Kailub Russell took an impressive victory recently at the opening round of the Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series in Gaston, South Carolina. The FMF KTM Factory Racing rider, who is coming off of a shoulder injury at the end of last year, was making his return to the series after a three-year hiatus. Russell last raced the Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series in 2015, when he won the series championship.

How is your shoulder?

My shoulder has come around. It’s getting better. I feel like it’s never going to be the same again, at least for a long time. Probably not until I quit racing. It’s getting there. It still has its days where it kind of flares up and gives me more trouble than others, but I’ve been managing it well. I’m just trying to get it strong again and as equal as the right. It’s just kind of a long road. I came back early and I wasn’t able to really complete my therapy just with the situation I’m in. So I lost a little bit of range of motion, but I’m slowly working on getting that back. I’m not too stressed about it. I feel like I can manage it pretty well. As long as I don’t fall down too hard on it.

Kailub Russell
FMF KTM Factory Racing’s Kailub Russell won seven of the 12 tests at the Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series in South Carolina to claim the overall win.Shan Moore

How much training have you been able to do this winter with your shoulder?

Quite a bit. The on-the-bike stuff was a little bit delayed, but I kind of got into everything else right around when I wanted to. So I feel like it didn’t really put that much of a dampening on my preseason stuff. I had to take some days off here and there when I could tell it was getting worn down or beat up. I didn’t want to push it and make a mistake and then reinjure it. That’s really the biggest thing you want to watch out for. It’s one of those things where you can feel it just fine, and then the next day you wake up and it’s weak and sore, and the muscles aren’t engaging properly. Then there’s not really anything I can do. I can just sit there and rest it. [I’ve] just got to be smart about it. As a dirt bike rider, you’re always wanting to get back as quick as you can. We always push that envelope and you never really are perfect, but it’s getting there.

Kailub Russell
Russell lost a bit of range due to a shoulder injury he suffered last year. “I’m slowly working on getting that back, but I’m not too worried about it,” he said.Shan Moore

You were running third last summer at the Pro Motocross race at Unadilla. Do you feel like if you devoted yourself full-time to that series you could be up there with those guys?

I don’t know. I feel like I’ve gotten better for sure the more I’ve done it. It’s all who I’m riding with and the bike that I was on. I had a really good opportunity. It was muddy. I really wish I would have finished that second moto off to really kind of evaluate and see where I was, then go into Ironman there, another mud race with a head full of steam. I think that day would have ended up a little bit better for me. It’s all in hindsight now.

You were fast right out of the gate for the first day of the Full Gas Sprint Enduro this weekend.

Yeah, it was good. It’s been a while since I’ve done it, but still got the sprint speed. I had a really good time. The tests were nice and had a little bit of everything, which was good. The end of the first day—the woods test, the enduro test—it was pretty beat. I knew it was going to be tough today. It got even worse. Times were pretty much still the same. It was as rough as it gets. But you just learn the track better and know where you’re going, so it helps out. I had a good first day.

Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series
In addition to the Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series, Russell will be going for a seventh GNCC title in 2019.Shan Moore

Tell us about the second day.

I had a nice little cushion; I had a good start to day two. But in the third test, second time on the cross test, I had a couple little tip-overs. Everybody else kind of stepped it up today. Josh [Toth] stepped it up today and was riding better. When somebody steps it up and is really on it, kind of like I was on day one, if you’re not perfect and you’re losing time or you’re falling down, it’s hard to make that time back up for sure in this type of racing. So I gave away a little bit of time in that test and I was just kind of playing catch-up after that, and fell a little short for a clean sweep.

Tell us about the course.

The cross test was pretty fun. I liked it because it ended up berming up really nice. You could get a really good flow. It was a little bit tight and slow. I would have liked the cross test to be a little bit faster, but I know we’re kind of limited on space and stuff and you want to make it as long as you can. I thought it was really good. I kind of already knew what it was going to be from 2015 when we raced here. We’ve got a limited amount of field to play with. It’s hard to open up some turns and stuff and make it a little quicker, but I had a really good time. It got rough and bumped up really nice and had some flowy berms. Once you caught a groove, it was really enjoyable to ride. The enduro test started out fun, I thought, but it was choppy. It got super square-edged. There was a lot of guys here over the two days. It was really tricky by the end. It was some deep holes that could swallow you up if you weren’t paying attention. It was fun and I had a good time.