Dealing with the lockdown
Almost every single rider in elite racing has a ‘Type A’ personality. Their single minded focus on the task at hand means that almost everything in their life rides pillion to their need to win. Across the world in every discipline of racing, the same story rings true. From dirt tracks to race tracks the personalities of the elite share so many similarities.
What happens to those riders when their world stops spinning? How do they live their life without the goals they’ve chased for years? How do they focus and prepare for racing when it resumes? RacingLowdown caught up with some of the elite. From the world of Supercross, Justin Barcia looks at how he’s approaching the lockdown. From American Flat Track, JD Beach gives us the run down of how his dogs are distracting him from training! In the British Superbike Championship, Jason O’Halloran was approaching the new season with a new training regime. Kirk Gibbons has trained world class riders for over ten years but how he approach the lockdown with his riders?
Barcia is one of the few riders in the world who’s season had already started. He was in the midst of a Supercross campaign that sees riders battle it out across the United States on almost weekly basis. The season is one of the most arduous calendars in the sport with travel, testing and racing being a nearly continuous cycle. Supercross is survival of the fittest. For the first time in his career, Barcia has the chance to take stock of the situation and spend the early months of the year away from racing. It’s been strange for him and now the focus is shifting towards getting ready for the outdoor season.
“It’s weird not having a goal and not knowing what’s going on and you’re training without trying to peak,” said Justin Barcia. “I’m riding my bicycle a lot and I started doing more mountain biking which is fun. I’ve been riding at my track and hitting the gym there so it’s not been too exciting but I do feel very grateful for having the things that I have to be able to train and ride. Motorcycle wise we’re not able to test and Yamaha in California is shut down but I have a bike that I put some MX suspension into to start preparing for the outdoor season.
“I’ve been doing some longer motos and switching it up a little by not riding Supercross at the minute, but it’s just about having some fun. I miss riding with other people so I try and keep it fun on my track, but I can’t wait for it to get back to normal and have a goal in mind again. We want to get back to racing as soon as possible but it has be as safe as possible too.”
Typically during a Supercross season the schedule is packed. Between travelling, testing, media engagements and the races it’s full on from Day one. For any top racer, getting to the top of the ladder means to live life on a fine edged blade. Talent is only one part of the equation but so much of what it takes to succeed comes down to attitude and determination. For the best of the best, the Covid19 shutdown is something to look upon as a missed opportunity. It’s an opportunity to show why they’re elite.
“It’s a crazy time for everyone,” said Kirk Gibbons. “At a time like this discipline is the most important trait for an athlete to have. It’s at times like this that you really see that strength come through. It’s about getting up early in the morning, eating well, drinking well and getting to bed early at night. Year after year of having a process in place really pays off at times like this. That discipline is so important for riders and the great athletes will come into their own during this.
“We’re all stuck at home and limited to what we can do but the best guys will still get their work done and be ready. The top guys don’t need to be told what they do during this time; they know what to do. Every three or four days I’ll check in with my guys and tell them what I think is important, because sometimes I’ll need to tell my guys to slow down!
“If you’re at home you’ll be able to eat well because you buy sensible food and try and avoid eating rubbish, although at this time they can take a bit of a break on the diet because it could be July when we’re racing again. That’s three months down the line so there’s no need to be at your leanest at the moment. You need to use this time to refresh the mind and refresh the body while still working the body hard. It’s all about motivation and working smart at this time.”
Being able to make the most of the lockdown is important and keeping an open mind is crucial. For JD Beach, the last few weeks have been about getting some time on his bikes but mostly about making sure he keeps on top of things. Maintaining fitness and keeping things fun has been crucial for the American.
“We’re only just into the start of the season so my schedule and plan hasn’t changed too much,” said the American Flat Track star. “With the lockdown my trainer has had more time to make detailed plans for me. It’s been fun to have new things to do. The bicycle work is harder because we’re not able to ride in groups any longer so I’m riding a lot on my own. The gym work has obviously changed because the gyms are closed. I’m working out a lot at home and my workout takes a bit longer now…but that’s mostly because the dogs will come in and distract me!
“We can’t run at the local motocross track but I’ve a track at my house and another that’s just down the road. My plan hasn’t changed drastically but it is weird and our plan has changed. We plan for the first race date work towards that and put in lots of good work to be ready for the first block of races but that’s all changed now obviously.
“I’ve always enjoyed training so I’m still doing it and I’m still as motivated as ever to ride my bicycle, ride my dirt bike or my motocross bike. I’m still pushing but I know that we all have to be realistic and know that we’re not going to get a call to stay ‘we’re racing this weekend.’ There’s still time for a season and right now it’s important to spend the time and get some long rides on my bicycle. That’s different compared to other years because usually it’s racing, recovering and back to racing. Now I can do longer rides on my bicycle which is nice. It’s about maintaining everything at the moment.”
Maintaining and finding a way to balance everything is important for riders at the moment. For O’Halloran, the 2020 season was always likely to be an exciting campaign. With a brand new R1 he looked primed for a strong season. The focus throughout the winter was getting everything ready for Round 1 on Easter weekend. Instead the best laid plans have left him waiting. The difference between this year and last however is that he had already aimed to peak later in the year and build towards the start of the season rather than testing.
“At the minute it’s all a bit mental,” said the Australian. “No-one has dealt with this type of thing before and we’re all trying to figure it out day by day. This year I had changed my off-season so that I wouldn’t peak for testing and instead I’d be using the last six weeks to get ready for Round 1. I wanted to be really ready for racing so it’s a bit strange at the minute because I’ve not actually changed that much of my programme at this point. The delay has given me a bit of a trial run at this new fitness programme to see how I’d be ready for the race season.
“I’m going to start to change my programme in the next week though because I don’t want to get burned out by training too much. The off-season is long enough already at nearly four months so now it becomes important to adapt and change a few things. It’s hard though when there isn’t an exact start date because you get yourself sharp and then you’re not racing. You want to keep at that top level and not lose your edge. It’s going to be a juggling act for everyone but hopefully in the coming weeks we can get a better idea of when we can go racing and then it’ll be up to everyone to make a plan from that point onwards.”
With racing off the table until at least July, the top riders are now focusing on what they can do to maintain their edge by not over training. This is a time to focus on staying in good habits, fueling your body right and ticking over rather than maximising everything. It’s a strange time for athletes used to being at their peak in April, rather than operating to an off-season schedule, but when racing resumes the fastest riders will be the ones who manage the lockdown most efficiently.