It's Wednesday morning; a groggy, but oddly somewhat energetic Michael Leib answers the phone. He proceeds to explain that he arrived home from Paris the night before around 11:30 p.m. (for the past week, Leib was in France representing Puerto Rico at the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations). By 3:30 a.m. he was ready to start the day.
The MXoN marked the first time Leib had been behind a gate since suffering a broken tibia, fibula, right foot, and toes in practice at the Oakland round of Monster Energy Supercross in January. Leib made his return to racing on one of the biggest stages of motocross—a mentally taxing feat for anyone.
"I got the call to race for Puerto Rico nine days before I actually had to leave," Leib said. "It was all really short notice, and there was a lot of stuff I didn't get to do when I got there."
The Puerto Rican team rented bikes from the Dixon Kawasaki team (Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki), which is the team that Leib raced on in Europe early in his career. At home, Leib had been riding his Yamaha YZ250F, so adjusting to the Kawasaki would take some time. The team set up shop for a practice session last Thursday to get acclimated to the bikes; however, the session was cut short by rain.
"I actually only had the chance to ride four laps, so basically the first time I got to ride the bike was Saturday morning," Leib admitted.
Leib and the team spent the practice session on Saturday morning shaking down the bike and pulling off to make adjustments. It was a struggle to make the Kawasaki comfortable for him, but he went into the qualifier ready to give it everything he could.
"Forty minutes to get a bike dialed in to run with the best guys in the world was tough to overcome," Leib said.
Unfortunately, after making his way up to fifteenth in the qualifying race, Leib crashed with only two laps to go. He ended up finishing twenty-sixth in the moto, and his teammates Juan Reyes and Jason Astudillo also had their own problems.
"I actually only had the chance to ride four laps, so basically the first time I got to ride the bike was Saturday morning."
Team Puerto Rico would not make it into the B final.
"I'’s been a really interesting year, you know," Leib said. "It was good to get back into racing even though the weekend went horrible. I like to put myself into situations that are difficult. Difficult situations help you grow and make you stronger. Being in a situation with a new bike, a lot of stuff going on, and with being off the whole year, it was a little tougher than I expected it to be."
Leib's most recent trip to Europe marks the twenty-fourth time he's made the trip; it was also the most memorable. The number of people that lined the fences of Ernée stuck out to Leib as very unforgettable.
"Oh, man, in practice I did a lap or two with [Marvin] Musquin. Every time we got down to the bottom of one of the hills, it was so loud I couldn’t even hear the bike," he said.
Leib also said that the French GPs he raced in the past have always been crazy, but the fans at the MXoN were absolutely nuts.
Coming up on Leib's schedule is the Red Bull Straight Rhythm, which he also raced last season. He will be sitting out of the Monster Energy Cup, instead focusing on Anaheim 1.
Leib is in talks with the Barn Pros Racing/Home Depot Yamaha team for next year. The team had stepped up to help get him back on track late in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, but Leib still struggled with injuries and was never able to race with them.
Off the track, Leib has created his own gear apparel by the name of Canvas MX. It focuses heavily on building one’s own brand awareness.
"When I got hurt earlier this year, I put myself in the sponsor's position," Leib said. "I’ve been able to take what I've learned from starting Canvas and invest into my own future to brand myself. You have to do what it takes to get the job done."