In Phoenix early in the 2017 Monster Energy/AMA Supercross Series, you had a big crash in practice and were injured pretty badly. Can you talk through what happened there?
In Phoenix, we had done Press Day there on Friday, the day before, and the track was dry as is typical for Arizona, so we got used to jumping the rhythms and stuff like that under those conditions. When we went out for the first practice on Saturday, the track was flooded – completely muddy – and it was rider error... I should’ve just been more patient and rolled the jumps a couple more times, but instead I just went to hit this single-double-triple section and spun the rear wheel off the face and endoed. I jumped off the bike, landed on the ground kind of shoulder/head-first, and punched the ground with my wrist. It ended up dislocating my wrist, a perilunate dislocation [meaning the carpal bones that are anchored by the lunate carpal bone in the wrist – the capitate and the phalanxe – were dislocated from the lunate] that tore all the tendons off my lunate bone. I also broke the tip of my ulna off, so I have a screw in that, a fixture inside that holds my lunate in place... I also lacerated my kidney and a bunch of stuff. My body was wrecked for two weeks after that crash, and my arm obviously for a lot longer than that.
When did you actually get to start riding again?
I started riding the week before the Vegas Supercross, so about three weeks before Hangtown, but that’s not a lot of time, obviously. Most of those three weeks were short days on the track, too, because I hadn’t ridden forever, and my wrist was hurting and sore, and I was getting blisters on my hands from not riding... It wasn’t even quality riding, you know? Most of it was just me being out there and getting a feel for the bike again and all that stuff, just trying to get as comfortable as I can to be able to race Hangtown.
Did your hands survive Hangtown?
Actually, they did! I was surprised, too. I only got two blisters at Hangtown, surprisingly, because I expected to walk out of there with 10 just from holding on so damned tight!
How did Hangtown go for you?
I finished right where I expected. I came in there knowing that I was behind the ball a little bit, so I wasn’t expecting a top-five, but I was hoping for a top-10, and I got 11th. That was acceptable for me, and for those conditions, after not being on the bike and not being able to train properly for two or three months. It’s kind of hard to come out and race against all those guys who have been racing, and their endurance is up, and all that. Honestly, it’s been fun being back at it, and it’s been a good so far.
Speaking to top racers in the past, they have talked about how their bike settings change significantly when they aren’t riding at 100 percent, so they end up having to change settings constantly until they feel they’re at their full race pace. Is that something you’re dealing with, too?
Yeah, that’s another thing, too, that I noticed when I was riding at home just getting going... I was trying to pick up the pace, but I was concerned about going too stiff [on his suspension settings], so I would soften it up a bit, but then the next week I’d be feeling a little bit better and then my bike would be too soft... It’s just that thing where every weekend we’ll be making changes until I’m up to speed, feeling better, and comfortable enough to judge what my bike’s doing. It’s just a process.
What’s your plan from here in order to stay healthy, first off, but then return back to the pace that puts you near the front again?
It’s just the same thing to me. Obviously, I haven’t raced in so long and haven’t pushed myself, so my situation is that I just need to race on the weekends, then come home and make sure I’m 100-percent recovered physically, then start training again and start putting in the laps until the weekend comes. And along with that, keep doing rehab on my wrist and making sure that’s good, because I don’t want to overdo it and end up missing any races. I want to make sure I make all 12 rounds. It’s kind of a touchy thing, you know? Because I can push through it and risk making it worse, or back it down a touch and keep it consistent doing what I’m doing so that I can last the whole season, and hopefully as the time goes on, I will be able to get back up to the speed and the results that I expect from myself.
So, you just need to strike a balance there...
Exactly. It’s about trying to find the balance of what’s going to work and what isn’t, and just doing the stuff that works and avoiding the stuff that doesn’t.