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
Well you’ve probably wondered what I’ve been up to the last few months and I finally got a chance to sit down and type this up. A lot has gone on since my last update in November so let me fill you in:
Right before Thanksgiving we headed off to Spain to do some testing with my team and attend the FIM Gala.
We got some solid riding in at bunch of different tracks around Spain, and had some great food thanks to my food connoisseur/team owner Thierry! Not to mention my friend and MotoGP racer Dani Pedrosa hooked me up with his buddy Sete Gibernau, who let us come to his house and do some riding on his fleet of mini-MotoGP bikes— it was unreal. Hopefully we can do that again. I know I can shave off some time from the stopwatch, lol. And last but not least, Sete’s cousin Peto took us on a tour of some of Barcelona’s most historic spots, which were amazing. Peto actually runs a track/camp out there, which you should check out www.poleacamp.com.
Next, we arrived in Jerez for the Gala. I’m really not one for the limelight but there was a lot of buzz because of my new endeavor. Still, it was quite exciting. Overall it was a lot of fun… dress up in a penguin suit (haha) and hang with a bunch of other top athletes from all over the world. The highlight was Sunday evening when I was awarded a medal for my fourth consecutive Supercross title— a good way to stamp my U.S. career.
Once we got back to the States it was only two days before Thanksgiving so my wife and I shot up home to Washington to spend some time with family. We also got to step foot into our new home we purchased over the summer and guess what? It snowed! We got to experience the PNW life to its fullest and use our wood-burning fireplace. I have truly missed it up there. Afterwards, it was back to California to get ball rolling with training and riding.
Right now, it’s kind of the boring part. The everyday grind of training and riding/testing. However, at this point the main goal is to get the bike dialed-in so I am comfortable. The rest will come. In Europe, the team runs some different hard parts here and there and their bike set-up is a bit different than what I’m use to, so it’s a bit of a learning curve. But, I think we have pretty much worked all the bugs out and are sitting pretty good. It definitely takes time but anything worth doing does. Hard work pays off! “NO SHORTCUTS.”
That’s about all I have for now. We’re busy getting ready to make the move over to Europe later this month so it’s all hands on deck… -RV