Today was pretty special. The folks over at FIM, the largest and most recognized motorcycle racing sanctioning body in the world, sent me a note thanking me for my years of competition at home in the U.S., and abroad during Motocross des Nations, as well as MXGP this year. Obviously, this summer didn’t go as planned, but it was still nice to be acknowledged for my efforts. Check it out:
It is with gratitude, humility, a bit of sadness but without regret, that I announce my retirement from motorcycle racing today.
As many of you know, I experienced a pretty horrendous crash back in April that left me with multiple fractures in my tailbone along with soft tissue damage. My initial thought was that I could be back riding in a few weeks if I just stayed quiet for a while. That has not proven to be the case. Follow-up X-Rays have made clear that I also suffered severe compression of multiple disks in my lower back. I am still in significant discomfort and I realize that even if I start my fitness program and training now that I been cleared by my physician, I will not be able, prior to the end of the MXGP season, to achieve the fitness necessary for me to compete at the level I have always striven for.
I am grateful for having had the opportunity to do something I have loved since I was a kid and turn it into my livelihood. I am grateful for the support of my family for all the years they spent hauling my bikes and me around to races, interrupting their lives in the process.
I am grateful for the support of my many sponsors through the years. What people don’t often think about, when it comes to individual “action” sports like motocross, is that we rely on sponsors to compete. In motocross, the sponsors aren’t just a name on your jersey – they are part of your racing team. If they are good, they are sponsors in the truest sense of the word. They are involved in building the best bike, putting together the best team, supporting your training, and so much more. So, with that in mind, first and foremost I want to thank Kawasaki, which has been my bike of choice since my Team Green days. They have been with me through ups and downs, serious injuries and great successes. They’ve always cared about me and I’ve been successful in large part because of it. THOR/Parts Unlimited and Monster Energy Company have been with me through it all as well. Thanks also to DC, GoPro, Oakley, Alpinestars, Atlas and Mobius Braces. Each of you has been an integral part of making this an amazing career.
I want to thank my long-time agent, my friend, Bobby Nichols, and his agency The Sports Syndicate, for the strong guidance and support they have offered my entire career.
But most of all, I’m writing this retirement note to my fans. I am grateful for the hundreds of thousands of fans, not only in the U.S., but throughout the world. It is amazing to know that you have cared so much and been so supportive along the way.
That gets me to the sadness about making this decision now. I was so stoked to make the decision to be a part of MXGP racing. It has always been important to me to ride my best and to be in the best possible position to give my best, in part because of wanting to give back to you, the fans. I am sad that this year did not work out the way I had hoped in that regard. I wanted to be at my best, to compete with these riders who are among the very best in the world and leave it all out on the track as each of them does every race. The sadness is that I only got to do that for a few races.
I am grateful to have had the chance to race with the very best in world, my competitors in Supercross and Motocross in the States as well as those who make the MXGP what it is. I am grateful to know that our competitiveness helped to continue the growth of our sport.
I leave with no regrets. I have been blessed to experience so much of life through my racing. I have never wanted to disappoint my fans nor my supporters and my hope is that for the most part I have lived up to that.
Again, thanks to each and every one of you who have been a part of my team.
So right after Argentina we flew back to Europe, and then the United States for a couple of days to sort out my sports visa. While we were in America we got to see some friends and family which we’ve missed very much since we’ve been away. It was a quick visit but it was cool to be back on the home turf, haha. After that we returned to Belgium and got back into the groove of testing and training.
We flew into Milan the Friday before Trentino and drove straight to the track. Since all of the races are in Europe for the next few months, we can stay in a motorhome at the track. So that makes life a little easier. The drive itself was pretty beautiful because we’re in the Italian side of The Alps. It’s kind of like Argentina in the fact that it is amazingly beautiful. My dad and a few of our friends from California showed up too so it was good to have everyone there.
Practice went okay Saturday morning but the format of two practices, followed by timed qualifying, and then an race is a lot to get used to. Pretty soon I’m going to have to stop saying that, haha. If it were up so me, we’d do a 10-minute practice and go race. That’s one of my strong points: just being able to go out there and going racing with what you have—making it work. With the amount of time we have, if someone does have a problem they have a lot of time to work though it and get it better.
But we’re learning and adapting at each round. Obviously, I haven’t been to any of these tracks, so especially at a circuit like Arco most the guys have a setting that they know. Maybe it worked last year, maybe it didn’t. So they know which direction to go, or what not to try. We’re just showing up in the dark…
The track itself was another tough one. It’s really slippery and one-lined. Plus the layout is small which makes it that much more difficult. It’s like gloried Daytona without the Supercross jumps. Tight turns with not a lot of real estate to go to. So more than ever getting a good start was key. In the Qualifying Race everything went well. I finished fourth and I was able to grab a good gate pick going into Sunday’s motos.
In the first moto we got a decent start and were up front right away. We’ve spent the last few weeks testing and trying to get some extra power out of the motor, and it’s working. Kawasaki brought over a couple guys from Japan and Theo Lockwood, who I use to work with a lot in the States.
In the race, we were a little faster in some spots versus the other guys, but then they were a little quicker in others. Without a doubt the biggest problem was that it was a really tough place to make a pass. Basically you’re just following the leader and trying not to get blasted with roost. I ended up fourth but was only four seconds behind the leader so I felt good going into the second race.
Once again, we got a pretty good start. Not quite as good as the first moto, but we were still right there. For a while I was in third, but close to Tony. It was a little bit like a cat and mouse. He was a little quicker here, and I was a little faster there, but I couldn’t find a place to make a pass. DeSalle got into the mix and tried running it up on me on the inside down one of the hills. I should have just let him go but I swept around him on the outside. A few turns later I crashed.
Honestly, I don’t even know what happened. Everything was good, and then wham, I was on the ground. I went to the medical center and for an X-ray but they couldn’t tell me if I broke anything or not. So we packed up headed to Milan and flew back to Belgium Monday afternoon.
On Tuesday, I saw a doctor who confirmed what I didn’t want to hear: I broke my tailbone in four spots. Unfortunately, there’s nothing they can do for it, so basically, we just have to wait and let it heal. I want to race and plan on riding on Friday. After that we can make the call if we’re going to line up at Valkenswaard. Hopefully I’ll have better news here shortly… – RV
First off, Happy Easter to everyone and your families. Hope you get to share it with the special ones in your lives!
It’s been a hectic last couple months, but feel like its time to update all of you on what’s been going on. So let’s start from the first race in Qatar: Definitely, didn’t go the way we wanted. Our bike set-up was quite a ways off and therefore I was struggled the entire weekend. To make matters worse, in the second race I somehow got a rock wedged inside the rear brake and you can imagine no brake, no bueno. The Entire second half of moto two was sketchy. The whole weekend was just off, but it’s about learning and moving forward. So it was time to get our test on.
Back to Belgium, we tested for two days and made some good progress. Its tough because our tracks in the states are much different than the tracks here. The speed you can ride is so much different. We can push on our tracks, but on theirs the dirt is very particular and you have to be very aware of when you can and cannot push. Sometimes you have to go slower to go faster, which for me is hard to wrap my head around. The bike settings are much different as well because of the dirt. You have to run a softer fork setting because you don’t have the same load on the suspension. I think we are getting closer each day so we can more or less do some fine-tuning from here on out.
The racing itself over here is just different as well. In America, I like to say, we play checkers. While here, they play chess. There is a lot of strategy involved since the races are stretched out over two days (I am on a big learning curve). On Saturday we do two 20-minute practices and a 25-minute race so that by itself is a lot of riding. Then we do another practice plus two more motos the next day! Talk about seat-time. The Starting gate is much different too because of FIM rules. You are not allowed to go to the line with your mechanic, so I have to pack my own gate. Do I build a ramp? Kick some dirt around? Wide? Tight? Again, learning.
That said, next stop, Thailand. This track was a bit more my style, but man was it hot. Like a nice hot humid day in FL. We went 1-3 for the overall so that was definitely better and a step in the right direction. However, we are looking for a 1-1 so there is still work to be done. While in Thailand we got to do some crazy exploring.
We stayed in Bangkok and the place is just bizarre. But we got to see how people live and conduct business in alleyways. It was all just really weird, but a cool experience nevertheless. Watch Hangover 2 and you’ll get an good understanding of it. For example, you’ll see a little kid standing on the tray of a scooter with his dad driving it, and another kid on the back, no helmets, all three of them just ripping. Unreal…
After that we had two weeks off which we used to our advantage and put more work in. Then off to Patagonia we went.
Didn’t really know what to expect but WOW, Argentina is a beautiful place. I could definitely go back there and do some fly fishing and exploring. It kind of felt like home, or like Mammoth, California. One of the coolest places I have ever been hands down!
The track, which was only built for the race was really similar to Mammoth, too but it had fine pieces of porous volcanic rock. There wasn’t a lot of grip yet it was one of the better tracks we’ve ridden so far because it was a lot bigger, wider. And the fans…. absolutely crazy! Never knew people loved moto so much. I had to have guards everywhere I went. It was just that nuts. But it was cool to see people so pumped.
Also got to spend some time with my buddy Casey Stoner, his wife Adriana and their daughter Ally who flew in from Aussie. Cool having him around as he is pretty good with track stuff and its always helpul to get another perspective. Racing itself was okay with 4-4, but once again not exactly what we had in the plans. Got some decent points and things to make better. Work Time!
That’s about it for now. I’ll check back in with you after the next race in Italy in two weeks. – RV