Breakdown: Forged by Fire

Breakdown: Forged by Fire

Zach Osborne won his second straight main event in Toronto last Saturday. Not only did he win, he did so convincingly. He worked through the field without getting into any of the warfare that engulfed series rivals Dylan Ferrandis, Joey Savatgy, and Jordon Smith. They were all smashing into each other and disrupting their forward progress. Ferrandis was definitely the catalyst, but whether it’s Vince Friese and Justin Barcia in the 450 class, or Ferrandis in the 250 class, dealing with an aggressive rider who consistently starts up front is part of the game. Zach was able to navigate those treacherous waters and push himself to a 12-point lead leaving Toronto. What was more interesting to me, though, was his comment on the podium after the win.

He said that he changed his training program altogether and is now on Aldon Baker’s program. That isn’t news and if you’re enough of a moto nerd to be reading this column, you already knew that. What was interesting, however, is how he talked about the dynamic.

See, for the last five months, Zach has been beaten down on the daily. He’s had to face three of the world’s best SX riders every single sprint, moto, bicycle ride, and gym session. In fact, the riders he faces make up three of the top four in Monster Energy Supercross points. Oh, and did I mention that he has to do battle on a 250 against their 450s? So, every single morning, he wakes up and knows that he is going to get humbled. He’s taking a knife to a gunfight, racing against the best of the best with a huge disadvantage. He wakes up day after day, losing every moto, losing every sprint, unable to match their world-class lap times.

Remember that knife that he’s been bringing? Well, guess what has happened to it? It’s been forged in that fire every day. He’s become razor sharp as a result of being underpowered. He’s had to perfect every single aspect of his game in order to compete with the trio of Musquin, Anderson, and Dungey. His disadvantage has pushed him to be better than he’s ever been.

I watched this same scenario play out with Dean Wilson in the summer of 2011. Dean was doing pretty well, but not winning races in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. He decided to come to Florida and practice with Chad Reed and Michael Byrne while I was recovering from ACL surgery. Summers in Florida are scorching hot and the tracks are awesome with the softer dirt and afternoon rain. That’s what the main motivation is for many riders to spend their summers there; they get to ride better tracks and in tougher conditions than even the races provide. While that was definitely a motivator for Dean to be in Florida, I don’t think it’s what caused his huge turnaround in the second half of that series. What really propelled Dean’s run was the exact same daily challenge that Osborne finds deals with now. Every day, Dean woke up with an underpowered machine, but was forced to go up against world-class riders on 450s. That deficit forced him to push his boundaries and find ways to make up the lost horsepower. When he got to race day and did battle on equal footing, the task became much easier. His torturous days of practice made for a much better race day. If you remember the summer of 2011, Reed, for example, was on fire, holding the points lead at mid-season on his Honda 450. That’s who Dean had to go chase at the track every day during the week, on a 250. When you’re accustomed to facing Ryan Dungey or Chad Reed day in and day out on inferior equipment (250 vs. 450), facing the 250 class on Saturday doesn’t seem so daunting.

Zach is winning races and looks like he’s on his way to winning more. Why he is winning and looks to be on his best form ever is up for debate. Racing takes so many variables to be successful, so pointing to one isn’t usually that accurate. If I was forced to, however, I definitely feel that the months of off-season riding where he was never the fastest rider has propelled Zach to become the fastest of his class every Saturday.