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34x34: The One That Got Away
by kevin schwantz
Wednesday, December 18, 2013


image by tim beaumont
In the past few weeks I have been fishing in Port Aransas, Texas. It was 85 degrees when I left there, and when I got back to Austin we had a high of 36. I didn't catch much of anything. We caught five fish, and I had one that broke my line.

I could tell by the pull that he was giving, that he was pretty big, but I never saw him. But exactly how big, who knows. It's always about the one that got away. It's like golf ... that one good shot that you hit, versus those 110 bad shots that you hit is what keeps you going back; in fishing it's that one big fish that got away that'll keep us going back.

There's been so much talk about Marc Marquez. My opinion on him: the kid did a great job. The other two guys, the serious rivals for the championship, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo, they made mistakes later in the season. He made his early and was able to recover from it. Their mistakes hurt them. His mistakes just cost him points. That's the luck of the draw. He could've just as easily been injured and had it hurt his season big time but he stayed pretty healthy.

Any of his crashes, for example that one where he got put on probation for crashing on a yellow flag when Crutchlow was on the ground, could have been very bad. He could've gone in, hit another bike and his season could've been done at that point. Then the one in Mugello when he crashed, was pretty nasty as well.

It's just the luck on how you bounce. It was either luck or finding a way to get on the ground gently enough that all that's done is hurt him mentally, but not physically. Normally crashing in the rain, like Lorenzo did, even though it was as fast as it was ... in a wet crash you can get on the ground pretty gently. It was just the unlucky way he landed, broke that chicken wing. And, yeah, Jorge came back and rode and scored points, but that's something that you're never back 100% that quickly. You're just out there riding and trying to circulate when you first come back.

The good thing about getting back on the bike quick, which is what I always tried to do, is you don't allow your mind to slow down. You continue to ride. You continue to have to process information. And then all you've got to do is find a couple of tenths, normally. You're still out there going a decent clip, but now, to go that 105% that's going to get you back in touch with Marquez and Pedrosa, isn't that hard to get. If you can ride through some pain, the mental aspect of it, I think, is much more tougher than the physical aspect.

It's one of the things that I told Ben Spies. I said, "I know your shoulder's bothering you, and I think you ought to just keep riding. Because now you're going to still be going fast." Whether you want to admit it or not, a couple of weeks off a bike, a month off a bike, however long it is, your mind slows down. It's hard to get back to that edge, where you're confident coming off the back straightaway, swapping from sixth to fifth gear and tipping it into a corner that's 160 or 170 mph. To do that you've got to be on your game. The mental aspect of it's much more difficult than the physical aspect.

That's one of the things that I think I learned this year at the Eight-Hour. I've been riding 600s, I've been riding, doing some racing, I'm doing decent lap times locally. But that 150 mph 600 is not nearly as hard to process as is 190 mph on a Superbike or 1000. Everything comes by you that much faster. I thought I'd been doing quite a bit of training, a lot of bicycle riding, I really felt like I was as fit as I could possibly be. And even in Japan, running, in that heat and that humidity, I was riding and running in that and doing well. But, you add that element of being on that motorcycle near the limit of your ability ... my heart rate was 10 beats higher than it ever has been on my motocross bike. I think that's just your mind not being able to process it, and you're physically trying to compensate.

I had a good summer. I'm glad I did the Eight-Hour. I hope I get an opportunity to go back and do it on a good bike with a good team again. If it's young kids and me, trying to work to get some kids up to speed, so be it. I compare it to the deep end of the swimming pool. Until you're thrown in it, you really don't know what it's all about.

We've got a decent group of kids here in the USA, but we're not seeing many of our kids go on at an international level, whether it's British racing, German racing, Australian racing, or the World championships whether it's Superstock, Supersport, Superbike. That's the breeding ground. You're not going to just ride a 600 here in America and get a ride on a MotoGP bike, not in this day and age.

That's how it used to work, here in the US. That's basically what I did here, I rode a 600 for a year, I rode Superbikes for three seasons, then I went Grand Prix racing. Which even before I went Grand Prix racing full-time, in '86 and '87, I rode three Grands Prix each year. And man, I talked to Wayne Rainey about those seasons in '86 and '87, and he said, "Every time you came back from a Grand Prix," he said, "you were that much better. You were that much faster."

I think we get a little stagnant just staying here playing in our own little playground. Especially as short on support as the American paddock is right now. Suzuki has a team out there, but it's not a factory team, it's a Yosh team, without much factory support, I think. Yamaha's about the only team out there seriously playing right now. It used to be just the opposite of that. It used to be there was Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, all the Big Four Japanese had representatives. Ducati was playing. Then, winning something, doing something, was a real accomplishment as far as the world was concerned.

Not to take anything away from what Josh Herrin did this year. I think Josh Hayes did a really good job of beating himself. He dug himself a big hole at Daytona with a couple mechanical issues. Then ... I've never seen somebody jump so many starts in one season. Tough deal. Martin Cardenas ... I think he did kind of what we expected. He put the bike about where Blake Young had put the bike a couple of years before. He was out there to challenge on occasion and pick up some pieces if everything fell the right way. But I don't think there were any real surprises there.

It's tough. I know it's not easy for anybody. The TV package not getting put together until really late, the last race not even being televised, it doesn't look like there's much interest in that group at DMG to continue to try and develop the series into at least what it used to be. I was convinced a couple of years ago, when they bought it, that they'd just try to make it go away. And looking at the way they did things this year, I think Jim France has maybe lost interest in it.

The Michael Jordan team dropping out was really strange. They just seemed to be getting kind of up to snuff this season, able to run with the Yosh guys with Rog Hayden running up there pretty regularly, running with Cardenas. Eslick, not nearly as regularly, but on occasion. For them to pull the plug and to cite no sponsorship and no interest, I think really ... when you've got the name Michael Jordan, and you've got bikes that run right up near the front most of the time, for them to be pulling out, I think that's a pretty big kick in the guts to DMG. It's unfortunate, for sure.

Ben Spies retiring: I can't say that I didn't maybe see that coming, but I think when physically you've got some issues, with his shoulders bothering him, the mental aspect then becomes that much more difficult. I think he's realized that the motivation is not there any more. I haven't spoken to him since before the Grand Prix in Austin, personally, so I don't honestly know but I feel like his heart wasn't in it any more. And the best thing to do when you're not motivated, when you get up every morning and you're not excited about getting better, being faster, if it's not something that just dominates your day, thinking about how you're going to make yourself better, that's the time to quit.

I support him in whatever his decision is. Am I disappointed? I'm not going to say disappointed. I just think there was a whole lot more of Ben Spies that we didn't see on a MotoGP bike.

Good luck to Josh Herrin in Moto2, and the rest of the Americans. I sure hope that customer Honda's a good bike for Nicky Hayden, and I sure hope that Yamaha that Colin's riding at least gives us Americans here something to watch and keep interested in.

It's tough, really tough, to see Laguna Seca go away. I kind of felt like it was a staple for American racing, and that it would be here as long as there was a MotoGP race. Ticket sales have been down and I think unless we've got Americans in the classes of Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP, you're going to have a hard time getting Americans interested. When I go to a race, I know—now that I'm not a racer, as I go as a spectator—I want to hear the Star Spangled Banner play. I want to hear our anthem play. Not the Spanish anthem or the Australian anthem or the Italian anthem.

We need kids in all three classes, racing at the front, for us to support Grand Prix like we've always supported Grand Prix. Maybe it's the best thing for Laguna. Maybe just backing off to two races is the best thing in the short term.

Indy's remodel, changing the layout of the track a little bit, I think it'll make the place even more challenging than it already is. I think it'll be good for racing and I think it'll be good for motorcycles. So with Austin and Indy on the calendar, maybe it's best that Laguna supports a World Superbike race. Maybe we can start getting some Wild Card entries in there, whether it's in World Superbike, Moto2, Moto3, or MotoGP.

And with that, I will wish a Merry Christmas to all. Have a great new year.

ENDS

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