Forget the aches and pains the world-class dirt acrobats deal with during the three months of body-pounding racing. There’s no break to heal. Riders continue to do what riders do. Ride.
“I’ve was consistently scoring 10th and 11th at the beginning of the season but my numbers are trending upward now…8th, 9th, 10th,” Tickle said. “I feel like I’m riding really well, hitting my spots, making good passes and I feel strong. When I’ve gotten a good gate, we’re riding top-five or so. The Main Event starts are where I’m losing positions and shots at podiums. The only way to get better is to get on the bike and train.”
Instead of traveling back home to spend the season’s only off week, Tickle packed his bags after Round 12 in Toronto last Saturday and headed back south to team owner Ricky Carmichael’s test track in Tallahassee (Fla.) to log more hours on his Dodge/Sycuan Casino/RCH Racing/Bel-Ray/Suzuki RM-Z450.
Tickle, 23, has been under the careful watch of Carmichael, the 15-time champion, whose role with the team includes rider development coach where he shares his expertise to help craft the skills of his young riders. Along with teammate Josh Hill, Tickle will pound out laps under the watchful eye of Carmichael, one of the most talented riders to ever throw his leg over a motorcycle.
“With it being Easter weekend, these guys have been in the grind since well before the season started back in January and this would be a good weekend for a rider to take off,” said Carmichael. “Some guys do and it works for them. Some guys like to stay in the grind and that’s what Broc’s doing, riding down at my place this week. We’re moving up in points and he had a really strong charge in Toronto after a tough start.
“We’re keeping our nose to the grindstone and building on our performances. He wants to get better, keep going. I respect that and want to help him do it.”
Tickle’s issue this season has been race starts in the Main Event. Breaking through Turn 1 mayhem has been the key for success in the sport’s elite division. Win the race for the first 200 feet after the gate drops and a podium seems almost certain.
Through the first 12 events this year, the rider leading the first lap has won 10 times. Only at Anaheim 2 (Round 3) and Toronto (Round 12) has that trend been broken.
“Historically, the race start has been critical in our sport but, for some reason, this year it’s just off the charts,” added Carmichael. “There is so much parity in the 450SX class right now. The guys are so close in speed that a holeshot is a must to get a podium.”
Tickle quickly points to two-time defending series champion Ryan Villopoto as the trendsetter.
“Villopoto is the best rider out there right now,” Tickle said of Villopoto. “He’s riding the most (timed practice) laps and just grinds. I’ve been getting better each week riding more laps which is helping me get the track dialed in, finding the different lines and knowing where I can make passes.”
Despite a disappointing 18th-place finish at the season opener in Anaheim, Tickle has scored seven top-10 finishes and vaulted nine positions in the standings. Despite the consistency, race starts have been the Achilles Heel for the Michigan native and negated even better finishes. He hopes the extra practice this week will provide valuable at the next event in Houston.
“What I’m seeing the last five weeks out of Broc is that he’s been more consistent,” said Carmichael. “You can see his confidence; he’s racing and battling with guys. He’s around guys that he needs to be racing with. Some guys are falling out of the point’s battle because of injuries. This is the toughest part of the season. If you can stay to the grind and keep pounding it out, you can take advantage of the guys who are beaten and battered. It’s an important time of the season and his riding is coming into form which gives me a lot of confidence in him.”
With two days of scheduled rides this week at Carmichael’s complex, the 2012 AMS Supercross Lites West champion hopes to polish his craft in quest of his first podium of the season. Tickle knows now is no time to rest.
“I felt that I rode really well in Toronto last Saturday,” he said. “The only thing that I was disappointed in was the start in the Main Event. Our Suzuki’s are fast but so are the top-10 riders. You just can’t afford to take time off.”