Zach Osborne announced his retirement earlier this week at the age of 32. It’s easy to look at that age, 32, and look back at Osborne’s career now as a long and ultimately successful one. But if you rewind to mid-2008 when Osborne was just 18 years old and fighting to keep his career alive, even Zach himself might not have believed how much racing was still in front of him.
It’s always tough when a career is ultimately cut short by injury as Osborne’s has been by a nagging back issue. Inevitably, people ask how much longer he could have gone or was there still some race wins left in him. But for Osborne, he now puts 16 years of some monumental peaks and valleys behind him. The valleys looked to almost be the end of the road which ultimately makes those peaks so much sweeter. To further reflect on Osborne’s career, we compiled a list of some of the best moments of his professional career to emphasize what a wild ride he had.
Supercross Debut (2006)
Osborne made his professional racing debut at the 2006 Daytona Supercross where he would end up coming home in 14th in the Supercross Lites main event. The 16-year-old was highly touted as an amateur and KTM was hoping their commitment to him would pay off huge. This was at a time when KTM USA was not the KTM USA we see now. Although they did have a factory effort in the Lites class at that time, the brand’s race efforts would soon change, even using only satellite efforts with MDK racing for a spell.
But at this time in 2006, Osborne was the future. The only two other KTM’s on the gate with him in that very first main event were Australian import Jay Marmont and title hopeful Josh Hansen. Osborne rode respectably well but finished a lap down as Davi Millsaps won convincingly. Either way, Osborne’s career was quite literally off to the races.
MXGP of Turkey Win (2009)
Osborne had few highlights during his first three years racing supercross and motocross in the USA. There was an infamous moment at Budds Creek in 2006 where he led the first 250F moto only to fade back deep into the pack. It defined his early pro years, and although he sprinkled in a couple top 10 finishes in his second year, the KTM brand shift coupled with Osborne’s struggles saw him out of orange and into blue for 2008. After signing with Yamaha of Troy for that 2008 season, Osborne saw worse results coupled with injuries bring his career in the USA to a grinding halt. He needed to pivot fast to save his career, so he packed up everything and moved to Europe.
It was a move that proved to be arguably the biggest catalyst for success in motocross for Osborne. He began working with Steve Dixon’s British Utag.com Yamaha program and the success was nearly instant. He won a moto in the MX2 FIM Motocross World Championship in 2008 and then the big one came in 2009 when Osborne claimed the MX2 Grand Prix victory at the Turkish Grand Prix. It was a turnaround like no other. When Osborne left the USA, his best overall result was a 15th at Hangtown in 2006. Within a year of his career balancing on the fringe of collapse, Osborne was atop the World Championship podium.
Fourth in the World Championship (2010)
His success rolled right through into ultimately his best year in MX2 in 2010. Still on board with Steve Dixon’s program, where he would remain through his career in Europe, Osborne flourished with four race podiums and several top 10 runs to just pip KTM’s Joel Roelants for fourth in the championship. He was a distant fourth to eventual champion Marvin Musquin and runner ups Ken Roczen and Steven Frossard, but the point had been made: Zach Osborne’s career wasn’t ending anytime soon.
Los Angeles & Oakland Podiums (2012)
As Osborne slowly crept towards the MX2 class age limit, he knew another pivotal moment in his career was coming. He had to decide if he would eye a career in MXGP on a 450 or try to go back home to the USA and make something happen in the 250 class. After coaxing team owner Steve Dixon into letting him come race the first four rounds of AMA Supercross in 2012, Osborne was determined to make USA a reality.
The last time Osborne had lined up for a supercross was April of 2008 where he finished 15th in the Seattle Supercross Lites main event. Immediately Osborne went from nearly five years of no supercross to a ninth-place finish at the Anaheim opener. He followed it up with a sixth at Phoenix, and then the big breakthrough… a podium at Los Angeles. This wasn’t just a podium, but a podium where he took essentially a privateer bike with some mods and slotted right into the mix with all the factory 250 guys. On top of that, he backed it up the very next week with another third-place finish at Oakland. His four races in the U.S. were now done, but heads were thoroughly turned, and four months later, a deal with GEICO Honda was announced to bring Osborne back to the USA for 2013 and beyond.
Fifth in Pro Motocross (2013)
His first year back in the USA was very solid. He finished third at the Seattle Supercross, but where he really shined in 2013 was motocross. With two overall podiums and only three motos outside of the top 10, Osborne was outstanding. It seemed like he was on the edge of putting it all together and there was a lot more buzz around Osborne as a legitimate title guy coming into 2014. That 2014 season started off great with back-to-back podiums in supercross, but slowly fizzled with injuries hampering him through motocross. The speed was there though, and as Husqvarna re-entered a factory effort into the USA, they grabbed Osborne as their marquee 250 rider for 2015 onward.
High Point Moto Win (2016)
Osborne was very, very close to a win on more than one occasion in 2015. He finished second at the Anaheim 1 Supercross and second overall at the Thunder Valley, High Point, and RedBud Nationals. It was obvious a win was close, but to this point in his career, Osborne’s ebbs and flows meant down years could be coming, too. By 2016 he had reached a critical juncture, now four years back into the U.S. racing scene. The down moment wasn’t coming this time. From the moment Osborne got on a Husqvarna until the end of his career, he ascended.
It started off with a moto win at High Point in 2016. It had taken over a decade for Osborne to win in America and the first moto victory at High Point was a huge moment in his career. But the end result was bittersweet as he split 1-4 to 4-1 scores with Joey Savatgy who claimed the overall on the day. The elusive first overall win had to wait, but not for much longer.
First Career Overall Win (2016)
On August 20, 2016, the wait finally ended. It was 3,816 days since his professional debut, but Osborne had finally landed on the top step in America. In a bit of poetic justice, this time he would be the one to end up on the winners’ side of a 4-1 moto split with Alex Martin. Further, he did it at Budds Creek, the sight of his huge fade a decade earlier. Poetic justice, as it were.
The win was huge, but in hindsight, it was really just the start.
|1||Zach Osborne||Abingdon, VA United States||4 - 1||Husqvarna FC 250|
|2||Alex Martin||Millville, MN United States||1 - 4||Yamaha YZ250F|
|3||Austin Forkner||Richards, MO United States||5 - 2||Kawasaki KX250F|
|4||Adam Cianciarulo||Port Orange, FL United States||2 - 5||Kawasaki KX250F|
|5||Cooper Webb||Newport, NC United States||6 - 3||Yamaha YZ250F|
Supercross East Champion (2017)
We could talk about Osborne’s first career supercross win at Atlanta in February of 2017. We could talk about his four wins on top of that. But Osborne’s 2017 supercross season was defined by one of the most improbable comeback rides in the history of the sport.
Entering the final round of the championship one point behind KTM’s Jordon Smith and tied for second with Kawasaki’s Joey Savatgy, Osborne had a title sitting right in front of him. But a first turn crash in the main event at Las Vegas looked to end his hopes right on the spot. After an agonizing 25 seconds of Osborne trying to get his machine dislodged from Dakota Alix’s bike, he remounted nearly half a minute behind Savatgy and Smith in a 15-minute race. His title chances looked done, but just like his career in 2008, Osborne refused to give up.
He began running the fastest laps of the race over and over again as he weaved through the field. Savatgy had tipped over on lap two but was still comfortably ahead. Then Jordon Smith crashed out of the race meaning Osborne could win the title by catching Savatgy. The time kept coming down, and Osborne kept passing riders at a blistering pace. He still had one more rider to get through and three seconds between he and Savatgy as the white flag waved. It was a lap that appeared like Osborne was out of his own body. He rode every line perfect, hit everything as hard as he could, and caught Savatgy with three turns to go.
Then the moment we all remember, as Osborne went down to the inside with two turns left in the championship and ripped the Kawasaki out from under Savatgy. It didn’t look real, it didn’t seem real, but Osborne crossed the line in seventh to claim the 2017 250SX East Championship. That 15-minute race in Las Vegas was the personification of Zach’s entire career. From no chance to champion.
Pro Motocross Champion (2017)
He was now on top but had no signs of slowing down. He went right into the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship two weeks later and won 10 of 24 motos as he rather easily cruised to the championship. It was finally all in balance for Osborne. He had found the right recipe for speed and consistency to win everything in 2017. He ended the year in 2017 by living out his life-long dream of representing Team USA at the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations as well. Osborne had actually competed in the event before, as part of Team Puerto Rico. This fact really punctuated the climb. It didn’t matter anymore how long it took him to get there, he was there.
Repeat Supercross Champion (2018)
In 2018, he found himself in a close title fight with Austin Forkner, but after a Forkner injury mid-way through the year, Osborne had plenty of points in hand to bring it home for his second consecutive 250SX East Championship. He looked poised to repeat in Pro Motocross again but a torn labrum in a first turn crash at the Thunder Valley National ended his season prematurely. Even so, what was ultimately his last race on a 250F in his career, Osborne picked himself up from that first turn crash and somehow rode all the way back into the points with a torn labrum. Grittiness defined Osborne’s entire 250F career and even though this was a disappointing end to his 250 days, it once again showed exactly how Osborne had made it there in the first place.
First Career 450 Class Win (2019)
Osborne missed the first half of his rookie 450SX season in 2019 with injury but was strong inside the top 10 once he returned, even finishing second at East Rutherford. He carried that momentum into the Pro Motocross season and immediately found himself competing at the front. By round three at Thunder Valley, he was on the podium, and he was creeping closer and closer to a win.
It wasn’t an overall victory, but the second moto at Southwick in 2019 was plenty enough to prove Osborne’s 250 success would carry right through into the 450 Class. He won convincingly and ended up second overall on the day with 3-1 scores. Unfortunately, he tweaked his shoulder right after this race and missed a round. He never quite nabbed that overall win in 2019, but for a rookie season in the premier class, fifth in points was nothing to be upset about.
|1||Marvin Musquin||La Reole France||1 - 2||KTM 450 SX-F|
|2||Zach Osborne||Abingdon, VA United States||3 - 1||Husqvarna FC 450|
|3||Eli Tomac||Cortez, CO United States||2 - 3||Kawasaki KX450|
|4||Cooper Webb||Newport, NC United States||4 - 4||KTM 450 SX-F|
|5||Jason Anderson||Edgewood, NM United States||7 - 5||Husqvarna FC 450|
First 450SX Win (2020)
His first career and eventually his only 450SX win came at the finale in 2020 at Salt Lake City 7. Osborne had a solid year going until a practice crash looked to end his season early in February. Then the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the final seven rounds back into June which gave Osborne a chance to heal and come out swinging. He never finished outside of the top five at the seven Salt Lake City rounds and had four podiums with the cherry on top at the final round. Even so, not many people saw what was coming in Pro Motocross.
|1||Zach Osborne||25 Laps||50.855||Abingdon, VA||Husqvarna FC 450|
|2||Jason Anderson||+03.063||50.697||Edgewood, NM||Husqvarna FC 450|
|3||Dean Wilson||+05.369||51.176||Scotland||Husqvarna FC 450|
|4||Malcolm Stewart||+07.481||50.890||Haines City, FL||Honda CRF450R|
|5||Eli Tomac||+12.750||51.007||Cortez, CO||Kawasaki KX450|
Pro Motocross Champion (2020)
Osborne immediately won the first two rounds of Pro Motocross in 2020, which were the first two 450 Class motocross wins of his career. Both were at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, which hosted a national for the first time ever, and maybe the only two times ever as well. Spring boarding off that early season success, Osborne just wouldn’t be denied in 2020. He added two more overall wins to his tally and managed the points gap down the stretch to claim the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. Osborne was quite literally on top of the world in motocross and his 15-year journey to that point was one that we may never see again.
In 2021, Osborne scored a 450SX podium in Orlando, but a back injury continued to flare up and ultimately sidelined him after six rounds of supercross in 2021. He was able to come back for two races in his Pro Motocross title defense before again, the back injury forced him to the sidelines. In what we now know was his final race of his career, Osborne again found the ground at Thunder Valley, and looked dejected as he rode off knowing what it might mean. He tried to make a comeback for 2022 but the back injury was ultimately too much, and Osborne ended his career on November 22, 2021.
It was a wild rider, and a career path you likely won’t see repeated. He scratched and clawed to essentially save his career, and then came all the way back to secure wins and a title in the premier class. No doubt, 2008 Zach Osborne would probably be pretty happy to see his accomplishments by 2021.