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5 Minutes with... Mike Alessi

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Despite some flashes of brilliance early in the summer, 2008 has been hard on Mike Alessi. First came an injury-abbreviated supercross series, and then, after positioning himself as the second-fastest motocross rider in the world — only James Stewart was faster — Alessi hit the dirt in a horrific crash at Red Bud and got trampled under the tires of numerous motorcycles before being immediately whisked away to an emergency room. Bones broken and his season through, the Californian returned to test in September, only to break his leg in a testing crash. #800 finally received a good piece of news on Monday when doctors finally cleared him to begin riding again. Awash in rumors as to his whereabouts and just what his future held, on Tuesday afternoon, and with a fluke upper-Midwest-type snowstorm keeping him indoors, Mike was able to set the record straight and tell us about being back on his Rockstar/Makita Suzuki RM-Z450, and how Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, will figure into his immediate future.

  • Mike Alessi was the only rider other than James Stewart to lead a lap outdoors this summer.
Racer X: Mike, your dad told me you guys are in the middle of a major snowstorm...
Mike Alessi: Yeah, it’s actually pretty bad. I’ve never actually seen it snow here in California. This is the first time, so it’s actually pretty amazing.

Where in California are you?
I’m up in Victorville [northeast and up the hill from Glen Helen] and there are six or seven inches of snow on the ground. It’s pretty deep, man!

Your dad mentioned your brother, Jeff, got his truck stuck in the snow.
Yeah, he was just trying to pull out of the driveway. He couldn’t even pull out of the driveway because he doesn’t have four-wheel drive.

It sounds like you finally received your doctor’s clearance to begin riding again, is that correct?
Yeah, I just got the doctor’s clearance on the 15th, which was Monday. I just started riding yesterday. I actually rode with [Trey] Canard a little bit. I’m supposed to be riding all the way up to Anaheim. Unfortunately, we have gotten bad weather, so it’s going to slow me down. As far as my speed, I feel like my speed is actually really good for riding just one day. I think the more I ride and the more I just keep getting on the track and doing more laps, the better I’ll get.

A1 is really questionable. I don’t know if I’ll even be ready to race or not. Whether or not I’m ready, I just need to get out there and just race and be with the guys. As soon as the season starts going, I’ll pick up more speed and endurance riding with the guys. I’ve been off the bike since September 10. That was the day I got hurt. I mean, it’s been over three months since I’ve been on a motorcycle.

You’ve always struck me as a guy that will show up and race anywhere and at any time. Has it driven you a bit crazy to be on the sidelines, watching the world go by?
Actually, it has. You know, I mean, it seems like I have been out of racing for so long. I haven’t been at a track since July 6 when I got hurt at Red Bud. It’s just been so long… I have not been to the races for a long time and I feel like I need to finally just get out there. Whether or not Suzuki is going to hold me from racing the first couple of supercrosses, I feel it’s pointless. I just need to get out there just to race and ride with the guys and have fun out there.

Kind of ride yourself into shape?
Yeah, exactly.

  • Roger wants Mike at 100% before he gets back on a bike...
  • ...while Mike insists that being on a bike will bring him back up to 100%
While you were healing up, were you able to train in other ways?
Yeah, in the meantime, after the injuries, I healed up for about a month. After I got the release from a doctor saying I could start training, I started training, road biking, lifting weights — I started doing that pretty big all through October and November. I actually put on about 10 to 15 pounds of muscle and I’m lean and strong and I’m feeling good. My endurance is really good on the road bike. It’s just about putting laps down now and getting out there and riding the motorcycle.

But you’re still a bit up in the air about Anaheim I?
Yeah, it’s going to be close. It’s questionable if I’ll even be ready. To me, it doesn’t even matter. Whether I’m ready or not, you know I just need to get up there and ride with the guys. I’m probably about 3,000 or 4,000 laps behind everybody else on supercross testing. I mean, everyone has been riding supercross all of September, all of October, all of November and just half of December. But I just got into riding. It’s pointless to think I need to sit out because I’m not ready. It’s better if I’m just out there racing. I need to race the guys and get off the gate with the guys and get my endurance back. That’s the best way I think it’ll come back is getting out there and going racing.

How has Roger DeCoster been? Does he want you to be patient and make sure you’re in shape and ready to go? I mean, I’ve seen pictures of the Suzuki team down in Florida riding. I imagine that had to be a bit frustrating for you...
Yeah, for sure. I’m just chomping at the bit to get on the bike. Like you said, Roger just wants me to be 100 percent and not come back too soon. I’m 100 percent now and I’ve got my doctor’s release. I think I just need to get out there and race at Anaheim I.

During the past few months, whether it be on TV or the Internet, have you been able to watch any of the races such as the Motocross of Nations, the U.S. Open and the Paris Supercross?
Yeah, I was able to watch a little bit of all of them. Obviously, [James] Stewart and [Chad] Reed are going to be the main guys in supercross. Those guys are going so fast right now that for me I just need to get out there and ride with those guys and just learn a little bit from them. I have not ridden with Chad since the day I got hurt in September, so I have not seen anybody ride but Trey Canard, who came up and rode yesterday.

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How do you think Ryan Villopoto will do come Anaheim?
I’m sure he’s going to be right there battling with the top guys for second and third. I‘m sure he’s going to be right there. He’s a talented guy and he has a lot of speed and has a good bike and a good program behind him. No doubt he’ll be up there, for sure.

I was looking at your results from last year’s supercross series. Although you only competed in five rounds, you were right there hovering around fifth-place. You were really consistent and seemed to be gaining confidence.
Yeah, the season started out pretty good for me. I was consistently right there in sixth and fourth. I got a sixth, a sixth, a fourth and another sixth at Anaheim III, but then I got hurt at San Diego. So, unfortunately, my season ended. I didn’t really get to ride that many supercrosses. And then in the outdoors, I only raced like four or five outdoor races and then I got hurt again. This whole year, I’ve only raced 10 times or something like that. It’s been pretty bad for me because I’m used to racing every weekend or going overseas or racing the local races to get in shape or racing nationals or riding supercross. It’s like, man, I’m always racing. And this year, I feel like I haven’t really done any racing at all because I’ve been hurt. It’s just been one of those years where you just have to take it all in and just learn from it and apply it to next year and make sure I don’t make those same mistakes.

  • Alessi thinks he can contend for the podium in supercross...
  • ... but feels he's in the hunt for the championship outdoors
Despite all those ups and downs, in the nationals, with the exception of two motos, you were second in every moto. Did that work wonders for your confidence? Were you getting more and more confident with each passing moto?
I felt like I was getting closer to James. James is pretty much the best in the world right now. No offense to Ricky—he’s the GOAT, he’s the greatest of all time—but James was riding really good and I felt honored to be that close to him and giving him a race, you know? I was the only guy out there who was challenging him and the only guy to speak of that led any laps over him all summer long. That was an accomplishment in itself, just to be able to lead James 13 laps. Like you said, I was getting closer and closer every round.

What’s the plan for supercross?
Realistically, I can’t really set any goals. I can’t really have any expectations because nobody is really expecting me to do much. I mean, I just got on a bike and we have two weeks to the race. Nobody can really expect anything from me but to just to go out there and ride and get points and just get myself back into shape and consistently be putting down good laps and making sure I’m hitting the turns right, hitting the whoops right, hitting the rhythm sections right... That’s the main thing I’m focusing on: Myself and riding my own race. That’s pretty much it.

If you get back into fighting shape, do you have some podiums in you?
I would like to think so, but that’s a long time away. That’s months away. I mean as far as right now, I’d just like to just be out there racing and being healthy. Supercross is the focus right now—we’re in that moment, right? As far as outdoors, yeah, I’d like to say it’s going to be me and Villopoto and probably [Ben] Townley battling for the championship this year. And that is the main focus and the ultimate focus — to win that 2009 Motocross championship and to be that guy holding the number-one plate at Steel City.

Okay, Mike. We’re happy to hear you’re back on the bike and ready to go racing. Anything you want to toss in here at the end?
Yeah, I just want to thank all the fans out there for supporting me and all the letters that I got this summer from my Red Bud crash. I just want to say thank you again to them. I want to thank all the guys at Rockstar and Makita Suzuki for just being so awesome to me and for being there for me. I want to thank Smith goggles, Shark helmets, Alpinestars gear, my mom and dad, my girlfriend, God for keeping me safe and for allowing me to get back on the bike and doing what I love to do.

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