After making it to the U.S. from Venezuela to race motocross, Anthony Rodriguez is no stranger to the dedication and sacrifice it takes to make it as a professional. The former Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha and Traders Racing Kawasaki rider is now funding his own deal to earn his way back into a factory ride
We caught up with Rodriguez to talk about adapting to life in the U.S., how he stays connected to his South American fans, and what he has planned for the future.
Racer X: Growing up in Venezuela, how did you get into riding down there?
Anthony Rodriguez: So my dad used to race enduro, and he also raced street bikes for a little whlile—GP style—and I was basically born around dirt bikes. So ever since I was a little kid I asked for one and by the time I was four I got a dirt bike and I’ve been riding ever since.
I interviewed Lorenzo Locurcio a couple weeks ago [Lorenzo also grew up in Venezuela], did you ever race against him while you were growing up?
It’s a small country so I knew him well. We would race at the same races every weekend, but he was always in a class that was a year younger than me.
So you moved here when you were 13 without knowing any English. And you basically moved all by yourself right?
Yeah, Lorenzo’s family came to my family and they told us about MTF [Millsaps Training Facility] and we had talked about it before. So I went to talk to Colleen [Millsaps] and my parents made the decision, “So yeah, this is your dream, you want make it come true, we’ll help you. But we can only help you so much.” Coming here I thought it was going to be a little bit easier, because the first year Lorenzo was going to be here too, but he didn’t’ come that year, he came the year after. So for the first whole year I was basically there … I was the only person that knew Spanish and I actually got picked on by guys like [Justin] Barcia and Nick Myers that would make fun of my bad English. But it actually helped me and that’s just how I learned.
Well your English is pretty good now. Would you say that was the hardest part about moving here?
To be honest, that wasn’t so much the hardest part. It’s just a different culture and it was a little different adjusting to it. But the good part of it is, the motocrossers at MTF were all fun to be around so they made me feel welcome. But being away from the family being so young was also a challenge. I had a lot of tasks to do that I didn’t have to do before like doing laundry and cooking. So that was pretty difficult to do when I was 13 years old.
[Laughs] Lorenzo said the same thing when I asked him that question.
Yeah, I mean, I grew up with my mom doing that for me and then I moved out here in the middle of nowhere having to do everything for myself. It wasn’t that it was terrible, it wasn’t that hard. But I messed up a lot of times to learn!
I noticed that you write your Instagram captions twice, once in English and once in Spanish. How important is it for you to stay connected to your South American roots?
I want everyone to always remember where I come from because that’s where my heart is. I love this country of the United States and I love Venezuela as well. But I don’t want the people in the future to say, “Oh yeah, Anthony Rodriguez.” I want them to say, “Oh, Anthony Rodriguez the kid who made it from South America.” I want to be a rider that people from South America talk about, not because I want to be their hero, just because I want to be the image to them to show that anything is possible. If they want to make it, they can very well make it. It’s not impossible if you’re from South America. It’s still doable. And that’s the reason I keep doing it in Spanish because a lot of my following is from South America so I want to keep my South American social media followers happy as well.
I can't thank this dude enough for the amount of support he provides to me in this journey, he isn't just a sponsor he is a friend. When I couldn't get a mechanic for Toronto he offered to wrench for the weekend and I truly appreciate it!! #español No hallo el como agradecer la cantidad de apoyo que me ofreció Pablo, no solo como patrocinantes sino como amigo. Al no poder llevar a mi mecánico a Toronto Pablo se ofreció a tenderme la mano durante todo el fin de semana, muchas gracias! @phxtreme @jamesmx159
Who did you look up to growing up?
I mean, growing up in Venezuela I always looked up to Pedro Gonzales—from Venezuela, not the Mexican one. He gave me some classes when I was a little kid and I ended up racing him in the pro class over there. And it was some good battles. I ended up winning the last few years. Now he’s actually helping me out racing in the United States. But as a little kid it was always Ernesto Fonseca for sure.
So transitioning into what you’ve got going on now. You had a ride with the Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha team two years ago, then you were with Traders Racing Kawasaki for a year. Now what kind of support are you getting?
People would be surprised. I’m actually making it look more professional than it is because I want to give back to all the sponsors that are giving me support. To be honest, I only have two sponsors that are helping me out with a little money here and there, which is PHXtreme and Backflips Clothing. Nothing too crazy, but it helps a lot. Then MTF is helping me with taking bikes to the races and of course I’ve been living there since 2009, so they’ve always helped me with training and stuff like that. Other than that I really didn’t even have a bike sponsor or anything like that. Motocross companies like FMF, Limited Decals, O’Neal, Gaerne, Rekluse, Mika Metals, Bell, that’s the kind of help I’m getting right now, but really that’s it. It is a 100 percent privateer deal that I’ve got going on.
So how would you say your season is going so far? You’ve gotten three top 10s out of the five races you’ve done so far.
I wasn’t too happy with Daytona. I made it to the main and had a bad start. To say the least, I was very upset with the way I rode at Daytona. Atlanta I couldn’t qualify, that was very unfortunate, I had a crash both in the heat and LCQ. I still think the highlight of my racing this year has been the first round [Minneapolis] definitely with that seventh place. To be honest, I didn’t ride 100 percent at that race, because I came to the race and I wasn’t very confident in myself. I had only had three weeks of riding and I knew it would be one of the harder years in the class—it’s so stacked this year. And when I got position there, I wasn’t sure what I was able to do. I had so much going on in my mind that I lost focus instead of going 100 percent each lap. And I learned from it. Every other weekend after that … Atlanta I was sick and the weekend after Atlanta I was sick as well. So I’ve been struggling a little bit with health, but I finally just got good so I’m looking forward to next weekend [Detroit] again. I do need to qualify better so I can get a better gate so I can get myself up front in the main event. I think that’s going to change everything a whole lot.
Is booking your own flights and hotels … just organizing all that stuff, is that something that is new to you this year and has it maybe distracted you a little bit?
Well not only doing that is a little distracting, but it’s also doing all of my personal stuff. I just now finally got my green card, but before I had it I had to go through a lot of paperwork with my lawyer in order to get the green card. Just trying to get my own sponsors as well and ordering all the parts for my bike and figuring everything out takes a lot out of me. But it’s not an excuse. It is still doable and it’s not holding me back from anything. I just need to wrap my head around it, get it done, and move forward.
In Steve Matthes’ Observations column this week, he wrote that he thought you were being considered for the GEICO fill-in ride. How close were you to getting that deal done?
Well, to be honest, I don’t know how close I was. They didn’t come to me to talk to me and ask me if I wanted to ride for them. I went to them and told them, “Hey, I know your guy just got injured. Please give me that chance. I promise you I’ll get your bike as close as possible as I can to the front. I’ll give you 110 percent.” I think it shows how much I’m putting into the sport right now. I’m doing it because it is a personal goal. I’m not doing it because of the money or anything else. Because unfortunately with the way Venezuela is, everything you’re seeing out there is coming out of my pocket. Unfortunately, I don’t have parents that can help me or anything like that. That’s what I was explaining to the team. I’m here because I’m 100 percent in it. I want this to be my lifestyle, I want this to be my job, my joy, my everyday. But they had some other plans and they went the other route. Hopefully I can get something for outdoors and show the people that I’m still here and I want to continue to be here.
So what are you plans for outdoors?
Unfortunately, money-wise, I don’t have what is needed to do outdoors. My plan is if I can’t get anything whatsoever, most likely I’ll have to sell my 250s and all my parts and everything. I’ll probably get a 450 and just go to some of the East rounds that I can drive to myself. If that’s the case, I’ll probably have to find a part-time job or train some people or something. That’s hopefully the last thing I’ll have to do because I’m really hoping that some team will give me the chance to do the whole series for them.
Any sponsors you’d like to thank?
I’d like to thank MTF, PHXtreme, Backflips Clothing, O’Neal, Bell Helmets, Gaerne, Scott, MIKA Metals, DT1, Rekluse, FMF, Xtrig, Dunlop, ARC Levers, Limited Decals, VP Fuel, GET Ignitions, Venex MX, DWR, Enzo Suspension, 24 Kilates, and DVS.