This was your first race back since September of last year. Take us through the weekend. How you felt physically, mentally…
It was a really tough weekend for me. I mean it all went good and everything but I never felt like I got into a good pace all weekend. I was so nervous, it was my first race since September and the first race I came back from after the Italian GP was Anaheim 1 and I got hurt in practice and to be off the bike for five months was kind of scary. To be back only riding for a month and showing up to race was kind of a tough deal but I figured I might as well go ahead and do it now because I need to race myself back into shape. It ended up going good, 12-12 is not something that I would usually be super proud of but given the circumstances I was pretty happy with the whole weekend. There were a couple of little things that I felt like I could have controlled and changed, like getting passed on the last lap of the second moto, I was kind of bummed on that but the whole weekend was a success for me.
Thunder Valley marked Albertson's first race since last September.
Photo: Garth Milan
How has the training been coming along?
Coming back after my knee injury I haven’t been able to practice long motos because it would take a toll on my knee, not that it is not healed and ready to go back into action, but you put a couple of 20 minute motos on my knee when I was first coming back riding and it would be swollen and I would have to take a couple of days off. So I really haven’t been able to hit it too hard as far as my riding goes, but I have been training a lot off the bike. I didn’t feel like I really wasted myself out there, but I think it will be a lot easier at RedBud not having to deal with the altitude and everything.
How did the knee feel after putting in two 30-plus minute motos?
Its fine now. I don’t have any real problems with it. I got a full doctors release on Friday before Thunder Valley. I had been practicing on it for about a month before having a doctor’s release. Every doctor is going to be a little different on when to come back, but I had some doctors tell me it would be okay to ride at four months and that is when I started riding. It felt good. Honestly when I saw the track was so rutty and everything and that I was going to have to keep my leg out from dabbing it across the ruts I was a little worried about twisting it but after the first moto I dabbed it down a couple of times and let it drag behind me and it didn’t hurt so it helped me build confidence knowing that my leg was fine and everything is going to be okay. I still have this sick mental picture in my head about my leg being out sideways. It’s hard to block that out but I think the more and more I race it’s going to be fine. I just need to convince myself that everything is good and lets go racing.
So it’s a trust issue with the knee right now.
Exactly. And it doesn’t help when you have some doctors telling that your knee won’t be the same for years. I’m one of those type of people to listens to how my body feels and things feel good, so lets go do it and get some races under our belt, and I feel that things went pretty good.
Obviously an ACL tear is not a minor injury. What type of training did you implement into your routine to help strengthen the knee?
It wasn’t just my just my ACL, they had to do a complete reconstruction on my knee. Everything was just ripped out of there, there was basically nothing there holding it together. They brought me to the ER and they thought I had broken my leg, because everything felt detached. That was the tough part, having to wait a month for surgery and then another month and a half to walk. I started swimming about a lot about three weeks before I could start walking. That helped me out a lot. I think that is what helped my knee strength come back so quick compared to other people. I was putting in hour swims in the pool, swimming lap after lap. By the time they gave me permission to walk I was already up to strength so I was able to pretty much walk right away. But then when I went to Colorado as soon as I got into the altitude my knee swelled up big and I was like, “What is going on, my knee hasn’t swelled in three weeks and I have been riding hard on it.” I was freaking out! [Laughs] But I iced it a bunch the next day before the race and the swelling went down, so it wasn’t really a problem.
Albertson went 12-12 for 12th overall at Thunder Valley.
Photo: Garth Milan
Did it ever cross your mind to consider not returning until RedBud because of the altitude?
It did. Because I really like RedBud and I really like Millville. They are like two of my favorite tracks and I also have good races there and seem to ride well there. It was one of those things where we were like lets wait ‘till Millville because there is a week break or lets wait till RedBud because we like that place. Its not like Colorado is not a great track, but there are a lot of obstacles to overcome, especially hopping in halfway through the series and everybody is used to riding the rough tracks and stuff like that. But we realized if I want to do good at Millville I need to be racing before then. You can’t just expect to hop into the series and expect to run with those guys. Especially since not racing since September. I needed to be lining up with those guys before I started to expect to have that comfort level.
What were your expectations heading into Thunder Valley?
When we loaded up with Jim Lewis and Merge Racing and my brother and I, the whole way up there they were like, “We don’t care if you barely score points on the weekend, we don’t care, just go out and ride and have a good time.” There was no pressure and that is kind of how we took it. Of course there was a lot of pressure on myself I really wanted to get a top-ten this weekend. I was on the bubble there and if I wouldn’t have gotten passed on the last lap by Nick Wey, somehow a 12-11 would have given me a ninth overall. I was really close to my goal, and so what, I got passed on the last lap. That kind of gives me more fire and motivation. I drove home myself 11 hours from Colorado and the whole way I was thinking, “Ahh if I just would have held on the last lap.” It was just eating at me! (Laughs)
You have had a longstanding relationship with Trey Canard, how much has he helped you this year?
Yeah, Trey always helps out. He lets us stay here at his place in Oklahoma and just takes care of us down here. We have two awesome tracks to ride and I always have someone to chase down. He has been riding here for a little while and he is already going really fast. If I ever run into any problems he is the first person to say, “Hey man let me help you out.” The guy is just a real genuine dude and he would do anything to make sure that I stayed racing. It’s good to have him around and part of my program.
Your brother Greg has been your mechanic since your amateur days. How does it feel to have such a close member of your family being a part of your team?
Yeah, it always been cool. Since I was about 15 he has done the mechanic deal and I have done the riding and we have had a blast doing it. We got a motorhome this year and we are driving to all the races. There is no better feeling than going to the line and just hanging out and messing around and talking. It is good having someone you are so close with working on your bike. We are like best friends so it is cool to travel the country together and do our thing.
Albertson is back after major knee surgery that left him on the sidelines for the entire SX season.
Photo: Garth Milan
At the end of the year looking back what would you say you would be happy with? Or are you just trying to take it race by race.
I just kind of take it race by race. For me I just want to leave every single weekend knowing that I improved. We started out 12th this weekend and if I can keep on improving and by the end of the year I’m knocking on the door of a top-five I would be ecstatic. That’s my goal is to steadily improve every single weekend, get the bike better, get myself in better shape and by the end of the year, be able to rip holeshots and try to run inside the top five. I think that is a realistic goal, knowing that I got 12th at the first race and I wasn’t prepared. People were asking me at the track if I was ready, and I was like, “No, I’m not ready!” (Laughs) But then again you can look at it like are you ever truly ready. Nobody on that gate is every truly ready. Ryan Villopoto, I guarantee there is something on his body hurting, he is dealing with something. Chad Reed I guarantee he has something hurting. No one can ever truly be ready. That is what I always try to remember is as much as I feel like I’m not ready everybody else on that gate has the sense of ,“Oh man something is going on.” It’s whoever can put all those doubts aside and race as best as they can with with they’ve got. That is what is going to make a good racer. And that is what I have really been trying to do—just put the rest behind.
Yeah I want to give a big shout out to Jim Lewis at Merge Racing, he has really been helping me build my bike. Troy Lee Designs, Alpinestars, Tag Metals, Scott, Shoei, DVS, Rockwell, Donnells, CTI2 Knee Braces, Shannon Niday at MX Schools, Greg DiRenzo my trainer, FMF and of course my brother and my mechanic Greg.