5 Minutes with... Mike Alessi

March 3, 2009 9:44am | by:

It’s obvious that Mike Alessi is a very good outdoor rider, and it’s also obvious that he really wants to be a supercrosser, too. During the off-season, he broke his leg trying to quad a jump that his Rockstar/Makita Suzuki teammate Chad Reed was jumping at the test track because he figured if Reed was jumping it, and if he wanted to be up front in supercross, he would have to jump it too. After missing much of his off-season testing and training schedule with the broken leg, he came into the 2009 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series cold. It took him half of the tour to get it sorted out, but he just recorded his first 450cc SX podium finish in Indy.

  • Mike earned his first Supercross class podium on Saturday
Racer X: Mike, I’ve known you since you were four, I think, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen you happier than you were on Saturday night. Well done. You’ve finally reached the box!
Mike Alessi: Yeah, it feels really, really good. I’ve been training really hard, especially in the off-season when I was hurting with my broken leg. It’s been a tough road to come back from all the injuries in 2008. It just feels goods to finally get back up there on the podium. I feel like this was a turning point for me. I feel like I got my confidence back, my speed is coming back... I feel like everything is starting to go good again for me. Every week’s been a stepping-stone or a progress for me to get better and better. I feel like this was the weekend that kind of broke through.

I figured out the 10th lap was exactly the halfway point of the series, and when the series started, there was some question as to whether you were even going to ride or not because of your leg and you were out for so long. Getting here to this point, half the series, was that the goal?
For me the goal for SX was really to get out there and be consistent every weekend, inside the top 10 and getting my speed back every weekend. Like I said, I started riding December 15 and it’s been just so long since I had ridden a bike since my injury in September. I didn’t ride pretty much all of September, all of October, all of November and half of December. My first day back, Alex Martin – the owner of Millville, John Martin’s son – rode with me the first day I came back to riding and I felt embarrassed because I was too scared to jump the triples. I actually had to have him show me how to jump the triple first because I was too scared to do the first day of riding again. It’s just, like I said, the injuries have been so tough. I felt like I lost a lot of my confidence and I felt like I had kind of let myself down. After all the injuries, I felt like I didn’t have that confidence and I was kind of scared to get back on the bike and jump anything. I have a lot more confidence since I started riding again in December and my bike is working great. The team is fantastic. Everyone is supporting me 100-percent. It just feels good. I think the team is doing great. Chad is back (tied) in the points lead; Nico was on the podium this weekend; and I’m right up there on the podium this weekend. I think Suzuki is looking great. Those guys couldn’t be more happy.

When we talked earlier today, you actually brought up a pretty good trivia question: When is the last time Suzuki had two guys up on the box? I’m still going to have to get back to you on that because we haven’t figured it out. But dude, what’s up with the lousy holeshot? Chad Reed beat you off the start?
[Laughs] I don’t know, man… Honestly, I think Chad has been watching my start technique. I’ve kind of helped him out a little bit but I don’t want to give him too much of my secret. I’ve been kind of helping him a little bit so his starts aren’t so bad. He’s starting in 10th place. Every week, he’s progressively getting better on his starts and I think it just helps—me working with him just a little bit – and it shows.

  • Alessi airs it out in Indianapolis
Did it surprise you when he jumped the double right out of the gate?
I couldn’t believe it!

That was huge. I was down in the end zone and I was like, Whoa! This guy means business tonight! But then you also can’t take anything away from James Stewart. He went down twice and got up and he’s riding extraordinarily well right now.
Both those guys are riding extremely well right now. They’re in a different class right now. There’s James, there’s Reed, and then you’ve got me, Millsaps, Villopoto...  It’s like the mini ranks when we were back at Loretta Lynn’s, battling for the podium. It’s pretty cool. In the heat race this past weekend in Indy, it felt like I was back at Loretta Lynn’s battling with my two arch-rivals—Davi and RV—going for the win in the final moto at Loretta Lynn’s. It was just awesome. It was a great feeling.

Back to Stewart for a second: When he passed you when he was coming up through the main, you got right back in there and made a pass back. It’s been a while since we’ve seen someone other than Reed get right back in there after he passes and shows him a wheel or makes a re-pass.
Yeah, he went double, step-on, step-off and I went up the inside and tripled on the table top and stepped up and came up the inside and kind of stuffed him. I was just riding aggressive and not taking anything. I felt like I was fighting for it. I think that main event really proved that I was for real and I was there to get on the podium and I was not scared of anybody and I did whatever it took to make sure I stayed in front. Whereas before the first couple of laps everyone attacks me and I fall back to like sixth, seventh, eighth, and that’s where I stay. I think this weekend was a turnaround for me. I felt more confident and I was racing those guys and I showed a lot of aggression and a lot of speed and a lot of fight.

Now about this weekend: I didn’t see your dad Tony there. Did your dad take the weekend off and stay home?
No, he didn’t come. He was on his way to Florida to get the Florida track ready and stuff like that. But no, he didn’t come. This is the first race in my whole career he’s missed. I think it was pretty nice. It was just me and my girlfriend Danielle. We just went to the races together and I think it was just really nice. [There was] not a lot of pressure. [It was] more relaxing and I just went out there and had fun. I didn’t take it too serious. I think I rode the best I ever have in Supercross.

I saw your team manager after the race and Roger [DeCoster] had a giant smile on his face. I think that was a long time coming—not only the win but to have you up there on the box as well.
Yeah, after the race he came up and gave me a big bear hug. He was so happy. It just made me feel good that he appreciated that I was able to give back to him and the team a podium finish.

  • Watching Alessi, Villopoto, and Millsaps do battle was a trip down memory lane
With the supercross season starting off the way it did, right now you’re racing for experience and whatnot... But how much are you looking forward to the summer, where everyone starts from scratch all over again and you are already a proven title contender outdoors?
I’m really looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be a great season. I’ve just got to stay 100-percent healthy through Supercross, through the last half coming up here, and get into motocross safe, and give the fans what they want. They want to see a battle. They want to see a good race. And hat’s what I want to give them. I think it’s going to be awesome this summer with a bunch of the races going to be live on TV. I think it’s going to be great for the fans. It’s going to be great for our sport and it’s just going to make our sport elevated. Like you said, I think this is my year to win the championship. I just have to stay 100-percent focused and healthy and I know I can get it done.

Well this weekend you’ve got a race that’s pretty much live on TV as well with the Daytona SX. They switched it to Saturday night. Last year, of course, it was a muddy mess, but you were on the sidelines. So this will be your first time on a 450 at Daytona…
Yes, it is. I’m looking forward to it. A lot of people say it’s more motocross, but I don’ t look at it like it’s a motocross race or a supercross race. I just go out there and give it a 100 percent, you know? I just go out there and do the best I can.

Right on. Well, congratulations. I watched the TV show yesterday. You were as ecstatic talking there as you were on the podium talking to everyone in the stadium. I know somewhere out in Phoenix, Bobby Myers has a big smile on his face.
I’m just really excited for everybody – American Suzuki, Rockstar/Makita Suzuki they do a great job. My mom and dad, being there, supporting me... My girlfriend Danielle, just all my family and friends, Shark, Smith, Alpinestars, Rockwell, my doctor, and all my family and friends for supporting me and not giving up on me. Everybody that’s been there supporting me, I just really appreciate it. It just feels good to give back to everybody who’s been there for me. I’ve got to give it up to the good Lord Jesus Christ for keeping me safe out there and helping me get on the podium this weekend. That was the biggest , probably the biggest thing in my career to this point right now is getting on the podium in a Supercross Premiere Class.

{LINKS}Well, I’m sure there’s more to come. Enjoy this one and we will see you down in Florida, Mike.
Ok, thank you again. I appreciate it.