Notice a trend here?
Heading east is no longer an advantage as much as it is not a disadvantage, as in, if you don’t go and everyone else does, you’re missing out, but if you do go, you’re merely matching the competition. If you want to be a player (and you have the money to handle dual citizenship in both California and Florida) then you have to put down some roots in the Sunshine State, or maybe just a bit further north in Georgia.
The riders will tell you their practice tracks on the east are better. The California clay only has a short sweet spot between watered and as slippery as ice, then rideable, then baked. The Florida soil can be ridden on for hours with the right prep. Plus, it more closely resembles the dirt used on this swing of tracks—Atlanta, St. Louis, Daytona, Indianapolis, Toronto—than the hard stuff out west. But riders with tracks down here admitted to me that they’ll probably prep things differently than the actual race track builders. The Atlanta track was tacky in spots but dry and slippery in others. Davi Millsaps told me that his track near the Florida/Georgia border is the same, “Tacky when you water it and slick when you let it get dry.” But Millsaps doesn’t let his track get very dry or slick. Justin Barcia, with a track near Millsaps, does the same. Millsaps, Barcia and Dungey all told me that riding Florida practice tracks helps a little with dealing with the dirt at the eastern races, but that's not the best reason to stay there.
Ryan Villopoto, along with a host of other riders, will be setting up shop in Florida the next couple of weeks.
Photo: Simon Cudby
Moving east gets them away from everyone else. Back east, you’ve got trainers, practice mechanics and other riders. That’s all. Out west, you have everything else, like sponsors, and you get booked up for so many visits, hangouts and appearances that it really cuts into the day. Plus, most riders in California don’t live as close to those tracks as they do to their eastern ones, and even when you do drive, you’re not dealing with as much traffic, so the commute is a bit shorter and a whole lot less stressful.
After Dallas, Ryan Villopoto’s trainer Aldon Baker said he couldn’t wait to make the switch back to Florida, because they’ll have much more time to focus on the work. In many ways, basing your operation in Florida is more relaxing than doing it in California. But in other ways, it just opens up the opportunity to do more work!