When the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross schedule dropped yesterday morning, our Jason Weigandt happened to be at the KTM Group Headquarters in California to host a championship celebration event for Zach Osborne (Lucas Oil 450 Class Pro Motocross Champion) and Kailub Russell (eighth straight GNCC Racing national title). So, when he got some downtime, he asked Osborne his thoughts on the new supercross schedule. As usual with Osborne, they ended up hitting a variety of topics beyond what we originally intended. Zacho is always willing to talk racing!
Racer X: The supercross schedule came out, with multiple rounds in single venues. I feel like you were one of the biggest fans of that plan in Utah.
Zach Osborne: I was!
So, you’re stoked?
I am stoked! I actually wish we had more races in more succession!
[Laughs] So you’d do even more?
[Laughs] This is going to be good. The fact that we got some races in like this last year and we got a good model for it and how it should go is really good. We’re not going into it blind in a new season. Salt Lake City went well, and we have that behind us going into the new season.
Here’s what I’m worried about. Let’s say by 2022 they can go back to normal and only hold races on Saturdays. I don’t think you guys will want to go back to that! I think you like this too much!
I agree. I would be willing to do more races, total, if we has less time between the races. I know that will sound weird because we’re always saying what a grind the season is, and that the season is so long and has so many races. The actual caveat to that is not just that we’re doing so many races, it’s that we’re doing so much riding during the week. And that’s what it takes to be prepared and stay sharp from Saturday to the next Saturday. But then, in the three weeks we were in Salt Lake City, I rode seven times, but if those were normal weeks, I would have ridden 12 times. That’s a huge difference in the load on the body. To me it just makes more sense for all of us to race this way. Let’s just go racing. I’m actually going to do way more laps on a Tuesday at home than I am if we have a Tuesday race. Let’s just line ‘em up and see who wins.
Well, there is one difference from Salt Lake City that I want to point out. Last year, we did this at the end of the season. You were coming back from injury, so that was different for you, but most riders were probably in mid-season form, they had their bikes where they wanted them. They didn’t need to test between races. But we know that’s not the case after Anaheim 1. Riders are usually freaking out, back at the test track Monday morning. So, isn’t it going to be more difficult to work in this scenario, far from California, for the first rounds instead of the final rounds?
For me, no. I don’t really see myself going 180 with a new setup. We don’t have a new motorcycle this year, same chassis, same parts, everything. So, I’ve been able to take some good time off right now and recharge the batteries. If we had a new bike I think it would be more nerve-wracking to go to a three-race stint in Texas and know there’s no chance you can come back here to California, or anywhere, with familiar circumstances and the resources to go testing. So maybe some riders will be in that situation if they’re on a new bike.
Does it concern you at all that there are some TBAs still on the schedule?
Well, the last two series we completed, supercross and outdoors in 2020, was much the same. It’s just kind of the way things are right now. I hope there’s some sort of solution and we can move forward from this by the end of the schedule they have put in place…
Yes, they’re saying by Easter they hope to have more options for stadiums.
Right but several months ago we thought we’d be in a different spot, too. We’re eight months into this and it’s still kind of the same. It’s awesome to have something set for the beginning of the season, something to train for. It’s not really a big deal now. If this was the start of the 2019 season and they only announced the first 11 races and we had something like five events that were unannounced, we’d be like “What the heck?” This is just who we are now.
Did you learn from that? Look, the outdoor schedule was all over the map, the start date kept changing, we heard all these rumors the whole season. But you actually excelled in that environment, you won the first two races, and you won the title. You rolled with it. Would you have thought you were the type of rider that would be able to do that?
I think I did learn from it. I think I rolled with it pretty well. I’m very regimented and very analytical in how I approach things. I hate being in limbo and I hate not knowing. I want to have a solid plan, to know what we’re training for. So, for me, this was different from how we normally operate. So, I did learn a lot. This is how we’re going to have to operate. Just roll with the punches and keep moving forward. Not just us racers, everyone.
So maybe you’re more well-rounded now? You learned some lessons?
Yeah, and I was just talking to my wife about this yesterday. You almost need those three-day periods now and then where you just go away. You still do your training, but you get a breather. There’s a place and time for that in a normal year, and I’m going to do that now.
But you would have never taken a three-day breather, normally?
No. I wouldn’t have even considered it. I’m always learning even though I’m 15 years into this. That’s the biggest takeaway from 2020 for me. I need to just check out every once in a while. I don’t feel like, physically, I’m aging out of the sport, but mentally I do feel kind of bogged down sometimes. That’s mostly on me. I want to be perfect with my riding and training. So, for me, I think I need to have some periods where I get my mind off it every once in a while.
The hard part is, you can’t get to this level if you don’t have an extreme level of ambition. So, you can’t just turn it off. Sometimes you need to be paranoid. You need to not be content, ever. It’s kind of hard to be both—content and relaxed while also ambitious and trying to make gains.
Right. So, you have to find that line. There’s not time for five-day periods, there’s time for three-day periods where you’re not thinking about dirt bikes. And there’s not time for ten of those three-day periods. Maybe there’s time for three all season.
So, you’re talking about still doing the physical training, but not thinking about racing?
Yeah, just have a change of scenery. Get out of the house. I was getting worn out with what I was facing in Florida. For Salt Lake City, I went there and found some balance. I got to take my motorhome, the surroundings were good, and then obviously my results worked out well.
You don’t know if the results got better because of the change of scenery?
Looking back now, hindsight is always 20/20. Yeah, in hindsight, that was a good period for me, and I want to take what I learned from that and apply it. Maybe it’s one tiny thing I can take from it. And maybe, if the results didn’t go well for me, I would have thought three races a week was the stupidest thing ever, but I feel like a lot of riders will tell you that racing there was way better than practicing.
Yes, so you train in Aldon Baker’s program. Everyone wants to say that program burns people out physically. But to me, it’s not the miles on the bicycle or the motos that get you. The tougher part is that you’re in it every day—every day you’re trying to get better, putting that pressure on yourself to get better and to never settle and never be complacent. Then, in your case, you start winning and leading the points and the pressure ramps up, so it really compounds. You mentioned in an interview a few weeks ago that you weren’t like Ryan Dungey where you were winning at age 20 and having to deal with that kind of pressure. This pressure is actually new to you, so you don’t have as much wear on you.
Yeah like I said, physically I don’t have any huge ailments, but mentally I probably wear myself out. At this level, the difference between first and 20th in a supercross race is 1 percent here, 1 percent there. It’s the tiniest of the tiniest, so we’re all chasing those marginal gains. For me, this season was just a year where all of those marginal gains worked out for me.
Right, but on a day when you don’t apply those marginal gains, how do you not blow up on yourself?
Yeah, there are days where I blow up on myself. Not at the races. I know I’m a good race craft guy, so I know the races are going to go good. But during the week, when you’re riding with your competition every day, it’s hard to keep that positivity and belief in yourself. You tell yourself it doesn’t matter, there’s no points on the line, just get to Saturday and things will be okay. It’s hard to do that. I think winning this 450 title helps to give me a little more confidence to do that. That said, it’s still hard to put what happened on Tuesday behind you.
You have mentioned that there was a brief time earlier this year, when you came back from injury, you were struggling and even contemplated retirement. Was that what this was?
Yeah, I just wasn’t enjoying it at that particular moment. I had a big injury. I couldn’t get out of it. I felt like I was a hamster just spinning on my wheel. I was riding terrible. I’m kind of an enjoyment guy. I need to enjoy it to excel, and I wasn’t enjoying it. I can’t even pinpoint why I didn’t enjoy it. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t worried about getting hurt, not at all. I just wasn’t enjoying it.
So, this wasn’t a situation where you weren’t making the marginal gains you need to make. This was different. This was a big hole.
Yeah. The marginal gains, that’s when you’re feeling really good and you’re trying to go from a podium guy to getting some wins. That’s marginal gains. This situation, I was two weeks away from going to Salt Lake City and I was three seconds a lap off of where I needed to be! I was under the gun.