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I have had the chance to watch Jeff’s riding progress from his early days in the C class at a local race, to cheering him on as he qualifies and lines up on the gate with some of the fastest riders in the world at pro nationals. When he announced that he would be racing this years USGP at WW Ranch in Jacksonville Florida, I couldn’t think of a better opportunity for such a determined and hard working kid. I had the pleasure of chatting with Jeff a few days after the event to find out how it went for him and his thoughts on this once in a lifetime experience.
Evan: Jeff, first off, congratulations on your results from the USGP, tell us how the weekend went for you.
Jeff: Thanks! The weekend went really awesome considering the weeks leading up to it. Came back down to school three weeks ago, and have only had the chance to ride one time since then. So I was coming into this weekend looking at it as a fun new opportunity to line up against some guys that I never thought I would race against. Most of these guys I have been looking up to since I was a little kid. So the weekend started off good. In free practice I was 26th; qualifying practice I think I was 28th. Ended up placing 26th in the qualifying race. Unfortunately I had a little mishap when I was getting out of the way for the leaders coming around, so I just got off the track to get out of their way because I got the blue flag and afterwards they had thought that I cut the track. So they disqualified me for some reason. But it was alright, they still let me race the next day for the mains, I just had last gate pick for both motos, which sucked, but still a fun experience. Going into Sunday I was pretty sore from the day before. I have only got the chance to ride once in the three weeks leading up to the GP. Overall I did a lot better than I expected, 25th in the first moto, and in the 2nd moto I got caught up in a first turn pile up and ended up breaking my throttle tube, so I ended up with a DNF for the 2nd moto. Overall it was a super fun weekend, did a lot better than I thought I would and got the chance to race against some legends in the sport.
Evan: Between free practice, qualifying practice, warm up races, and motos, you are required to ride a lot more for a GP race than for a US National, was this too much? Or do you think riders could benefit from this kind of schedule if they were to incorporate it to the US Nationals?
Jeff: For me, since I am not in as good of shape as the top guys, I think it was better for me. I had more time to rest between each session. Not every session was a “go out and kill yourself” session. You got a couple free practices where you can relax, let your body warm up, and get used to the track. So for someone like me, I think it really helped. It gave me a little more recovery time. I really enjoyed the more “chill” vibe from this race this weekend. I think it would be cool to see the same kind of schedule here in the US. For someone like me that doesn’t really have a full time mechanic, it gave me a chance to cool down, wash my bike, and make sure everything was ready to go for the next session.
Evan: You’ve qualified for a number of pro nationals here in the US, how does the competition compare between the two?
Jeff: Well obviously not all of the European guys weren’t here, I am sure of the lower tier guys didn’t want to make the trip over here for 1 race, but as far as the top tier guys, they are super competitive. Some of the faster American riders struggled a bit, the track was super gnarly. It was something that I have never have ridden before, but none the less the top American guys should be able to run the same lap times as the Euros, but it seemed like they had a bit of slight edge over us this weekend. Those guys are the real deal, seems like a few years ago, Americans had the upper hand on the competition, but I think we are starting to see it go the other direction now.
Evan: What was the biggest challenge from the GP for you personally?
Jeff: I think for me personally it was not having much time to train for it. Being in Florida it was super hot out. Track was super gnarly. A lot of riding. For me it was just the fitness aspect. Just trying to survive the motos.
Evan: What did you do differently to prepare for this race than when you have to prepare for a national here in the states?
Jeff: Not so much different for me personally, but my bike set up was different. Going through tech inspection there was a lot of things I had to change on my bike. I had to run a stock muffler. I had to do a lot of sound reduction. Add chain guards and things like that. So nothing really for me just my bike. They have some pretty unique rules over there. I was also required to wear a chest protector. So we had to kind of scramble to put things together, but as far as my training goes it wasn’t too different.
Evan: For those of us that weren’t able to go, like myself, tell us about the atmosphere at a gp race. How were the fans? The teams?
Jeff: It was really cool. First thing I saw when we pulled in was a couple European kids kicking a soccer ball around in the pits. Which was something you wouldn’t see at a US national. I’m not used to hearing different languages being thrown around in the pits, so it was really cool. And the American fans were super pumped. Every time I would go by or another American rider would go by there would be air horns going like crazy, USA chants. And actually there were some European fans there that were pumped to meet some of the American riders. I am not one of the top guys but they were stoked to come by and shake my hand, and chat for bit. A few came by and wanted some signed jerseys which were something cool to experience. The Euros really brought some diversity to the race which was cool.
Evan: What are your plans now for the rest of the year?
Jeff: School is my number one focus now. Its bitter sweet, its nice getting my life set in stone for the future, but obviously being 22 years old all I want to do is ride my dirt bike. So I will still be doing a lot of training. I have my girlfriend down here who is my nutritionist and my coach. She’s cooking all my meals for me and building me workouts and stuff like that. So she has a huge role in my off season training. Other than that I’m just going to get out on the weekends and ride when I can. A lot of road cycling and make sure I’m ready for 2018.
Evan: Who do you want to thank for helping you out this season?
Jeff: I had a bunch of people that not only helped me this weekend but this whole season. So I’d like to thank my dad and brother. My sister and my girlfriend helped me out a lot; I had a few buddies from Ft. Myers come help me. I’d like to thank Championship Powersports, Alias, 6D Helmets, Yoshimira, Dunlop, Rynopower, and Oakley.