Although it may seem like the sport goes into hibernation during the off-season, it is actually the busiest time of the year for most professional motocross riders. Sure, as a fan, it is pretty dull. After all, there is no action to sink our teeth into. However, every rider is busy putting in the laps in the winter months, as they try to ensure that they are going to come out swinging in 2014.
Evidently, there are some different ways to tackle the off-season. Whilst some riders elect to knuckle down and hide away at their own practice facility, others choose to race in a handful of unique races. Interestingly, everyone has a different opinion on the best way to tackle the cold winter months, as some are heavily against racing in the meaningless events around the world. In fact, Ken Roczen withdrew from Bercy, because Aldon Baker (his trainer) thought it would be better for him to stay in Florida, and focus on pounding out the laps at the farm.
Obviously, there is a risk of getting injured when you take part in the off-season events – this seems to be the main reason that some people stay away from races like Genoa. But you can get injured whenever you ride. Honestly, it is just as likely that you are going to break a bone whilst riding alone at home. Of course, you wouldn’t be subject to an aggressive move from another rider if you stay at your private facility, so that is a positive of staying back.
However, those aggressive moves can have a positive affect on a rider. Although it can cause a bit of tension, it keeps a rider sharp during the off-season, and can mean that they are not rusty going into the first race of the new season. You know what they say – practice is no substitute for racing. There are always riders that make big breakthroughs in testing at these races, as they uncover some areas where they can make small (but vital) improvements. Of course, there is also a lot to be gained financially at events like Bercy, as the promoters ensure that it is beneficial for the foreign riders to travel over to their event. With large sums of money on the line, it’s a bit of added incentive.
Of course, the risk is not always worth the reward, as Wil Hahn found out at Bercy. The American found himself on the receiving end of an aggressive move, which could have had disastrous consequences. When Jordi Tixier cut across of Wil over the finish line on the Friday, most were shocked – it was dirty. Luckily, Hahn escaped without any injuries and was able to race the following two nights. Wil had another big get off on the final day of racing, also. Thankfully, Wil left France just a bit battered and bruised. But, if he had picked up an injury, it would have seriously hindered his performance in 2014, which is a time that he really has to impress.
It would not be as disastrous if an MXGP rider were to pick up a niggling injury at these off-season races, as they have a little longer to prepare for their first round. In comparison, the off-season for the American riders is much, much shorter, especially when you factor in the Monster Energy Cup, hence why their time is more valuable.
The British riders are in a unique situation this year, as the Arenacross UK series is going to run right up until the start of the outdoor season. Therefore, if a rider picks up an injury in that series, their season will be in tatters. Although the Arenacross series is rapidly growing in size, there is no doubt that the Maxxis British Championship (among other series) is the main goal for almost everyone, hence why there are still a handful of guys that choose not to race inside of the UK arenas.
Of course, there are a few riders that come alive in the off-season, as they make their living competing in the off-season events like the German Supercross series. Ultimately, it is guys like Cyrille Coulon that fill the gate at these events. So, the off-season races are clearly beneficial. Otherwise, these guys would not be able to base their racing career around them. It also explains why some privateers choose to race as many of the events as they can. In fact, some American privateers skip the Monster Energy AMA Supercross season opener, in order to finish the German Supercross series.
Words by Lewis Phillips
Image courtesy of Suzuki Racing