I was back out at Pala Raceway for something very special. I had already been there for four days for the Finale of the 2010 AMA MX season and the Awards Banquet.
But, as I mentioned, this was something special – the first official get together of Team USA for the 2010 Motocross of Nations. Team Manager Roger De Coster, racers Ryan Dungey, Andrew Short, Trey Canard, and all the support staff needed for an effort like this.
Ryan Dungey, Roger De Coster, Trey Canard, Andrew Short and Mitch Payton
I felt very privileged to be invited to such an event. I soon came to realize that the most unique and moving part of the day was seeing the look of real happiness, the feeling of true honor, and the comraderie for each person involved, as ‘The Team’ came together for the first time. It was contagious. They seem to be a real ‘team’ already, working together well, and have great things to say about each other. Again, it was contagious!
We start with Team Manager Roger De Coster, (who recently joined KTM to spearhead their supercross and motocross racing efforts in the USA) who always gives great insight.
Annj: Roger, let’s start off by talking about the team and riders you have chosen to represent Team USA, and this race being in Colorado.
Roger: Well, it is a really young team – we have two rookies and Ryan Dungey has one event under his belt, last year in Italy. But with that said, this team is really going to mesh well together. They are young and very enthusiastic and everyone wants to be a part of the team and help each other, so I am really looking forward to this.
Having the race in the US is pretty cool. It is only the third time in the history of our sport that it is in the United States. In 1987 it was in Unadilla, with Jeff Ward, Ricky Johnson and Bob Hannah. In 2007 the race was at Budds Creek with Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Villopoto and Tim Ferry, and now we’ll have Colorado.
It is pretty cool for the fans too. They can come to a location that is easy to get to, central to the east and west coasts, with an easy airport to get in and out of, so I hope we have a great turnout. It is for the USA fans especially because it is tough and expensive for American fans to go all the way over to Europe to go see a race, and now they will have a race in the most central part the US, so we should get some hardcore fans from all over the US.
I hope to see a huge turnout, and I hope we can make the fans proud and win it (The Chamberlain Trophy) again.
A: Can you give us a bit of insight to each guy on the team, his personality & skills that makes him a good fit for the team?
Roger: Most of the fans know that Ryan is a very smooth rider. He has learned patience and a lot of control and that makes him so very talented.
Then you have Andrew Short, who is riding his local track actually and that is one of the many qualities in deciding to pick him, he always seems to do great at that track, as well as having a great bike, so combined it’s a perfect fit for us.
With Trey Canard, who just clinched the 250 MX Championship, most people including himself, thought he may be out of it (winning the 250 championship) but motocross being what it is, it is never done until it is done and he kept pressing and he put himself in a position that when Pourcel had a problem, he was there to win.
Canard is a very enthusiastic kid and he is a very positive kid, and that makes it great for the atmosphere of the team also. He is such a nice and happy guy and then he backs it up with the strength of a champion.
It is never easy, but I do think we have a good chance to win, and I am looking forward to it.
A: Ryan Dungey will be ‘captain’ of the team, also being part of last year’s winning team – he must bring valuable experience for his team mates.
Roger: Yeah, he has been a good role model for the team and he has always been open to learning. He wants to learn more and he is eager to ask questions and watch what previous champions do and what other guys do on the track. He is very dedicated, not only on the race weekend but during the off season. During the season with his fitness, including his diet and all, he is very disciplined, especially for his age.
People sometimes forget that Ryan is only 20 years old. Not that many people have built that maturity that he has at such an early age. This is the only event that is a team event in our sport, so it is a great honor to be a part of Team USA. There is such a history with the USA and we have a record number of wins now, and we have to try and keep increasing that.
A: As the team manager, what does this race mean to you? And if you bring home another win, what would that mean?
Roger: For me, the des Nations has always been the biggest single event at the end of the year. I really looked up to the des Nations before I was even a racer. I would follow it in the magazines and in the newspapers. Our main newspaper in Belgium, they will run a full front page on Motocross just like Football or Basketball or Baseball in the US, so I have followed it since I was a kid.
Back then the English and Swedish riders were the dominate countries. I remember looking up to those guys like they were gods. Eventually I put myself in that same position, riding for the Belgium team. I was lucky to bring home victories many times with that team, and then after I retired I went on to manage the team for the US.
It was important to me that America send a team to this race. Back in those days, one year the Americans would go and the next year they would not go, so when I retired from racing, I wanted to get behind this team and make sure that no matter what we had a good team.
The first year I took Team USA over to Europe to race, it was the first win for them – 1981 in Lommel, Belgium, and we have been fortunate enough to win it many times after that. And I hope we can keep doing it.
A: A little about the guys behind Team USA, I hear you have a Manager’s assistant?
Roger: For many years a lot of people have helped make this thing happen. Chris from Fox has always been a huge part of our team and very helpful. Mitch Payton (owner of Pro Circuit) has always been a big fan of the des Nations since the first time I asked him to go. He is a good guy to have in our corner, although this year he has no riders on the team, he does bring a lot of experience and he is good to have around if we have a problem.
I like to have Mitch involved because he is such a big supporter of the race and he has committed a lot of resources over the years. It is too bad he does not have a rider this year for the US but I am sure he will most likely have one next year, as he does not miss too often.
A: What advice will give to your team as they head to Colorado to represent the USA?
Roger: The main thing is to just approach this race like any normal race and do not try and do anything different. Just because it is a big worldwide event does not mean you all of a sudden have to race twice as hard or take chances. Many times the pressure of representing your country puts an extra load on you and when you get that feeling, it is easy to make a mistake, so we will take it one race at a time.
Next up Ryan Dungey:
Annj: Ryan, have you had much time with the guys on the team before this upcoming race?
Ryan: I did grow up a little bit with Trey, we are the same age, so we raced the same class growing up, so we know each other a little more than anybody else. Andrew, I have never really hung out with him until now. He is a few years older than me, so we didn’t race each other growing up until this past season. But we all communicate real well and have a lot of similar goals in life, which helps.
A: What about going from competing against Andrew Short to working on the same team?
Ryan: It’s a good feeling, in a way, I feel that not just Andrew but also Trey and I all get along really well with Roger and Mitch (Payton), and everyone else on the team. When you work as a team to accomplish one goal, we are all there for one reason and that is to win and that does help put things into perspective. I will for sure share whatever knowledge I have learned with my team and we have a lot of guys on the team that have a lot of experience, so the combination is great. But at the same time we each have a job to do as individuals and race our own race.
A: Each guy brings a unique element to the team, you being a past winner of this race …
Ryan: Last year in Italy was an experience I will never forget. Everything was different, you were out of your element, it wasn’t a bad difference. It was just from the time you stepped off the plane in Italy to the time you got back, …. it is hard to put into words. The racing and winning was surreal, and everything in between, … it felt like it went by almost too fast, but the entire experience was truly amazing.
Now this year having the race in the US is cool, and Andrew grew up racing in Colorado so that is cool, I am guessing he knows all the good lines, so hopefully he will share some of that stuff.
Ryan Dungey – 2010 AMA Supercross Champion & 2010 AMA 450 Motocross Champion
A: What did you learn last year that you can share with the guys this year in Colorado?
Ryan: Going into it I was always told to have an open mind. But what I have learned is that it is a pretty hype day and you do not really feel it until you are out there on the track to race. It is really important to go out there and have fun and enjoy it and not to put too much pressure on yourself.
At the end of the day, really, we get to race our dirt bikes and we should just take it like another race and go about it and enjoy it. And then, at the end of the day, when everything is said and done I can just hope we are on top.
A: Last year Italy. Is it an advantage to have the race in the United States?
Ryan: Yeah, for sure and it is the United States so we have an entire country behind us. I think that anybody who ever wanted to see the US compete against other Nations this is a great opportunity because it is tough to make that trip to another country, so we are fortunate to have this race here this year.
It is an easy flight into Colorado and I hope everyone makes it out to the races because for me, seeing all the fans out there cheering for our country will be very cool.
The fans are a big part of what makes the experience amazing. Sometimes you can’t even hear your own bike the crowds are so loud! It is that experience and more that I am looking forward to. This is something you dream about growing up, and opportunities like this, so I am going to live it to the fullest and take advantage of every moment.
A: What does it mean to you to race this race with Roger De Coster, which is most likely your last race together?
Ryan: That is a tough subject for sure. Roger is great and he gave me a chance and a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity. And to be able to work with a guy like that, I feel as rider to team manager we have had the best relationship, and a friendship like nobody else, and I feel blessed for that.
Roger is a really good teacher, and he has taught me a lot of important lessons, and that knowledge is just beyond amazing. For me to be able to work with such a great person it is a true honor. Hopefully down the road we can continue it.
Next we have the 2010 AMA 250 National Motocross Champion, Trey Canard:
A: Trey, congratulations – 2010 AMA 250 National Motocross Champion! You are coming right out of that series, and into the Nations race, you must be very happy right now …
Trey: You know, it is unreal, it still feels like a dream to be the 250 Champion and is just an unbelievable feeling of honor and I am thankful for it. It is unfortunate that Christophe got hurt, but at the same time I am excited that I won. It has been a lifelong dream that has come true and I am very thankful for it. It is always something that I will enjoy and look back on as something that I accomplished that has been a dream come true. Now I need to carry that over to this next race, so I am excited for this opportunity.
A: We are here today at first official gathering of Team USA, you will be riding that number 2 bike for the team – how are you feeling about it all?
Trey: You know, it really is a dream come true and it is an honor to be a part of it. Just being here and seeing the new riding gear and seeing the bikes, my team mates, and everything, it is just an amazing experience. I am so thankful for it and I am looking forward to it all and I can’t wait to go out there and do some riding in this gear and on the bikes and then we will head out next week and go race against the rest of the world.
A: I was watching you open up all that new gear, but tell everyone how you were feeling as you put on that Team USA gear, I saw the smile come across your face!
Trey: Oh man, the gear is my favorite part and every piece of it is amazing. When I saw my name on that jersey and putting it on for the first time, wow, it makes this experience even more real and it is happening right now, so it feels just awesome.
A: What kind of relationship do you have with the so far with guys on the team?
Trey: Andrew and Ryan are two of my favorite guys in the sport. I have known Ryan for a really long time and we grew up racing against each other. What he has done this year is unbelievable, so I have a lot of respect for him. And Andrew, who I have come to know this year – I’ve realized that he is such a great guy.
I think the three of us are pretty well rounded guys, and I am really excited to be on the team with them. Roger, Mitch, and the entire crew are great. The entire Geico Honda Powersports team, Mike, Ziggy, Jeff, and everyone has been unbelievable thus far and I am happy to be a part of it and I am looking forward to giving it our best shot.
A: You will be competing in the MX2 class, talk about your competition and the Motocross of Nations being held in Colorado, a track that you have done pretty well at before.
Trey: Yeah, there will be a lot of unknowns. I have not raced a lot of those guys so I do not know what to think about them, but I do know Dean (Wilson) has been going fast and some other guys as well. For me I am going to concentrate on what is taking place and do the best racing and team work that I can.
It is unbelievable to have the race in Colorado, but it would have been pretty cool to go overseas also and get that whole experience, but this is cool right now. I really like that track so I am really looking forward to it all.
Finally we have a rider racing literally on his ‘home’ turf, Andrew Short:
Annj: Andrew, what does it mean to you to ride for Team USA?
Andrew: It is a really big honor and especially for me because I was not a clear chosen pick to represent the team, so I was excited, especially with the race being in Colorado. The Motocross of Nations is not an opportunity that many people get to ride in, and to have it in America, I was excited to get picked and represent our country.
A: You have just spent the last season competing hard against Ryan Dungey, now he will be your team mate, as well as Trey being on the team. Your thoughts?
Andrew: It is perfect to have team mates like Ryan and Trey, both are on top of their game right now and both have won championships. So I am in a position now where I need to do my job as well but yes, you could not have two better team mates and riding for the best country, like I am.
A: This is your first time riding for Team USA and The Nations, what are you looking forward to?
Andrew: Yes, both Trey and I are the rookies on the team. Hopefully we can lean on Ryan’s experience from last year and with Roger and Mitch and the rest of the Honda Red Bull Racing Team, a lot of those guys have gone to this race before, so their experience will be a tremendous help.
Not a lot of riders get picked to participate, so the entire experience, the race, the feelings and excitement, the nervousness, and all the emotions you are going to go through, from racing with the other guys and just being in front of that many people should be a lot of fun and I am looking forward to it all.
Andrew Short will ride with the number 3 plate in Colorado as Team USA defends it’s title
A: Everyone seems to bring something unique to the team, and you definitely bring knowledge and the experience of racing in Colorado to the team.
Andrew: Yeah, I know Colorado really well. I know how the tracks develop and the atmosphere and altitude when racing. I have been lucky enough to learn about those kinds of things and I have become acclimated to it from growing up racing in that area. Colorado definitely is home for me, so that will be a big advantage, and I think for Trey and Ryan too because they have raced there before and they know what it is like.
A: You are fresh out of the AMA MX National season, are you feeling 100% going into this battle of Nations?
Andrew: Well, I have definitely had my share of being battered and bruised after a long motocross series, but coming into this last race, at Pala MX, I am definitely feeling good and healthy and I am looking forward to getting in some track time. I want to go out there spend a little more time on the bike, get prepared and comfortable as we go racing in Colorado, so I should be pretty strong going into the race.
A: You will get a chance to work with Roger De Coster, someone you have yet work with, how different is that for you?
Andrew: I have been around him at the races before but we have never worked together, so it’s a new experience. There are a lot of people involved with the team and that is the beauty of this situation, where everybody comes together and offers what they have and we all lean on each other. So it’s a unique partnership and I am looking forward to working with him and everyone else too.
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