Racer X: How did this even happen?
Kyle Chisholm: Back in 2010, before the Motocross des Nations, I did pretty good outdoors on a 450, and I heard that [Zach] Osborne was racing the des Nations in Colorado for Puerto Rico. I thought it would be pretty sweet to race it, even if it wasn't for Team USA. So I contacted Gabbi, who runs the team for Puerto Rico, but he already had [Kyle] Regal so they didn't need the help. Then last year I was hurt. I was going to contact them this year, but I heard Jimmy [Albertson] was doing it. Honestly, I was just pumped when I heard it was going to be on TV here in the U.S. because I was pumped just to watch it! Then I woke up Thursday morning to an email saying Jimmy got hurt, and they needed someone to fill in for him. That was 9 a.m. I called my agent Jimmy Button, who was already over there with Team USA, and pretty much from 9 a.m. Thursday to my flight leaving at 7 p.m. that night, I was pretty much constantly on the phone with sponsors, my team, JWR, O'Neal to get gear. I gathered some parts that I had here in Florida and got the suspension off of my practice bike. It was a stressful day!
How did you get a Kawasaki over there?
Osborne is on a Yamaha team, and they were assuming the season was done and I could ride a Yamaha. But I'm still under contract with JWR; I'm riding Monster Energy Cup for them. Jimmy Button talked to Mitch [Payton] and he talked to the CLS Kawasaki team that Pourcel rides for; they said they could get me a bike. All I brought with me was practice suspension, sprockets, handlebars, grips and triple clamps. I thought I would have a stock bike with those parts—basically what I did at Bercy. But then they gave me Sebastian Pourcel's race bike from the GPs! Honestly I'm thankful they gave me that bike, but it almost would have been easier to race a stock bike. Here, we race on production bikes, so bolting some stuff on a stocker isn't that bad. I'm not complaining, but his bike was set up quite differently than my bike, and, to top it off, the airline lost all the parts I brought over, so I couldn't change anything. The Ohlins suspension guys set me up with some suspension, but it was a little tough.
Chisholm was a last minute replacement for Jimmy Albertson on Team Puerto Rico.
Sarah Gutierrez photo
How much riding had you been doing leading up to this?
My plan after Elsinore was to take off for three weeks, just take a break. I was going to get back going at the beginning of October. I rode at Chad's [Reed] last week, and I was lucky to do even that, it was the only riding I've done since Elsinore. So it would have been better to be more prepared, but it was a fun race, I'm glad I went.
Okay here's the million-dollar question: how gnarly was that track?
[Sigh] That was the gnarliest track I've ever ridden. You really can't even describe it. Actually last year, when David Vuillemin was my team manager, we were kind of making a plan to race the GP there. They had the GP on an off-weekend for us, and he tried to set it up, but I got hurt so I didn't end up doing it. I did expect it to be tough, but nothing like it was. It was the hardest track I've ever raced on in my life. Whatever you thought it could be, just times that by one hundred! When you see [Ryan] Dungey and all the American guys who were there for a week, with their race bikes, struggling, you can see it. Then you see [Tony] Cairoli and [Jeffrey] Herlings, I felt like I was a beginner riding out there. You have to respect those guys.
Okay, everyone keeps saying, "It's nothing like Southwick." Yeah, we get that. Southwick isn't the only sandy place you guys have ever ridden. How does this track compare to a sand pit in Florida, like Croom or something. Even the sandiest place in Florida isn't this sandy?
I usually do well at Southwick because it still gets bumps like a sand track, but I don't necessarily enjoy it. It has a harder base and you get square-edged bumps. It has a fine, more powdery sand. Florida is a thicker sand. Then going over to that track, it was like another step forward from Florida sand. It was just as bottomless as you can imagine—I don't know how to explain it any different. It was really heavy and really thick. The only practice that I got, it was pouring rain, so maybe that had something to do with it—some of the guys said it was different than it normally is there. There would be big sweeping turns, and you'd be in one deep rut a hundred feet long. You were in a rut all the way across the track—it wasn't just big rolling sand bumps, but you were in this rut down a whole straightaway. That was the hardest part for me; it was so hard to just go in a straight line.
Chisholm and Team Puerto Rico failed to make the finals at Lommel.
David Bulmer / Vurbmoto photo
So, take the Southwick thing out, which we know that's not like this. But it would be hard to find a place even in Florida to practice for this?
Yeah. Croom, for people that don't know, it's just a big public riding area in Florida, and it's a giant sand pit. It's whooped out and gnarly everywhere. That's where I ride to get in shape. I think that's pretty close, but the difference is, it's hard to find a closed course that's that sandy, and then you have 80 or 100 of the best sand riders practicing and qualifying for two days before they race. There were three 40-minute practices and three 20-minute motos, then all the races on Sunday, and they don't touch the track, besides fixing a couple of jump faces here and there. The holes were literally up to your handlebars. It was crazy! I've never ridden a track that was that tough. Even on the parade lap it was kind of tough. And in the race, you could never just settle into a rhythm, because if you tried to relax for a second, it would grab your front wheel. It was so gnarly. I don't even know how to describe it. Those guys are the best sand riders in the world in that type of sand—but there are a lot of different types of sand. I don't think those guys would dominate if they came over to Southwick. They would definitely be fast, but it's just totally different. It's cool to see them change it up and have a sand track like that—it was fun to watch.
So you're not bummed or mad about your results?
I'm bummed we didn't make it to the main motos as Team Puerto Rico. But I have to look at how last minute it was; I didn't even run the handlebars I normally run. You saw most of the USA guys struggle with the bikes they shipped over—they were as prepared as they could be, and they struggled to be top five in the motos. I was as unprepared as I could be. As for Team Puerto Rico, on the qualifier on Saturday, Zach Osborne went down pretty hard when he was running like sixth or seventh. We had 23rd gate pick, so I started like 15th, and I worked my way into 12th or 13th, and I saw some guys ahead of me. I think I could have gotten into the top ten, and that would have been enough for us to make it into the final. But then I ended up having a pretty big crash myself, as well. Some bad luck for our team, it wasn't like we weren't riding good enough to make the field as one of the 20 teams. So I'm not disappointed, it was cool to experience it—I got to check two things off of my bucket list: I got to ride that track, and I got to ride Motocross des Nations.