Motocross Preparation - The Millsaps Training Facility - Dirt Rider Magazine

Unless you are gifted with excessive natural talent, understand this: "It's not what you did last week or last month that helps you win. It's what you were doing last year and the five years before that makes the difference." This most-insightful and strikingly true racing knowledge came to me from good friend and multitime hare scrambles and GNCC champion Scott Summers.And there is no better place to see just how this philosophy could play into the futures of expectant professional motocrossers than at the Millsaps Training Facility (MTF). Located in southern Georgia near a town called Cairo (pronounced K-row), this is the field of dreams for the motocross racer. Laid out on 50 acres are three separate tracks (outdoor, SX and AX), a lake, a 20-spot RV park with full hookups, a giant shop and a bunkhouse. The finishing touches were being made for the new 2500-square-foot gym. The whole facility is a partnership among Pete Brewington, Rick Charbonneau and Colleen Millsaps. As with so many other training camps sprouting from the fertile field of youth sports to develop young athletes at an early age and in a structured fashion, this one focuses on one sport, it is just in this case that is motocross.So what am I, a washed-up, struggling vet pro, doing here? Gathering information for a story, yes, but instead of sitting on the sidelines and watching, I figured it would be much better to jump right into the program for a couple of days. Hopefully, it would become a case of "teaching an old dog new tricks," but I honestly think I'm still 18 when I'm on a motorcycle! A perfect candidate? Hardly.Although there are camps set up for youth or novice riders, the goal of the MTF is turning young racers into factory-rider material. A consistent group of about 20 kids basically live at the facility, riding and training full time. And for these select few, it isn't cheap, requiring roughly a $10,000 investment in the program, which is set up like a country-club membership. My visit to the MTF was during a downtime at the camp when the amateur Nationals were taking place in Texas. With the core group away and racing, my intermediate-level training partners were mostly 14- to 22-year-olds from Northern states (and even Canada) preparing for Loretta Lynn's and its AMA qualifiers, which were just beginning.The ProgramOddly enough, there was little in the way of an introduction. It was right to the start line (where else?) for drills on starting technique. No time was spent on basics, as the participants are already at a high level in racing and are expected to know what they are doing on a bike and a track. Initially, I was skeptical about a woman who isn't riding teaching me much of anything. But Millsaps used to race motocross herself and has done a pretty good job of training her son Davi (among others). She has dissected riding down to its essence and has a really firm grip on what works and what doesn't. And she can spot an error quickly and isn't shy about letting you know about it. She knows what is fast and will push riders into trying and, most important, practicing being fast.From starts we went on to sprint laps, which teaches riders to train at a high intensity. Although we did only eight laps around the almost three-minute track, the sole thing at which I was becoming faster was getting tired-which emphasized how important being in good shape and actually training are (more on that later). But you have to practice at the level at which you intend to race. And when you start to slack off here, you hear about it.We were allowed a 15-minute break, then were off to work on scrubbing speed over jumps. No baby steps here, because if you want to win, you need to be hitting jumps faster, and the only way to do that is to scrub speed over them. Millsaps explains the steps you need to take, how to build up to it and how to practice it; then you are expected to do it every time you hit a jump. No excuses.Turns were next, and I thought I finally had a drill in which I could shine. Forget that, because if I am good, I need to be better. Practiced using figure eights and a rutted turn track, the drills turned my arms into jelly. Remembering all the tips she dished out, doing all those steps and keeping up the tempo is mind-boggling. Inside the figure eight you have another rider join you, and on the turn track you play a game of tag or try to pass someone. Penalty for losing: push-ups!The riding portion of our day was capped with a 20-minute moto, sometimes two I'm told. Then you get a short break for lunch until the trainer, Brad Johnson, shows up. He's an exercise physiologist who has turned his focus to developing a training program for motocross athletes as well as doing research on the fitness of riders of a particular age and skill level. We took a trip to the nearby YMCA to use the equipment, but by the time you read this, a fully equipped gym will be up and running at MTF. Although each day is different, there are specific cardio and strength programs for the trainees. Monitoring the results will allow Johnson to closely analyze the level of each rider and develop specific programs for him.Now completely whipped, I was happy to hear it was time to relax for the last few hours of the day. Those tireless kids, however, were looking forward to either racing around on pitbikes or launching the rope swing into the lake.The second day was similar in structure but with variations on the drills to build upon the day before. Millsaps stresses, "There is no magic. It is time on the bike. There's the right way and the wrong way. You have to do it right." Sounds strict, and for good reason. As a rider, I can tell that Millsaps cares about what she is doing. "Right now this program is a waste of money for a C rider, but we are looking at a program for him, too." Camps cost $750-$1000 for a week of training, which isn't astronomically expensive considering what you will learn. But the rider should be prepared to learn and give 100 percent. This isn't a fun camp to get kids out of the house but a regimented program to help riders increase their speed. During our session one rider hurt his knee and another broke his foot-both unfortunately in tangles with yours truly. That is one of the lessons I've learned from riding in the pro classes and being put on the ground in the past: how to bump and stay up when it happens. At the level at which those enrolled in the camp are and should hope to reach, injury is always a short distance away, and they have to take that risk into consideration.I was amazed at the instant improvement I saw in my speed. Now I just have to keep practicing and using the skills I learned at the camp to stay polished. I'm sure I could improve drastically with a more-regimented practice routine, the highest level of which I watched as Millsaps worked with her son and Bryan Johnson later that afternoon in preparation for the Orlando, Florida, round of the SX series. She went over many of the same techniques with these guys, who are at the top in their sport, yet it went even further. She was taking the riders' pulse after motos and pushing them even harder to do things right-not just once or a few times but every time. And as glorious a life as it seems on the podium in today's MX and SX world, this type of strict training is a familiar scenario for most of the competitors. For sure, it shows in the likes of Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart and absolutely in Davi Millsaps.The camp has some big plans for the future, including a virtual membership, with online training and scheduled visits to the facility for tests and live training so riders around the world can be exposed to the top tier of preparation for racing motocross. For more info on the MTF, check out