It’s been a week since the bombshell dropped about James Stewart’s positive test for a banned substance back in early April, and it’s pretty much all anyone is talking about. Well, anyone but Stewart. James has wisely kept out of the public conversation, as this is a complicated matter with the potential for long-term penalties. It’s all been something of a moving target, too—not just for James and his team but for this series as well.
As I wrote last weekend, I am really not sure how it’s all going to turn out, and I’m still not, except for the fact that MX Sports Pro Racing will allow James to race this weekend in Tennessee, as the FIM’s Provisional Suspension does not pertain to AMA Pro Racing and the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. However, it’s a fluid situation, and if his appeal is denied and his license is in turn revoked, that may change things. There’s also the matter of the drug test taken in Colorado by twelve riders in the series, including Stewart. We are still awaiting the results there, and also a chance to see if the therapeutic use exemption (TUE) was filed and accepted for whatever medication the athlete was prescribed. That could also complicate matters, though it’s quite complicated enough already.
Earlier this week, Jason Weigandt provided everyone with a deep-dive paper on why Stewart is allowed to race this weekend, and it’s a pretty complex piece and also very enlightening. The WADA code and FIM rules are complex, written in seemingly longhand legalese. Power through it if you really want to get a reading on the thought processes and official jurisdictions between WADA and the USADA, the FIM and AMA, and ultimately AMA Pro Racing, that led to this decision, and also how they might change.
Beyond that, I can’t imagine what’s going through Stewart’s head right now. He’s coming off of his most dominant outdoor performances in years and seemed to have finally found the right setup for his Yoshimura Suzuki. To go from that personal triumph to a colossal public scandal, based on a prescribed medication for a condition he was apparently embarrassed about, can’t be a smooth transition. I hope he shows up and races in Tennessee, and I hope the fans and media give this whole episode a chance to play itself out before passing judgment. James Stewart is now in the most important battle of his career, and it’s one that will be settled off of the racetrack.
Speaking of racetracks, I did get down to Muddy Creek for a couple days this week to help get things set up, and the place looks fantastic. It should be a hot and somewhat muggy race, and the Mark Barnett-built track for Saturday’s national looks like it’s going to be rough and fun. If the weather works out, it should be an epic race at Sam Gammon’s place.
There have been other bits of news: 250 Motocross Champion Eli Tomac will finally make his outdoor debut on the #3 GEICO Honda, and JGR Yamaha’s Justin Brayton is coming back too. Both were at press day yesterday. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson is also coming back after his brutal crash in the second moto at Glen Helen coming down the big hill. And Dean Ferris’ Red Bull KTM deal seems to be over for now, as the injured Aussie is finally coming back from his wrist injury, albeit with a Husqvarna GP team in Europe. Ryan Villopoto, 450 Motocross Champion, went to Europe for a holiday and was at the German GP, but the rumor mill stayed on track and no Villopoto-to-GPs reports got any traction, especially after he said himself that while he enjoys Europe, he’s contracted to race here. And Steve Matthes went back home to Canada to check out the Regina National there and visit with the MotoCon—
Oh, let’s just forget about that.
And we are very proud of something new that started on Tuesday here in Morgantown: the Racer X Show, a weekly online highlights show hosted by longtime motorcycle TV personality Greg White. Each week the plan is to bring you racing highlights and stories from all over the country. The first show featured the High Point National, GNCC Racing, Endurocross, the Superbike Challenge, and more. Please check it out right here and stay tuned for more, every Tuesday at Racertv.com. And congrats to Greg, Tim Crytser (Racer X’s Virtual Trainer and new TV producer), Galoop, and my sister, Carrie—the whole thing was her idea—on getting something very cool up and running!
HOW TO WATCH MUDDY CREEK (Chase Stallo)
The TV schedule for Round 5 of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross from Muddy Creek will undergo a change—as NBC will air action for the first time this season. Per usual, second practice will stream live on Promotocross.com and NBC Sports Live Extra at 10:30 am ET. The Pre-Show hosted by Georgia Lindsey will follow at 12:15 pm ET. Live coverage of first motos begins at 1:00 pm ET on Promotocross.com, NBC Sports Live Extra and MAVTV. As stated, NBC will pick up second moto coverage of the 450 Class beginning at 3:00 pm ET. Second moto coverage of the 250 Class will air on NBC Sports Network at 6:00 pm ET. Live coverage of both motos can also be seen on Promotocross.com and NBC Sports Live Extra. For more details, click HERE.
TESTING: STRAIGHT FROM THE RIDERS’ MOUTHS (Chase Stallo)
At the Red Bull Tennessee National Press Day on Thursday, we asked a handful of riders what they thought of drug testing in our sport—not specifically about the Stewart situation. It was to gauge what the athletes thought of the testing process and what it means for the sport.
Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen: “I honestly don’t care. It might actually be good to do it because people talk and say, ‘This guy is doing this. This guy is doing that.’ It starts getting annoying, especially when someone comes up with something and most people say, ‘Hey, everybody does that, not just him.’ We all got tested, and if something doesn’t show up, obviously we are not taking anything. It’s speculation. I honestly don’t mind. I’m not taking anything, so I don’t stress about it.”
JGR Yamaha’s Josh Grant: “I know everyone is getting a lot hype on the drug-testing thing, but I think it needs to be a little more clarified—what they have for rules and stuff. If you’re doing EPO or blood transfusion, then I think that should be banned. But if you’re going to take something the doctor prescribed to you—Adderall or NyQuil or DayQuil or whatever it is—you have to keep your body healthy, and I don’t think they understand what we have to go through for this sport. I guess if we were dribbling a basketball back and forth it would be a different story, or if we were playing baseball … it’s not really that gnarly. I think for us, our body goes through so much, and we don’t have any time to take breaks and stop, so you have to keep healthy, and if the doctor thinks that’s what you need, then that’s what you need. I don’t think Stewart is cheating or anything. I think it’s bogus. I don’t always agree with what they have banned and don’t. But hey, whatever. That’s their deal.”
GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac: “The one thing I can comment about on the whole drug-testing thing is that if we do have a WADA or a USADA, we need to follow their rules if there is a penalty or not. I think both supercross and motocross should be connected somehow, if that relationship could ever become like that to where everyone is on the same page and there’s never a grey area. It should be enforced, and if someone does get busted there should be some kind of penalty. I think it just takes a while for everyone to work out the kinks and hopefully we’ll get there one day.”
Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin: “The drug testing I think is really good. You have to be honest and say what you’re taking. You have to be careful. You can take some stuff that you need, so you need to make sure they are good and you’re not going to fail the blood or urine test. On my side, I have problems with my knee and stuff like that and sometimes I have to take some pain medicine, and I had to tell them, and it’s all good. I think it’s good and we have to do that with every sport.”
Valli Motor Sports Yamaha’s Christophe Pourcel: “I think the drug testing is good, especially for me because I have nothing! I know that when you don’t take anything you get tired and sweat a lot, and it’s not easy because you go up and down and it’s not easy to stay on top. The bicycle guys, most of them do it, and they do pretty good to stay for three weeks. I think it is a good thing for us, but I’m not sure they can find what someone is really taking. The bicycle guys … the Tour de France starts next week, I think, and they control those guys every single day and they can’t find what they take. They all take something. So are they going to be able to find what people take here? I’m not sure they can find it. That’s my only issue. But I think it’s a good idea.”
JGR Yamaha’s Justin Brayton: “I think it’s awesome that they are implementing drug testing in our sport. I think our sport is big enough now that you have to. I guess there is not really much to elaborate on other than I think it’s great. They need to test everyone multiple times throughout the year, and I think the penalties need to be harsh for whoever does get caught—really no grey areas. Simple: If you get caught, here is the penalty. I think that’s what it will take for our sport to get to the next level.”
JGR Yamaha’s Phil Nicoletti: “As far as the drug testing goes, for our sport or any professional sport, you have to have it so that everyone is on a level playing field. For that aspect, I think it’s good. It also has a negative impact on the sport when things happen or do come up, which is a shame. Especially when it’s for things that aren’t exactly Lance Armstrong-type issues. I can see how that brings a negative effect to the sport. But as for WADA and USADA, I believe it is good for our sport. It keeps everybody in check. Not sure it is nervous for us, but it keeps us on our toes and keeps people looking for that extra edge that there will be a price.”
GEICO Honda’s Zach Bell: “I’m loving the drug testing because we see who is testing the hardest and to see who is trying to cheat with it. With the whole Stewart deal, I’m not sure that actually helps him with anything. I hope he is able to race. I’m actually going down to his house Monday to do some motos with him.”
CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha’s Alex Martin: “I think the whole drug-testing thing is a step in the right direction. They need to be testing athletes, just so you know. I think it’s important to not only fans but sponsors that we are racing clean and that it’s a clean sport. It’s a bummer what happened to Stewie, but it’s also a wake-up call to people that you have to take this serious and you can’t be messing around.
NEW GROUND HERE, OLD GROUND THERE (Andras Hegyi)
James Stewart's doping case is a novelty on the American motocross scene, but in Europe’s FIM World Championship it isn't an unknown matter. There were some cases of banned substances at beginning of 2000s in European MX and world championship.
Andrea Bartolini: An Italian legend, he is the only 500cc Italian world champion, winning in 1999 on a YZ400F. That was also the first title for four-stroke Yamaha bikes. He won in 125, 250, and 500 GPs, but he also had a doping case in 2001, failing a drug test at the GP of Switzerland. He had positive result for steroids and was suspended for six months.
Gert-Jan Van Doorn: The Dutch motocrosser was third overall in 250cc in 1985 and '86. Like Bartolini, he failed a drug test at 500cc Swiss GP in 2001. He tested positive for amphetamines and was suspended a period of eighteen months.
Claudio Federici: The Italian rider was 125cc runner-up in the 1999 world championship and was a teammate of Andrea Bartolini on Team Italy for the MXdN, winning the event in 1999. He failed a drug test for a metabolite of cocaine during the Italian National MX Championship in 2002 and was suspended for several months.
Joshua Coppins: The New Zealander had a doping case in 2002. The two-time World Championship runner-up’s positive test occurred in the 250 GP tour, and he found guilty of negligence by using a hay-fever remedy that contained pseudoephedrine. He was handed a three-month suspended ban.
AND HERE HE COMES! (DC)
After months of speculation and wishful thinking by fans all over the world, Jeffrey Herlings has apparently decided that he will come and compete in one or two rounds of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship in August. Alec Hodgkinson reported on his site www.mx-pure.com:
"Jeffrey Herlings will race at least one US National in August. KTM racing boss Pit Beirer confirmed the news over the weekend at Teutschenthal: 'It is Jeffrey's dream to race there sometime and we promised him that we would make everything available for him to do so. He initially wanted to race Millville, but we didn't want him flying hectically backwards and forwards between two GPs [Ed. note: Millville is on July 19, the free weekend between Hyvinkää (Finland) and Loket (Czech Republic) but the cancellation of the Ukraininan GP gives him almost all of August free] ... and Jeffrey would be out riding flat-out every day anyway on the practice track. It is not a condition that he has already clinched the world title at Lommel on August 3." There are three US Nationals in August - Unadilla on the 9th, Crawfordsville/Indiana on the 16th and Tooele/Utah on the 23rd.'"
Let's not turn this into a U.S.-versus-Grand Prix deal. Herlings just wants to cross the ocean and compete, just Stefan Everts did in 1997 at Unadilla, and just like Johnny O'Mara did going the other way in 1982. I've been fortunate enough to see Jeffrey on both sand (where he's the world's best) and hard-pack (he's extremely fast there too) and think he will be quite a handful for Jeremy Martin, Blake Baggett, Cooper Webb, and the rest of our boys in the 250 Class. Whichever race he decides to attend, it's going to be really cool! And speaking of Jeffrey….
THE NUMBER: 41 (Andras Hegyi)
By the time Jeffrey Herlings rides his first AMA Motocross national—likely in August at Unadilla—he will have no doubt added to his career total of MX2 Grand Prix wins, which is already well above anyone else in Grand Prix history. The extraordinary 19-year-old Dutchman also has the most wins of any rider in KTM history.
Prior to this season, Herlings was third on the KTM's all-time wins list behind Joel Smets and Antonio Cairoli. Prior to this season, Smets and Antonio Cairoli had thirty-four wins each with KTM, while Herlings had thirty-one wins with KTM. At GP of Thailand, Cairoli got his thirty-fifth, while Herlings got his later in Bulgaria. Then at the GP of Germany last weekend Herlings overtook by scoring his forty-first win while Cairoli, under the weather and beaten by Clement Desalle, is only at forty (though it should be mention that Cairoli also has twenty-nine wins with Yamaha before he went orange). It seems to be a duel between Cairoli and Herlings inside KTM despite racing in two different categories!
To put into some perspective for Americans, James Stewart raced the 125 class for three years. Despite missing four rounds in 2003 with a broken collarbone, Stewart won twenty-eight nationals while riding a Kawasaki KX125 (out of thirty-one, records for both total wins and winning percentage). Stewart also has eighteen wins in 125 SX, giving him a career total of forty-six wins in the 125 class. But since 125 SX main events only count as regional events, they don't rate the same as an outdoor national win. Still, forty-six wins in three years, over the course of fifty-six races in 125 MX/SX is a remarkable rate. And Herlings, with forty-one wins, is posting similar dominance over there, albeit against riders limited to age 23 and under.
PRO PERSPECTIVE – GETTING HOT IN HERE (Jason Thomas and David Pingree)
JT: Ah, humidity. For the first time this season, the riders will face the hot, muggy summer that we all expect from the outdoor series. Temperatures have been incredibly mild through the first four races, leaving question marks about fitness levels for many riders. Muddy Creek in eastern Tennessee will give us our first glimpse into what lies ahead at rounds that will be undoubtedly brutal.
Most of the riders have a good idea of how to prepare for the humidity but surely some are more proficient than others. The work that has been put in over the past weeks and months is the most pertinent ingredient, but there are other keys. Hydration beginning on Wednesday and Thursday is critical, as the body needs at least a forty-eight-hour lead time to fully hydrate. With most riders putting in motos on Thursday, this becomes difficult to offset. Discipline is a huge part of the hydration formula. Riders should never be without fluids in their hand. It's that simple.
Keeping the body's core temperature down is another must. Studies have shown that the taxation of higher core temperatures is far worse than most would realize. Your body is constantly working overtime to cool itself if this element is not watched carefully. Staying out of the sun on Friday and then immediately cooling down after practices and in between motos is crucial. Also, the longer the rider can keep his temperature down before the start of the moto, the better. That's why you'll see riders with cooling vests on during the parade lap and ice-cold towels around their necks on the starting line. The longer riders can maintain the body's static temperature, the more energy conserved and the longer it will take to feel the heat once the racing begins.
These may seem trivial or even commonsense, but they are absolutely imperative on the hot Saturdays of summer.
PING: Humidity can be really rough if you aren't used to it. In fact, I think it is the single biggest advantage to basing your training out of Florida for the summer. Sure, the flights are easier and the time-zone change (or lack thereof) helps, but being acclimated to the humidity is huge. Heat isn't the issue. It will be over 100 degrees out in the Southwest soon, and you could go out and burn down motos through all of that to be ready for the heat. You could even get to the point where you’re used to the high temps and can push through it during your motos. But when you get to Tennessee this weekend and the air is so thick you feel like you need a steak knife to cut it before you breathe, there’s no saving you.
Imagine being an asthmatic and sprinting for thirty-five minutes. That's what each moto feels like when you aren't used to humidity. And then there’s body temperature. Your body sweats so that the air passing by it will evaporate the sweat and cool your body. High humidity significantly decreases the effectiveness of your body's cooling mechanism. That means even if you’ve been doing motos somewhere hot, you’re going to start melting like those guys who looked at the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark as soon as you put your gear on. Oh, and good luck pulling your socks up in the first place when you've already broken into a full sweat.
I used to go stay back in Ohio with Brock Sellards, and I spent a little time in Florida with Ricky Carmichael when he was a rookie, and I couldn't believe how much better I felt at the races after living back there for a couple weeks. You show up to the races and you don't understand why all the West Coast guys are complaining about how hot it is. Your body does a great job of adapting if given a little bit of time. But show up on Friday and expect to slay it on Saturday? You’re going to melt, bro.
GRAND NATIONAL CROSS COUNTRY (Jared Bolton)
Last weekend’s Snowshoe GNCC rounded out the first part of the Amsoil Grand National Cross Country season, as the series now heads into its summer break before returning to action at Unadilla in September. Held at the Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort in West Virginia, the Snowshoe GNCC and its rugged, technical terrain pays homage to the original GNCC event, the legendary Blackwater 100. Defending series champion Kailub Russell once again dominated the field, leading wire-to-wire to take the overall win. N-Fab/Am-Pro Yamaha’s Jordan Ashburn put in his best ride of the season with a second while factory Husqvarna’s Andrew Delong was able to log his first podium finish of the season, a feat he had hoped to accomplish earlier.
In the XC2 ranks, 2013 class champion Grant Baylor once again pulled out a dominating win, further solidifying his points lead over Ricky Russell, who had some struggles and was only able to salvage fifth. Trevor Bollinger landed his fifth podium of the season with a second-place at Snowshoe while Nick Davis continued to show that his recent switch to a KTM two-stroke was a good move and landed his second podium finish in a row.
If you’re missing GNCC racing while were on our summer break, head over to RacerTV.com and check out the archived action. Also don’t forget that NBC Sports Network will be airing ATV and a Bike highlight shows and the next one is set for Saturday, July 5 at 3:30 p.m.
HEY, WATCH IT!
Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit attempted to break the Four-Wheeled World Distance Jump Record (360 feet by Tanner Foust) with a 1000-horsepower Mini at a ski resort. He didn't make it. GoPro strung together this superb twelve-minute doc on the process, the attempt, and the crash. (Chicherit escaped without major injury.)
GEICO Honda's Eli Tomac is back this weekend, making his debut in the 450 Class outdoors. GuyB got him to put on the Vital MX GoPro for this lap around Muddy Creek.
There a still a few spots open for the RCU event next week at RedBud. Visit www.rickycarmichaeluniversity.com for info and to sign up. Spots are first come first serve, so sign up today!
Last week we didn’t get to mention that the effort to help out Mike McDade’s son Keegan—which included a brutal Racer X Walk/Run around the completely soaked and muddy High Point track, stickers from Moto-Tees and donation areas at all of the Moto-Tees rigs, and the Lucas Oil/MAVTV truck—netted close to $30,000 for the McDade family to help out with their immense bills. Mike and his father came out to the event to thank everyone, and he seemed like he was in good spirits. It’s a cool thing that the motocross community always rallies around one of our own.
And hats off to AMA Pro Racing official Jarry Newby, the toughest man in motocross—he’s an accomplished extreme marathon runner—for completing four laps around that quagmire! We pledged $50 a lap and he delivered four times around, so $200 more is going to help Keegan McDade.
Snocross legend and part-time motocross rider Tucker Hibbert has been nominated for an ESPY in the category of Best Male Action Sports Athlete. This season Hibbert surpassed Blair Morgan’s long-standing snocross pro national win record to become the most successful racer in the sport. He also became the first athlete in history to win seven consecutive gold medals at X Games Aspen.
The July issue of T&E News is online and ready to read on www.tandenews.com. Check out full coverage of US MotoTrials from Kansas and Pennsylvania, the Jester National Enduro in Virginia, World Trials from Italy, and coverage of the X Games Enduro-X, the Erzberg Rodeo and the Sacramento Endurocross. Here's a link to eMag.
For more news from Canada, check out DMX Frid'Eh Update #27.
Finally, a tip of the visor to Tom White, who will be inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame in October. White is a longtime motorcycle racing enthusiast who has been involved in a lot of successes over the years, including co-founding the White Bros. and building a world-class collection of motorcycles and racing equipment called The Early Years of Motocross. He's had a hand in many other things, including the White Bros. Vet World Championships and he recently deserves a great deal of credit for helping us get back to Glen Helen for the opening round of the 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships. Tom is a great guy with a big heart, and his induction into the AMA Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame is well-deserved. (And the two men so far announced who will join him in the Class of 2104—Pierre Karsmakers and George Barber—are also well-deserving of the honor that will be bestowed upon them.) Congrats to Tom and his whole family, and thanks for everything!
That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races.