5 Minutes with… Josh Strang

5 Minutes With… Josh Strang

June 28, 2011 3:10pm
FMF Makita Suzuki’s Josh Strang came into the Motosport.com Snowshoe GNCC merely hoping to survive after a nasty cold prevented him from riding or training the week prior to “America’s Toughest Race”. The Defending XC1 Champion dug deep and produced his second win of the season - extending his points lead over FMF KTM’s Charlie Mullins.  The Aussie rider is all smiles as we caught up with him at his newly purchased home in Murrieta, California.

So you finally got that second win of the season at Snowshoe on Sunday. I know you were battling an illness all week, how did that affect the week leading up to the race?
Yeah I finally got the win at Snowshoe so that was good! But I got sick last Sunday so the week leading up to the race I pretty much did nothing. I went to the doctor trying to get some stuff so I could get a bit better and basically just stayed on the couch all week.  I tried to go out for a road cycle Thursday morning and I didn’t feel too great so I wasn’t too keen on showing up for the race on Sunday morning. It ended up turning out pretty well for me, so I’m all smiles now I guess (laughs). I was a little worried about how the race was going to end up and I know Shane, Rodney and the team were a little worried as well. I was pretty lucky I didn’t get stuck and have to push the bike too much because that would have taken a lot out of me being sick and all.

Strang (number 1) jumping out to the early lead at Snowshoe.
Photo: Andrew Fredrickson

How was the course?
Someone asked me that the other day and I said I liked it but I also said I if I didn’t win, I probably wouldn’t have liked it so much (laughs). I’ve always kind of enjoyed Snowshoe, it’s always been difficult but it’s kind of different from the other places we go. It’s not like a normal South Carolina race where you’re actually racing, like the fastest guy will actually win. Snowshoe is something where you have to be there at the end of the race and not get stuck in the mud hole and not get stuck on the hills. You’ve got to be smart and be there at the end of the race, whether you get a first or a third, it’s good championship points, you know?

Tell us a little bit about the race.
We started with five on the front row and I got off to a good start. I didn’t really want to lead the first part of the race but I started off leading for a couple miles at the beginning. The first couple miles were pretty laid back and normal so that was fine. I dropped back a little bit and the first lap was pretty much normal. I think everyone was taking it pretty easy and trying not get stuck and just feeling it out. From what we all heard, the track was going to be tougher than it has ever been and so the first lap everyone was just kind of taking it easy and making sure we could get around.  A bunch of the guys from behind started catching up so there was a bunch of us all bunched together for a while.  With two laps to go, Charlie [Mullins] got to the front and he started to go fast, putting a bit of a gap on third place.  Him and I got stuck on a rocky hill that on a normal day you could have ridden up. There were a couple lappers stuck on it and him and I got stuck and were pushing our bikes side-by-side next to each other and a couple other guys went by. We got to another hill and Steward [Baylor] and Charlie were stuck there again and somehow I got around them.  On the last lap it was Nate [Kanney] and I and then Steward caught up as well and I just managed to pass Nate through one of the mud holes and then that was it.

So on a gnarly track like Snowshoe, would you rather follow or get out front to an open trail?
I think with this track especially, it’s just easier to follow someone.  It’s not a track where someone’s really fast and can just pull away.  It’s easier to follow someone, because as Nate was saying, if the rider in front of you gets stuck, you can kind of see where not to go and choose a different line.

Strang won his second overall in the XC1 class at Snowshoe this past weekend.
Photo: Andrew Fredrickson

A lot of guys were struggling through the mud hole and you managed to actually gain time there. How’d you do it?
Well this is the fourth year we’ve been coming to Snowshoe and we’ve ran that same mud hole every year. The second year I got stuck in that thing for I think more than five minutes and ever since then, I’ve never gone through. I know they run that line around it and even though it’s longer, there’s no mud there and there’s no risk of getting stuck.  I had to try and save energy and I knew if I got stuck I would be out of energy because of this cold so I just went around it each lap.  On the first lap I didn’t make any passes, on the second lap I made a few and on the last lap I actually passed Nate for the lead there.  I know it’s a longer line but I feel it was the smarter choice.

Does it help to have Rodney Smith and your crew out there pointing you in the right direction?
Yeah, it’s good having Rodney and those guys out there for sure. Even guys like Randy Hawkins and a couple of the other teams are out there pointing lines to all the pro guys and I think that’s pretty cool that everyone does it for everyone. Rodney will usually go out to the bad places and stand out there, I mean it was a little harder at this track to get to all those places but it definitely helps having him out there and all the other people out there pointing lines as well.

Strang now holds an eleven point lead over Charles Mullins in the XC1 class.
Photo: Shan Moore

Talk about the challenge in the XC1 class right now, you, Paul Whibley and Mullins all have two wins under your belt so what’s it going to take to pull of another championship this year?
Well we’re only about halfway through the season so there’s still a lot racing to go. Especially this year, we’ve got six races after the break and they’re all pretty close together.  I mean, anything still can happen. This year is a little different as far as the championship goes, I’m just going to keep plugging away and working at it. We’ve got the John Penton in a couple weeks and I’m going to try and win that one and go off to the summer break with a win, which is what we really want. I’d like to do a few of the National races during the break but with the budget for this year it’s really hard to make that happen. So I’ll keep riding and training until GNCC comes back around.