this happened?
I felt the best, those three laps I was up, that I felt all year. I felt good. I had a good heat race, I felt good in practice. Overall it was the best I felt all year. It was unfortunate that happened because I was going good. I was feeling strong.
It seems you have plenty of speed and you have read the fans' comments online that you can win any race you need to, but you have to keep it off the ground. So with six rounds left, what are you going to do?
I do have six left and I am just having fun. With me, I almost want to say, do people think I like crashing? People think I am just out of control and stuff. It's not like Orlando last year or races where I was just going wide open. This year, I just kind of caked and the next thing you know I am picking myself up. I feel more in control than I did all year. It sucks when people say that stuff. I have to ride the way I ride; otherwise you won't want to watch me. If I could go back to watch Daytona and say is there something I would do different, but I watched that video 100 times and I can't see what I would do different. If I lined up on the gate again I would probably crash in the same spot. I didn't see anything I did wrong.
So you did some outdoor testing during the week?
Yeah, we are going to be really strong in outdoors this year. I feel good. I am totally in a better position than I was in last year. I feel healthy. I am winning races. I have more confidence going into this outdoor season. My 450 is good, so I should have a good chance.
Are you ready in terms of endurance?
My endurance has been ready ever since Broome-Tioga, when it wasn't there. I think it was there I was always having problems. But now, I am strong. I am on a six-week program from here on out for the outdoors.
Ricky Carmichael: Good. It’s good here in Orlando and I'm glad to be in the points lead. I still have a lot of work ahead of me and I want to keep it going. I want to have a great rest of the season. I am happy with the way things are going.
Won't you have to ride with a couple of calculators in your head, where is James, where is Chad, and with Kevin Windham returning, you want him to get in between you guys, right?
You know what, I can't do anything about what goes on behind me. My goal is to just do my best and keep doing what we are doing and try to improve. I can't predict a pattern. The only thing I can do is do the best I can.
You've come a long way since a few weeks ago when you were ready to just walk.
Yeah. For sure. Things have changed quickly and I am back in the points lead, and I'm proud to be in that position.
And even with all the crap going on, you won the last three races.
All that stuff, it sucked. It still bothers me a little bit every now and then, but I am pumped I won three in a row, in this day and age with the competition being so hard.
You have been giving James credit in interviews about him being so fast.
Absolutely. He brings the heat, that's for sure. It's a bummer that he fell down last week. I would have loved to have tried and challenged him. Maybe this weekend we will do battle. I think the fans will really enjoy it.
Is this a case of the fastest guy vs. the most experienced, or what word would you choose?
I don't know. He is the fastest guy. I am trying to step it up to his speed. There are times I feel I can do it and sometimes I have to take a step back. He is going to be there until the end and he is not out of it yet. I still want to get up there and do my best and have some great races.
You know, in interviews now, if you don't win, we are going to assume you were riding conservative and ask about that.
I don't know. I don't know if I will be able to afford to ride conservative. It’s obviously going to go down to Vegas. I have to keep doing what I am doing. I have no cushion. I have to keep riding my best and riding hard and not laying down like I have in the same situation in years past.
Chad and James were riding beat up in that last main. What about you?
Yeah, I have a little problem with my wrist. I hurt my wrist at St. Louis when I crashed. I have been babying that along a little bit, but that is part of it.
This question is actually for Weege who runs the press conferences: Before one recently you were dogging him about getting it together and he should watch SportsCenter or something. What can we do better? Let's hear it!
I just like giving him a hard time more than anything. What race was that? He was trying to be funny or something, so I had to give him hell. I have to bust his chops now and then. You have to make it fun.
Are your ready for the summer?
We have been doing a little outdoor testing. Everything is looking good there. We need to improve a little bit, but our base is pretty good. Last year's bike was really good. It’s hard to think about it much when I have to stay focused on this supercross battle.
Chris Gosselaar: Yeah, so far, so good. Hopefully we can keep it up.
Are you going to win one?
Yeah, I need to. If I don't, I am going to be really bummed. I know I have the best bike.
Do you have a big bonus waiting for you if you win one?
Yeah, I need that, too, but I just want to win one because I have never done it. It would be really nice to finally win one.
Those bikes must really be something. You have been getting good starts, finishing strong, giving yourself credit of course, but sheesh...
I think everyone thinks I wouldn't be able to do it without the bike, but I honestly feel a lot better overall, like my training this year and everything, and my motivation. But this Pro Circuit bike is a big plus.
Out of all the East races, which do you think you felt the strongest?
Hmmm … I think in any of them, I could do better. At Daytona last weekend my speed wasn't very good at all, so I am bummed about that. But the first round was all right; I just got a little arm-pump. At Atlanta I felt good but I crashed there, so I had to ride with a bent-up bike the whole time. I haven't felt that I rode yet to my full potential. I need to pick it up a little bit.
You are a bit of a substitute since two guys are out hurt, and Mitch is known for being tough already. Do you feel like you have the weight of a team semi on your shoulders out there, or did they make you feel comfortable?
[Laughs] Coming into the first round, I was really stressed out. Mitch was like, you have to be on the podium every race, every single race.
What a ball buster, huh?
But I made three! I have never been a consistent rider. But now, I have been on the podium three out of 4 races, and I honestly think if I didn't crash at Atlanta, I would have been there. The pressure is not bad any more, but in the beginning of the season I was feeling it. I was really nervous.
With three races to go, do you think about a race day differently, like do you look over at the podium and think, ‘I will be there’?
Definitely. There is no reason I shouldn't be there every week. Right now I am second in points. I should be up there. My confidence is a lot better.
As far as Mitch's team, since you have been around, what have you noticed that is different?
The whole team, everyone is just 100 percent committed. I have ridden for teams in the past that just beat around the bush and take shortcuts. He doesn't do that. Everything he does, he makes sure it’s the best. That makes the rider feel that much more confident.
Where do you go from here when supercross is over?
[Laughs] Everyone asks me that every day. That is up to Kawasaki. I don't know, but I would like to know!
So the status is no outdoor deal and you are a fill-in for supercross?
I really don't feel like doing the outdoors on my own. That's not a fun deal. It costs a lot of money. Hopefully I can keep this ride, but if not, I guess I'll see you next year in supercross!