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5 Minutes with...Zach Osborne

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One of the revelations at the 2008 Red Bull Motocross of Nations was the amazing rides put in my Team Puerto Rico’s Zach Osborne. Remember Zach? The Abingdon, Virginia, native was a KTM factory-supported minicycle racer growing up, then moved on to the Red Bull KTM team upon turning pro. His results were below his lofty expectations, and in 2008 Zach signed with the Boost Mobile/Yamaha of Troy team to contest the Lites class. Unfortunately, Zach suffered a couple injuries and pretty much vanished. A couple months later, he resurfaced in England, riding a U-Tag Yamaha in the British Championships and World MXGPs, and then we see him on the entry list for the MXoN riding for Puerto Rico alongside Tarah Gieger and Gino Aponte. Zach put in some great rides at Donington Park, and today we caught up with him to get his take on the event, and his future.

Racer X: Zach, what’s going on?
Zach Osborne: Oh, just packing up. I’m heading home on Thursday for a few weeks.

  • Team Puerto Rico teammates Zach Osborne and Tarah Gieger at the 2008 Red Bull Motocross of Nations.
  • Zach aboard his U-Tag Yamaha YZ450F
  • Osborne crashed in the third and final moto, finishing 24th.
I didn’t know you were Puerto Rican!
[Laughs] Well, I’m not at all, actually!

Tell us about riding for Puerto Rico at the Motocross of Nations.
Well, they’re citizens of America, so our citizenship works both ways with Puerto Rico. Steve Dixon, he runs the big Yamaha team in the UK that I ride for, and he was sponsoring the team with bikes, and they didn’t really have a third rider in mind – I know Travis Pastrana was going to ride last year – but they didn’t have anyone this year and I was already here. So they said if I wanted to stay and do it, I could, and I was really pumped with the opportunity and I was pumped I got to experience it.

Well, what are you initial thoughts on your first-ever Motocross of Nations?
It was awesome! I really enjoyed the whole weekend and it was super fun for me.

I think I can speak on behalf of every American in attendance that you put in some phenomenal rides. What has changed?
Not a lot, really. I’m just doing pretty much exactly the same thing I was in America. I haven’t actually had a chance to train as much as I did in America because I’ve been traveling a lot, but I’ve just been doing a lot of riding and testing with the team in Italy. It’s just really worked out for me.

One of the best races I saw was the Open class qualifier on Saturday where you came from pretty far back to take second, passing Michael Byrne in the final turn. It seemed like you were pretty excited pumping your fist across the finish line.
Yeah, I was pretty pumped on that! I didn’t really know what to expect. I was actually a bit nervous going into it, because I’ve been doing good, and with everybody showing up I still needed to do good. To be honest, I was so nervous I actually threw up on the starting line. I got a crap start, but I then settled in and rode my own race and it worked out for me.

What place did you start in?
I don’t know, but my dad said he counted me like 21st on the first lap, so I was back there.
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In the motos on Sunday you continued to ride well and finished sixth in the first moto.
Yeah, I got off to a really good start, but in the second turn I came together with Brett Metcalfe, and it was more my fault than anyone’s, and I ended up getting the bad end of it and went down. I kept the bike running, and I thought if I got back to top twelve or top ten, I’d be pretty pumped. And then I got up in there and was going good. I had a few spots on the track where I thought I was really good – better than any of the guys in front of me – and I just kept passing people in the same spots. I got up to tenth and I was really close to Aubin, Ferry and Byrne, and I managed to get around all three of those guys. And then Metcalfe fell down in a turn and that put me in sixth, so I was really happy on that ride.

Before this past weekend, did you think you would be catching and passing guys like Tim Ferry and Michael Byrne?
Well, I wasn’t sure, you know? That’s what I went to Southwick to do, but it just really didn’t work out for me and I struggled. I knew I was going to be okay, but then I got sick last week. I did a supercross on Friday night in Milan, and then I raced Hawkstone, the British Championship, the Sunday before. It was really too much for me to do, and I ended up getting sick. So last week I was in bed the whole week and only rode the 450 on Thursday. It was all right, but nothing great. Then I got to the track and really liked it, and everything just seemed to gel from the first practice on. It was sort of just an amazing weekend for me because I really never had any races where I could just pass people at will like that. It was pretty special.

What parts of the track were you making up time?
There was that roller whoop section after the start, and on Saturday I passed everyone in that section. After that there was a right-hander and I was taking a line that no one else was taking. On Sunday there was a tabletop and a left-hander and an inside supercross hump triple, or you could go around it on the outside. I had a good line there and just kept passing people. When I caught up to the faster guys, I figured that wasn’t going to work anymore, but it was still working, so I was like “Whoa, this is cool!”

Unfortunately you had some problems in the final MX2/Open moto.
Yeah, I put down a pretty big effort in the first race after falling and stuff, and I got cleaned out by some Spanish guy on the first lap. I was really bummed because I didn’t have a whole lot left going in to the second race because it was such a quick turnaround. And since I didn’t have a lot of time on the 450F, that didn’t help because it’s a different bike to ride and you have to be in better shape to ride it. I didn’t really have a lot left. I figured if I could get up there in the top ten, I could hold it, but it didn’t go so well and I ended up 24th. I think if I would’ve gotten seventh or eighth I would’ve won the overall, so that was a bummer, but there’s always next year.

What were your expectations going into this race?
I really didn’t know. I knew the MX3 class wouldn’t be too stacked, but I knew there would be good riders like Ferry and Byrner and those sort of guys, but I wasn’t sure. So, I figured maybe I’d be top five overall, but to go 6-24 for seventh overall, I thought that was pretty good.
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Were your Puerto Rican teammates pretty pumped on your riding?
Yeah, everyone was super pumped. Whenever I met them, our goal was just to qualify, and then we qualified and everyone was ecstatic. We really didn’t know what to expect for Sunday, but then we all did pretty good on Sunday except for Gino – he broke his collarbone, so that was a bummer.

Were you happy that Team USA won?
Yeah, I was. That’s my home country and it has always been one of my dreams to be on the American des Nations team, just because of the prestige it holds and everything. I hope that some day I can get to that level to be on the team.

What did you think of the track? Tim Ferry and Ryan and James said it was pretty rough.
Yeah, I never thought that it would’ve got as rough as it did just from looking at it on Saturday. I never been there before – everyone thought I had been there before, but I hadn’t. By my second race on Sunday, it was really, really rough. I couldn’t believe how rough it got.

So where are you staying over there?
I’m in Southampton, England. I live with the team owner, Steve Dixon.

  • Zach finished seventh overall in the Open class at the Motocross of Nations
  • Ryan Villopoto was happy to see his old competitor.
You like fish and chips?
I just had my first fish and chips today, actually! No joke! I’ve been trying to stay of the bad stuff, but me and one of my friends went to the mall today and we had fish and chips.

How have all the GP riders received you?
At first there wasn’t a lot of respect because I never been much and I was an American, and none of the riders really want to see anyone come over and succeed instantly. I feel like I’ve gained a lot of respect from there on and made a few allies and maybe even a few enemies at this point, but everything has been good so far. The fans have been great to me, and most of the riders are cool and everything is good.

What’s the plan for 2009?
I’m just going to stay here and do the British Championship and the GPs for U-Tag Yamaha.

When will we see you racing in America again?
Yeah, for sure! Next year I might do some races there, but we’ll just see how that turns out. I don’t want to rush it, though. When I come back I just want to be on a really good team. I think that has been part of my success since I’ve been here—I’m on a top level team.

What do you miss the most about Abingdon, Virginia?
I don’t know! I miss my family and my girlfriend a whole lot. But I get the job done here and I’m just surviving the best I can. I do a lot of stuff on my own and do a lot of driving, and sometimes it’s hard, but I get it done all right.

Who do you want to thank, Zach?
I want to thank the Lord for the blessing he gave me for this opportunity. I want to thank Steve Dixon and U-Tag Yamaha, Arai, Sinisalo, Smith, Michelin. Rinaldi and R&D—that’s about it.
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