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European Notebook, Part 1





Results from the Swiss round of World Supercross are below.






European Notebook, Part 1 - Photo 1 of 9
Rick and Sebastien

Hi Gang,



I’m working and training with Sebastien Tortelli, and we are heading to Europe for the World Supercross events. I’m writing a journal as we go along, and I’d like to share it with you.



Wednesday, December 4 – Met up with Sebastien at LAX. Had lunch with him, his wife Stephanie, and new son Enzo. Then our flight took off. Our trip was good, and we watched a couple of movies. Other people on the flight were David Vuillemin and his girlfriend, Damon Huffman and his wife, Tony Berluti, and a few others.





Thursday, December 5We made our connection in Geneva at 2 in the afternoon. Then we walked over to look at the track. Talked to some people, and saw a lot of familiar faces – Todd Jendro, Ken Hudgens, and Denny Hartwig from Clear Channel, old friends from the FIM, different race promoters, and Swiss and French fans. It was great. Then Sebastien and I went to work out. We did some cardio work, and then we made a makeshift wrestling mat in an aerobics room to work on Jujitsu. We ate dinner, and went to bed at 9pm.






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DV wins in Suisse!

Friday, December 6 – Woke up at 3am. Looked at some e-mails. Later in the morning we went down for sign up and to look at the track again. The track is mid-size. It’s not as small as the US Open, but it’s not as big as a normal American supercross. It’s maybe 3/4 in size compared to the Las Vegas/Sam Boyd Stadium track. The fastest lap time so far is 43 seconds by Chad Reed. Anyone outside of the previous top 20 guys will need to ride later tonight. It’s 4:30 in the afternoon right now. Sebastien and I are going to do a light work out in the gym downstairs in our hotel. We’ll do a lot of stretching too. Then we’ll eat dinner. His practice is scheduled for 9pm tonight. The track is a bit soft, but holding up well. The building holds 20,000, and it will be sold out. All in all, it looks to be a good event!





Friday, December 6 (continued) – It’s the first round of the World Supercross in Geneva, Switzerland. If you’ve ever been to Geneva, you know it’s quite a melting pot of languages. The ‘official’ language here is French, but most people also speak a Swiss dialect of German, and English.



Tonight I saw a lot of firsts. The opening part of the show was confusing to me. The lights went out, the fireworks began, and the music started up with Bolero (if you don’t know what that is, go look it up!). Then it was a Van Halen tune, followed by Star Wars. Next a ‘spaceship’ was lowered from the ceiling. A lady got out of the ‘spaceship’. Well, maybe ‘stripper’ is a better term. She went topless, and down to a thong bikini. (Clear Channel didn’t know of it, or approve it). The music playing was Marilyn Manson’s ‘Tainted Love’. Topless at a supercross? That was a first for me! I’m guessing it’s because the local promoter in Geneva owns a night club nearby, and maybe it’s his way of promoting his club.



The heat races went off well. The top 20 seeded riders did not have to race, but they got some practice in. Their times were recorded, but it doesn’t have anything to do with their starting positions for tomorrow. David Vuillemin was the fastest, with a timed lap of 41 seconds. Mike LaRocco was second. Sebastien, MC, Damon Huffman, and other riders were in the 43 to 44 second range. Chad Reed won his heat race, and ran laps of 42 seconds. He looked good.




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Notice what’s on the top of Seb’s helmet?

For tonight’s practice and qualifying, they had over 12,000 fans in attendance. Riders are healthy, and looking strong. It’s a positive thing for riders like DV and Seb that are coming off injuries to see how they stack up against their competition. It’s also a positive for riders like ‘Skippy’ Reed who are finding their way in the 250 class now. It’s a positive for riders like Jeremy McGrath who is on a new ride with KTM.



We are looking for a good show tomorrow night. I’ll get some photos to you as soon as I figure out how to keep my laptop online! ; )





Saturday, December 7We didn’t do too much during the daytime. A short workout, and lots of stretching. Then to the track to look around and watch other riders.



In practice today, David Vuillemin had the fastest lap, at 40.90. Chad Reed was next at 40.94, third was Tim Ferry at 41.10, next Mike LaRocco at 41.30, Sebastien was next at 41.80, Grant Langston was 41.90, and Jeremy was next at 42.10.



The crowd is different in Europe. More expressive. More animated. Crazy! Air horns, cow bells, and colorful clothes. They know how to make some noise! Being here in Europe reminds me of all the good times I’ve had here in the past. And the people are great. Over 20,000. The place is packed.



Jeremy McGrath won 250 heat 1. Chad Reed won heat 2, Sebastien second, Mike LaRocco third.



20 guys lined up for the main. Seb T. with the holeshot! Yeah! He led for 10 laps. Vuillemin got past him, but Seb’s getting the hang of running up front and the pace for that. Seb and Reed bumped, and both of them ended up losing their rhythm.



250 Main Event Results – Switzerland Round 1:

  1. David Vuillemin – YAM
  2. Tim Ferry – YAM
  3. Grant Langston – KTM
  4. Sebastien Tortelli – SUZ
  5. Chad Reed – YAM
  6. Jeremy McGrath – KTM
  7. Mike LaRocco – HON
  8. Joaiquim Rodrigues – KTM
  9. Damon Huffman – HON
  10. Stephen DeMartis – YAM






Sunday, December 8 – It’s about 2am in the morning here. Still winding down from the race.



A couple different points of view – as myself, a past racer & champion, I think this first event in Geneva for the 2003 World Supercross Championship went off very well. The track held up well. The arena is one of the biggest in Europe. It was a sell-out crowd. There were no glitches in the show at all. FIM, Clear Channel, DORNA, and the local promoter worked very well together.




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Seb and Tim Ferry dicing

As a spectator, the racing was awesome! The show was ‘different’ (as I said above). The action on the track was top-notch though. Everyone was close to top form. They are still getting into race shape, but everyone fought hard and battled. David Vuillemin had to go to a semi, and was still strong. Tim Ferry was consistent, and took second. Grant Langston showed he belongs in the 250 class with a podium finish. Chad Reed was strong in his heat. Jeremy feels great on his new KTM ride.



As a trainer and a coach working with Sebastien to help fulfill his supercross dreams, I think the night was perfect. We knew his conditioning wasn’t 100%. He can go 20 laps hard at Suzuki’s test track, but 20 laps of racing and competition is much harder. As far as technique is concerned, Sebastien was awesome. He holeshot both his heat and the Main Event. He led over 10 laps in the main. And he’s very happy with the new Suzuki.



We are developing a new warm-up style. Many guys will jog around, or use stationary bicycles to warm up. I’ve worked with many different trainers, and many different ideas. What we are doing now is using sparring and shadow boxing with a lot of different movement, and a lot of stretching. Of course you want to get your legs and arms warmed up, but the goal is to get the core of your body warmed as well.



After his heat race, we talked about line selection, and where others were making up time on the track. We also focused on the angles his body was using, so that he’s not using his arms as much, and not sitting upright. The last thing we focused on was his breathing, especially over the finish line double, and the triples.



In a way, we are working on the fundamentals. We are retraining, and Sebastien is having to think his way through everything. Once it becomes more natural to him – watch out. He’s going to be very dangerous on the track!



Going into the Main Event the plan was to have him ‘blow up’. I didn’t want to see consistency or him pacing himself. I wanted him to find out for himself where he’s at physically. He ‘exploded’ about right where we thought he would, just past the halfway point. That’s about the same point in the Anaheim ’86 race with David Bailey where I fell apart from fatigue too.



So, we were happy after the race. We have a lot of things we want to work on. But it’s great to see Sebastien smile! It seems like both the public and the media embraced Sebastien after the race. He signed a lot of autographs. That’s the best thing for me personally out of all this – to see him working towards success and being happy.



Afterwards, we went back to our hotel, had some coffee and Italian fruit cake (It’s much better than the American version of fruit cake!) and talked about the things we need to work on starting tomorrow (today?) morning.





Sunday, December 8 – (continued) It’s close to midnight here, and we are getting ready to go to bed.



Sebastien and I did some training when we got up this morning, but nothing on the bike. Then we drove from Geneva to Salon, France. I was driving, and, Sebastien got a ticket for not wearing his seat belt as a passenger! 22 Euro fine for Seb! Along the way we stopped at a roadside pizza place, complete with a wood-fired oven.



We are staying at Sebastien’s in-law’s home in the South of France. It’s beautiful here!





Tuesday, December 10Something interesting happened to me today. I had a safe in my home in California. Six years ago we moved to North Carolina. I took the safe with us. And we just moved back to California. I brought the safe back with us. There was a bunch of stuff in it, but I really didn’t pay attention to it each time we moved. Well, just before leaving to come to Europe with Sebastien, I was looking thru it and found an old wallet that had foreign currency in it. It was a bunch of old French Francs. That’s considered old money in Europe, as they use the Euro now instead of Francs. I showed it to Sebastien, and we weren’t sure if I could exchange it, but he said to bring it along and we’d try. I’ll come back to the story on that below.



After waking up today, we went to visit Sebastien’s doctor here in France. Sebastien’s doctor has done a lot for different people and injuries, including Sebastien’s shoulder, and JMB’s hands. (For those of you that don’t remember, JMB won a 125 World Motocross Championship, a 250 World Motocross Championship, and one year swept the AMA Supercross, 250, and 500 National Series – the only person in history to do so! To read more about JMB, you can visit this link) The doctor is an orthopedic surgeon. The reason Seb wanted me to visit him was to see if he could make any improvement on my right wrist. Even though I know deep in my heart that nothing could be done for my wrist, there is always a small hope that someone might have a miracle to make it normal again.



After the doctor took some X-rays, he said that if I wanted to have strength in my hand, I should get my wrist fused all the way. (It’s partially fused right now. To see that surgery, you can visit another link This is the link to see my surgery.) My hope was diminished, but I really appreciate Sebastien’s concern for me, and him getting me in to see the doctor right away.



After that, Sebastien, me, and Tony B. hooked up with JMB for lunch. While we were eating lunch, we saw a guy that had one of the ‘coolest’ mullets I’ve ever seen. (In France, it’s pronounced ‘moo-lay’.)



After lunch with JMB and ‘Mr. Mullet’, we went by the Banc of France to see if I could exchange my old French Francs. Guess what? I had over $3,000 in old French Francs! My lucky day! I exchanged them right away! If I would of waited much longer, the time would of expired to exchange them! So I’m feeling good about that – an extra 3 G – thanks Seb!



The year that I got those French Francs was 1989, the last year that I raced in Europe. (In 1990, I didn’t come to Bercy because I was getting married.)




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Chad Reed

After that, we went by Steve Boniface’s house. We talked with Steve, and his mom and dad. We decided to all get together for dinner later tonight.



Then we went back to Sebastien’s in-law’s house, changed our clothes, and started a two hour workout. We did some free weight training, and that’s something Seb hasn’t done much of in the past. There are some areas there we can work on that will help with balance, coordination, and strength.



I’m learning more about him every day, and he’s learning more about me every day. The trust level is going up.



We went by the Boniface’s house for dinner, and they left us a message that they already went to the restaurant. We went down the street to Fanny’s father’s restaurant. (Fanny is Eric Sorby’s girlfriend.) Then we went to a little place next door to have dessert. I had three scoops of ice cream, Sebastien had Tiramisu, and Tony had coffee.



We came back ‘home’, watched some TV, checked some e-mails, and started getting ready for sleep. I checked in with my family to see how my wife Stephanie, sons Luke and Jake, and daughter Kassidy are doing. They are doing great, but I miss them a lot.






Wednesday, December 11 – 3am – OK, before I go to bed now, I’m checking in with you. I already checked in with my family to see how my kids are doing in school. They are doing great!




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Mr. Luongo at the US World Supercross 1999

Sebastien took me this morning to the airport in Marseille so I could get a rental car. I came back and got Tony and we headed off to Nice in the south of France to met with an old friend – Guiseppe Luongo. Guiseppe and I have done a lot of business together, mostly in the late 80′s and early 90′s. You might recognize his name – he was the head of Action Group, which used to control the World Motocross and World Supercross events before DORNA acquired them from Action Group.



Guiseppe gave me directions to get to the port on the French Riviera where his yacht is moored. The name of his yacht? Action 1! When we got there, I saw many old friends that used to work with Guiseppe and Action Group. Guiseppe gave Tony and me a quick tour of his ‘boat’, and then we went out for lunch.



He took us to a great seafood restaurant. They went out and pulled some lobsters right out of the water, and showed them to us at our table live! Food can’t be any more fresh than that! We had lobster and pasta, along with a nice bottle of wine.



A long time ago, I bet Guiseppe that if I won three out of four of his events in Europe, he would have to give me the watch he was wearing. I won them, and he obliged by giving me the watch right off of his wrist. It’s a beautiful 18K gold watch.



So, on this trip, I decided I was going to return the watch to him. He was surprised and shocked that I still had it. I returned it to him, and we had a good laugh about the story of the watch.



We reminisced about many of the old races, and promotions. But then the conversation turned to what Guiseppe is doing now in business, and that’s SuperMoto. SuperMoto is quite a show!



One of the things I like most about Guiseppe is that he is not only a business-man, but he has tremendous passion about what he’s doing. He’s in business to make money, as all business-men are, but he also believes 100% in what he’s doing. It’s nice to see him excited about the potential with SuperMoto, it’s World Championship, and it’s potential growth in America too.



We also took some time to talk about other business opportunities. Today, we look at each other in some ways the same as we did years ago, but also we look at each other differently – we are a little more grown-up, a little more mature. We can do a lot of things to help each other’s business interests now. And have fun while we are doing it. I look forward to doing some great things with him in the future. Guiseppe has great business and media contacts all over the world, and is very organized. I bring some assets to the table as well.



Then Guiseppe took us to see his ‘house’ on the ‘top of the hill’. We met his beautiful girlfriend from New Zealand, Ursula. She also helps quite a bit with SuperMoto, especially on the technology side of things. They work very well together, and are very much in love. And they were both great hosts. We sat and watched some exciting videos from this past season of SuperMoto.



Then Tony and I drove back to Salon. It’s almost a three hour drive. Along the way, we stopped at the roadside pizza wagon again. I only made one wrong turn on the way! We grabbed a pizza, headed ‘home’, ate, watched CNN, checked some e-mail, and now it’s time for bed.



How about Sebastien? Sebastien took the day to visit his mother and father. It’s important to spend quiet time away from racing no matter who you are. Sebastien did that by spending time with his family.



Tomorrow we will train on the bikes at JMB’s track.





Wednesday, December 11 (continued) We woke up, and returned the rental car I had. Then me, Tony, and Sebastien were off to see JMB. It was raining. Along with the rain, I couldn’t believe how cold it was. Once we got to JMB’s house, he sized us up for riding gear, and dialed us in on some bikes to ride. We went out riding for three hours in the rain!




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JMB, 1988 des Nations, and today

We had a great time. And it was nice to see where JMB grew up, and all the trails and tracks that he rode, and still rides today! JMB is a very special and unique person. He definitely qualifies for ‘Sportsman of the Century’. Just look at the accomplishments he’s done. Winning the ‘Triple Crown’ of AMA Motocross. World Championships. Making the switch to road racing. He’s won the 24 Hours du Mans, and the Bol d’Or road races. He’s qualified on the pole for a 500 GP road race! Very remarkable!



His ‘job’ these days is testing for Suzuki on their road race bikes, and development of a SuperMoto bike. And he still rides supercross almost every day on his tracks. He’s unbelievable guy. He’s developed a nice lifestyle for him and his family.



Then Seb, Tony, and I came back ‘home’. We planned to have dinner at a place called ‘The B & B at Luberon’. Their web-site is at this link. The host and hostess are Marc and Caroline, friends of Sebastien’s in-laws. They invited us over for dinner at their house. It was a wonderful experience of French culture and cuisine, and we made some new friends as well.



We went back ‘home’ around 10:30, and packed our gear for tomorrow. We leave early in the morning for the Holland supercross.






Thursday, December 12 – 10pm – We woke up at 4:30am. We were out the door before 5. We went to the airport in Marseille, and boarded our 8am flight. We arrived in Amsterdam at 10am. If I thought I was cold yesterday while riding in the rain, I was in for more of a surprise when we got off the plane in Holland. It was freezing! The temp was around 20 degrees. Cold. Very cold. We got our rental car, and headed towards Arnhem. We got to Arnhem just after 11am.



We went to the track next. The track is very nice. It was a little bit soft, and it reminded me of Seattle back when I used to race. It will groove up a bit as the day goes on.



Riders that looked good in practice – Chad Reed looked good. The best lap that I timed him at was 57.5. Sebastien was a low 58. Vuillemin low 58, but he wasn’t really putting together complete laps in practice. Langston, McGrath, Lewis, Clark, Povolny, K. Johnson looked good. Tim Ferry had a small crash in practice.



The riders got a lot of track time today. Clear Channel is trying to give them more time on the bikes because it’s difficult to train when you are away from home. This event is a little different from the first event in Switzerland, in that Clear Channel has brought over a lot of their own people to do things. It’s a full Clear Channel crew. Looks just like a race in America.



I think some people are getting tired mentally, being in Europe for an extended period of time now. We are up in our hotel rooms getting ready for bed, and I’m looking forward to getting a good night of sleep.






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Tony B looking serious!

Sebastien “It’s always nice to come back to Europe. Last month my wife Stephanie and I spent some time in France, visiting with our families. It’s good to see old friends and faces.”



“I’m very happy with my situation at Suzuki. I like the bikes, and am working well with my mechanic Tony Berluti. My relationship with Rick is growing every day as we get to know each other better, and learn how to work together. I’m excited for all the opportunities ahead of us, especially with supercross in 2003. I feel like I will surprise some people.”



“In coming to Europe, the goal wasn’t to come and win, although that’s always a thought. The goal is to learn about temperament, personality, endurance, will-power, technique, and how to deal with pressure, and pain. We are accomplishing our goals.”




Friday, December 13 – 11pm – Today was ‘Friday the 13th’. I’ll point out a couple of weird situations that happened to me and Sebastien today. We’ve both run the #13 on our number plates in the past, and some people are superstitious about that number.



On our drives together while we’ve been here in Europe, Tony and I had noticed how the number 13 seems to come up frequently. When we stayed at Sebastien’s in-law’s house in Salon, that region in France is number ’13′. The end of everyone’s license number ends in the number ’13′. Sebastien took me to Avis to get a rental car one day, and my car was parked in stall 13. On the morning we flew to Amsterdam, we were wanting to pay for our coffee and croissants. Tony reached into his pocket and grabbed all his Euro change, I did the same, and so did Sebastien. How much change was left over? 13 Euros. But wait, there’s more! All three of us have been 13 years old at one time or another. And 4 + 2 + 7 = 13 (unless you work at Enron). Is this weird, or what?



The fact is, Seb and I have very positive attitudes. Let me make it clear, we aren’t superstitious … but I thought I’d share!



We got up this morning, went downstairs in the hotel, and had breakfast. We sat we TFS, Paul Carpenter, Barry Carsten, and the crew from MotoworldRacing.com Suzuki. After that, everyone went their own way because we didn’t have to be to the track until noon. We did some relaxing, and then Seb did some media interviews.



Then we went to walk the track, and it was actually dusty! They had turned on the heaters in the building overnight to dry the dirt out because it was so wet the day before. Once the riders went out, the wet dirt started to come up, and the track grooved up a bit, but nothing compared to before. The Dirt Wurx crew is doing a great job with the track.



Next, Seb did more interviews, and I did a couple myself. I did one with Art Eckmann – he’s back, and doing the Internet broadcasts for Clear Channel. He’ll be doing it for all the events in 2003. He’s a pro.



In the first practice session the fastest guys were Chad Reed with a 55.27 on lap four, David Vuillemin with a 55.92 on lap four, Mike LaRocco with a 56.3 on lap nine, and Seb with a 56.9 on lap five.



In the second practice session, David Vuillemin had a 55.63 on lap six, Grant Langston a 55.71 on lap seven, Chad Reed with 56.07 on lap ten, Mike LaRocco with a 56.09 on lap eight, and Seb with a 56.12 on lap 13.



Lap 13 (oh my!) was Sebastien’s second-to-last lap of practice, and the fact that he did that at the end of practice shows he’s gaining strength.




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Also, Sebastien and I are bridging gaps as far as communication and trust with each other. He is making big strides in having trust with his motorcycle as well. The Honda’s he has ridden in the past had a much stiffer feel, and were not as forgiving as the Suzuki. Sebastien was riding in a ‘protective’ mode before, but today you could see him start to hang it out more. He’s trusting the bike more. With that, he’s also gaining confidence in his riding abilities.



Our friendship is growing too, and I enjoy getting to know him as a person. We like to give each other a hard time. We are laughing more, but we are also devoting more time to the serious matters, like mental preparation.



Coming to Europe, it’s a double-edged sword. You get to travel and see things that most people only dream of. At the same time, you remember all the things that you’ve worked so hard for – family, wife, kids, and home. You don’t get to see or spend any time with those things when you are on the road. I’m looking forward to seeing my wife. I miss her, her cooking, her support, and the way she loves me. I miss my kids – Luke, Jake, Kassidy, and seeing them off to school in the morning. Seeing when they come home from school, and hearing about all their adventures that their day brought.



I know Seb feels the same way. He has an infant son and wife at home. His baby will be 11 days older when he gets back, and he’ll notice a difference. I know he’ll be excited to get home and see his wife and baby Enzo.



But all that doesn’t take away the excitement of what’s in front of us – the race tomorrow. I feel like Seb is getting stronger each time he rides. He knows that he’s going to go thru a lot tomorrow – he might tighten up, he might go thru some pain. But he’s ready to take it. He’s ready to embrace it. He’s ready to push all the way to the finish line.



I told Sebastien that different things happen when you start to have big success. But the important things in life will not change no matter if you win or lose. Your wife and son will love you when you get home – doesn’t matter if you win or finish last. For Sebastien, win or lose tomorrow, he’s a winner when he goes home to his family.



Tomorrow – the race.





RJ



p.s. Thanks to everyone that helped us along the way. We appreciate it.



To see Part 2 of European Notebook, check this link



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