We’re once again firing off questions at long-time pro Jason Thomas for some opinions on the fifth round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship.
What did you think of the WW Ranch Motocross Park track?
It was definitely “Florida.” The backdrop of a green tree line, the lack of elevation, the soil, the climate; they all reminded me of how every summer day went when I lived there. I think it was great to have another unique addition to the series. Comparing Thunder Valley’s altitude, High Point’s off-camber hard pack, Florida’s rough sand-clay mix, and next weekend’s Southwick sandbox, we have some great variety in the series. Critics in the past have pointed to the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship having the same dirt at most rounds. That has certainly been addressed for 2019.
WW Ranch should be commended for taking such a big step forward from their USGP round, too. I was there and while it was a successful event, I felt that progress was possible and needed. They addressed many of the trouble spots and improved the venue, layout, and soil composition. They did a great job.
Some of these dudes do motos in the heat and humidity of Florida all the time. What makes race day so much harder?
I believe it’s just the additional intensity and adrenaline. As hard as practice motos are, it’s just impossible to replicate the pressure and extra effort that racing demands. There are little differences, too. The morning qualifying sessions aren’t overly taxing but the exertion level for a good qualifying lap is intense. Putting yourself into the red for each of those laps takes a toll. Also, there is a lot of waiting around in the heat before the moto. Staging, opening ceremonies, national anthem, and the sighting lap, all just add time to build heat before the moto. Most practice motos start quickly and guys are rested and cool from hanging out in the garage (or similar). It’s really difficult to not heat up while sitting for several minutes waiting for the race to start. More than anything else, I think that racing is just harder on the body than practice will ever be. The anxiety, nervousness, and adrenaline are ramped way up on race day, making it that much harder.
Give us some gnarly Florida heat riding stories of your own.
It’s funny because Florida heat is just a daily way of life. I would wake up, have a coffee and head out on my bicycle by 8 a.m. That means I was sweating by 8:01 a.m. and didn’t stop until I got back inside my house at 9 a.m. I would shower and head to the track, arriving by 10. Whether prepping the bike or the track, everyone is sweating already. Moto’s would start by 11 or so and we would finish riding by 3 or 4 p.m. There wasn’t really any time in there where sweating stopped. Even in between motos, while we would be in Chad Reed or Tim Ferry’s air conditioned garage, the internal body temperature was still too hot to stop sweating. So, in other words, sweating commenced at 8 a.m. and really didn’t stop until 5 p.m. Nine-straight hours of sweating. It was not avoidable and anyone who works outside in the south is probably nodding their head about the endless sweating. We didn’t really dwell on it because day in and day out, it was the same.
It’s funny because most of the memories I have about brutally hot races were in the most unlikely of spots. Troy, Ohio, in 1997, 2000 Hangtown, 2003 Millville, 2005 Southwick, and 2007 Freestone, all come to mind when I think about the hottest races of my career. It was expected at Freestone, racing in June in Texas, but the others were unexpected and just as torturous.
What do you think some of these guys felt like on Sunday and Monday?
Most of these guys are so fit that they bounce back quickly. In the hottest of races, I would usually try to find a way to replenish fluids quickly after the second moto (IV is ideal but not available to everyone). That would speed up the rehydration process and made a huge difference in how I felt even Sunday night. By Monday, I didn’t really feel that bad. Soreness and dehydration were still issues but all of those practice days had prepared my body to expect punishment.
My advice to these guys is to take it easy this week. There isn’t much to be gained in going out and hammering motos this week. It takes days to get back to 100 percent and if they don’t rest, they will be tired and dehydrated heading into another tough day at Southwick. I would do everything I could to recover fully this week. I would ride some, sure, but just to stay sharp and maybe work on settings for the Southwick sand. I would try to ride early and avoid the heat and I would do my cardio inside. Recovery is a very underrated factor in racing, especially with back to back difficult events like Florida and Southwick. There is a time for hard work but this week is not it.
What are some key tips for recovery between motos, and also during the week after a gnarly race like this?
The biggest key is getting your body temperature down. Every minute that your core temperature is high is another minute of exertion that will take a toll. Whether it’s a pool to lay in, or an air-conditioned room, do everything you can to get back to normal and stop sweating. I preferred going into the lounge of the semi and have fans blowing on me instead of the pool option. The pool made my skin soft (just like your fingers pruning if you’re in a pool too long) so I would I get blisters more easily during the second moto.
I would also try to wait until the very last minute to get out into the heat again before the second moto. The less I could expose myself to the heat, the less I would ask of my body.
As I mentioned above, it’s all about rest. Forget about trying to improve or get in shape this week. That’s going to put you even further behind. Practice starts, practice a few turns, test a bit but don’t overdo it. Ideally, I would come into Southwick on Friday feeling restless because I didn’t do a lot this coming week. I wouldn’t want the brutal Florida race to have any lingering effects whatsoever. If riders aren’t very mindful this week, they won’t be at full strength this coming Saturday. It’s hard to tell a racer to relax and rest because they are incredibly driven but it truly is the most important thing they can do this week.
Eli Tomac mentioned struggling with humidity when he was younger, but he has learned to push through it. How much of riding in these conditions in mental?
I would consider it more having experience now than it being mental. He knows what to expect now and probably prepares differently. It’s always a guessing game as to how your body will respond to new experiences and he had to learn how he would feel with a different level of heat and humidity than Colorado offers. Being mentally strong is very important on the toughest of days but that confidence can only be gained from hard work and preparation.
What does this bounce back for Justin Cooper say for his title hopes?
I was impressed. Coming into Saturday, I thought AC92 had a solid chance of another win and possibly putting himself up several points on Justin Cooper along the way. This was his home race and he has been practicing in these same humid conditions. It just seemed like the most likely outcome given his four previous wins in a row, right? Not so fast, my friend. Cooper rebounded from an off day in Pennsylvania to win his first ever overall. Not only that, he did it at the event expected to give Adam an advantage. If he had let Adam build up to a 30+ point lead on Saturday, I think the ball might have started rolling downhill and away from Justin. As we sit now, though, the lead is back down to 18 and the series feels a little differently. I still think this series is Adam’s to lose but Justin rose up in maybe the most pivotal moment in this young series.
Cianciarulo said he might have trained too hard in the heat the week leading up to the race. What are you actually feeling like when you go too far? Do you literally feel bad when you wake up in the morning or is it only notable on the bike?
This is what I think happened to both Cianciarulo and Chase Sexton. They both knew that a win was in the cards for this event and wanted to capitalize. That usually leads to overdoing the preparation when it’s too late to really have a positive effect. It’s a fine line between working hard enough to be ready and working too hard and entering the race tired or still recovering from mid-week training.
As for how he most likely felt, riders tend to refer to this as feeling “flat.” Ideally, race day is the most energetic day of the week. You’re rested when most of the week you aren’t, and you are excited about getting out there to ride when mid-week you aren’t. If you are still tired from a hard week, you wake up feeling blah and missing that pep in your step. More importantly, when push comes to shove in the hardest part of the moto, your body won’t respond when asked. When Adam saw Cooper and Dylan Ferrandis pulling away early in the second moto, that’s when he needed the extra intensity to pick up the pace. If he was tired and not 100 percent, then he just wouldn’t have it. That’s certainly what it looked like from the outside, too. Adam seemed relegated to holding his position while the Ferrandis/Cooper duo rode off into the sunset. The season is always an ebb and flow of good weekends and bad, so if Adam’s bad weekend is a 5-3 result and third overall, I bet he is okay with it. I would expect a much more rested AC this Saturday.
Fantasy killers? Fantasy winners?
These torture fest races like Florida are brutal for fantasy. It’s impossible to know who will respond well to the heat and who will have issues. For instance, I picked Sexton as my All Star pick and he was only able to ride one moto. Chase is one of the fittest riders in the class and just overheated. That’s horrible for your fantasy team after every sign would have pointed to him having a great day.
Fredrik “Fast Freddie” Noren was a revelation (not for me unfortunately, I didn’t pick him). He was the highest scorer in the 450 Class (recording moto finishes of 9-8) and although I had him on my team for multiple days leading up to the event, I pulled him off two minutes (literally) before the lock-out time. It was a brutal turn of events for me and worse, I replaced him with Jake Masterpool who might have been in an actual pool during the motos because he certainly wasn’t out there riding. That was enough to ruin my Saturday and I was still a little angry Sunday morning, to be honest. Fantasy is incredibly fun and adds a truly unique aspect to the racing throughout the field but it’s one of the cruelest enterprises I have ever encountered, too. It is the definition of an emotional roller coaster.