There is a change in racers’ attitudes. I think for the better – it is respect and humility. We all love to sit and tell stories of the hatred and feuds that resonated in pits back in the good ol’ days; how Bob Hannah or Ross Pederson used to hate their competition, that drove themselves to beat the down the competition. It was more of a tool to motivate them than actually hating people; a tool, in my opinion, with short shelf lives like Pro sport careers. Anger and hatred are exhausting ways to fuel yourself. Today, riders and team leaders are more respectful, no less competitive, but respectful of what the competition brings each and every weekend. Reading reaction to the racing from this weekend’s Motocross of Nations in Lommell, Belguim is what made me think about how we react to racing and competition.
Excuses are at an all time low. I am referring to excuses at the top of the sport – Pro racing, where the very best come to compete. Over the years, racers deflected blame for poor results or getting beaten. Today, the reason for winning or losing has been concentrated down to the athlete. By blaming the conditions or the bikes, support is harder to digest than it ever used to be.
Today, riders, even at the lowest end of the support food chain, enjoy good, competitive and reliable bikes. Yes some bikes are better and have advantages but those advantages are not mountainous as they once were. It is hard to say a rider’s career could be transformed by a better bike. Bikes, regardless of the brand, are for the most part the same and damn good. There was a time when year to year, bikes could be drastically different – drastically good or drastically bad. That was just the way it went. New technology was being introduced at a rapid speed, and that lead to inconsistent products sometimes. Today, our bikes are refined from years upon years of technology. It is one of the great aspects of our sport. The bike picked up at local dealerships is capable of being prepared in relatively easy and affordable fashion to line up on any starting line, anywhere, and be competitive with anyone.
Tracks have changed as well, and for the better. What riders find today on a practice day or local club race is a better prepared race facility and track than what was offered at the National level 20 years ago. Customer demands, experience, equipment, and track marketing have pushed this. Riders are now blessed with good tracks. There aren’t un-prepped tracks, rocky tracks or dusty tracks. It is rare to hear a rider call a track un-rideable; those comments are often exaggerated. Tracks don’t favour one rider over another. The fact of the matter is tracks are good, prepared well and give riders no excuses.
Riders themselves have become better, stronger and for the most part more fit. Looking tired or getting tired racing is not an acceptable excuse anymore (if it ever was). There was a time when fitness was something only some of the riders worried about. Today riders are fit. They train with experienced trainers and have access to more information to become better athletes than ever before. Where training use to be tightly guarded secrets, it is now an open book between trainers, riders and teams. It is a formula. It simply comes down to who wants to work. In today’s racing climate, racers know that to reach the top you have to want to work and work hard.
What made me think of all this was reading the reactions from the USA MXDN team after this past weekend. In the past, riders, and especially their supporters, would deflect the loss. In the USA team’s defense, there were places to point the finger whether it be Barcia’s front tire, or Dungey’s crash. There was some bad luck passed onto the team. They didn’t do it though. They did everything to prepare, they rode great bikes, they were a fit, talented team and they were beaten fair and square. That folks is racing. No excuses. “We knew it was going to be tough. We didn’t underestimate anybody. We never were like scoffing at anybody or thinking that. But we believe our guys are good and, in any condition, they should be capable of running with anyone,” said Mitch Payton on RacerX Online’s Insight this week. “Today’s the day. If you race long enough, you’re going to win a lot of races and you’re going to lose a lot of races. Today was one that we lost. It’s sad, but yet I’m not disappointed.”