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Monday Conversation: Matt Goerke

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Team Yamaha’s Matt Goerke is now officially in the record books as an AMA National winner. This is the latest in a long string of occurrences that most wouldn’t have guessed before the season started. Goerke had a set of moto finishes reminiscent of Danny Smith’s win at the same track in 2002, going 6-1 for the overall victory after Chad Reed went down while leading the second moto. We talked to Goerke after the race.

Racer X: Forgive my ignorance, Matt, but have you actually finished on a podium before?
Matt Goerke: Not outdoors, no.

So your first-ever podium is an overall win?
Yeah, I know! It’s awesome!

Obviously you knew the bike was good when you moved to Team Yamaha for the rest of the year, but you have gotten significantly faster immediately. Is it just the bike? Is it the support you get? What was it?
The bike is awesome. The suspension and motor are great, and they have so much stuff to test! When I went out there, I couldn’t believe all the stuff they had to test. And they have so many people working together every weekend to make sure everything is perfect, too. I’ve never been on anything like that before.

So at least part of it seems to be the knowledge in the back of your head that you have all these people working on your behalf...
Yeah, it is. The bike’s better, and I can see them all pushing me all around the track, and that motivates me, too. I just feel like I’ve got one of the best bikes out there now, so it’s up to me.

So you don’t have any more excuses...
Yeah.

You’re from Florida, so I’m sure you’re good at riding sand, but that wasn’t a normal sand track today, was it?
Yeah, I’ve never really ridden sand like that, that’s for sure. But I doubt most people do because we don’t ride when it’s raining like that just for fun. The track was pretty gnarly. On the landings of the jumps, there were all kinds of ruts, and I felt like I was gaining on most of the people there. I would just jump into them because my suspension is so good, and I’d just land and pin it. A couple times I got sketchy, but as long as I held the gas on, I saved it. I only crashed once, and that was in the first moto.

After you fell battling with Andrew Short in the first moto, you got up and you caught him again and passed him. That’s kind of crazy. Shorty’s no slouch.
This whole team has made me a way better rider, it seems like. Like immediately.

Yeah, it seems like it happened overnight. That’s what’s so weird about it. It’s like a lightswitch. You were riding well this year outdoors, but like that you’re competing for podiums and you won a race.
I’ve never been on a real factory team like this before! [Laughs] Obviously, it makes a big difference!

Has it even sunk in yet? You’re in the record books permanently as an AMA National winner now...
Yeah, it hasn’t quite sunk in, I guess. It feels like a dream or something right now!

Yeah, because on the podium, John Dowd was up there, and he was pumping his fists, and you’re just standing there with like a half-smile on your face!
[Laughs] I bet tomorrow it’ll feel better, but right now...

It’ll probably be like Wednesday or something.
[Laughs]

You’ve been fast every week on the Yamaha, but you’ve had some crashes...
I crashed every single moto until that last one!

Well, now you’ve got one under your belt, and you won it, so what about Steel City?
I’m pumped, I can’t wait to race there. I should be right up front.

You’re signed up for next year already with the MCRMX team, right?
Yeah, but it’s a Yamaha team, so that’ll work out good, I think – hopefully...

When you’re out there and leading that second moto, can you tell us how you handled the pressure?
I had no idea I was going to win the overall, but I just wanted to win the moto, and once I got into the lead, I started getting a little nervous, and then I just started singing songs in my head so I would focus on the track. Then I saw Dowd start to catch me, because I was taking it kind of easy, so I was like, “Holy crap! How in the...” He’s like as old as my dad, and he’s catching me! So I was like, “Man, I’ve been training hard. There’s no way I’m going to let a guy that old catch me!” I used to watch him all the time, and I really looked up to him. I liked watching him. He was one of my favorite riders before I even started racing! So I picked it back up, and then I got into a good rhythm. Then, the last two laps, I started to think about it, and then I’d start singing a song in my head.

That’s pretty smart, instead of dwelling on it and freaking yourself out...
Yeah, I just kept trying to do that.

If he’d have caught you and passed you, he wouldn’t have been your favorite rider anymore, would he?
No! [Laughs]

Can you talk about your training?
My dad and Keith Ulrich both train me all the time at home. We do motos, and I’ve got a gym that my dad built that’s outside so we can work out in the sun, and it’s hot down there in Florida, so I’m in pretty good shape.

So when you push at the end of the moto, that’s just a matter of will?
Yeah, of course. I want to push, and I feel like I’m in good shape, too. The only thing that gets me is sometimes my stomach hurts, but other than that, I don’t get tired anymore.

What does this mean to your career to have won a race like this?
Hopefully this means that from now on I’ll be up front all the time. That’s what I plan on.
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