Brown Dog Wilson

The Quirks Of Professional Motocrossers

All that pressure to perform can make for some interesting habits.

This article was originally featured in the August 2017 print edition of Dirt Rider

Professional athletes are some of the quirkiest humans on the planet; the way they do some of what we see as routine procedures can be both baffling and intriguing. When we called on some of the top riders in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series to talk about race-day routines, we asked them to dive deeper than, "Do you put on your left or right knee brace first?" We wanted you, the reader, to get a unique peek into the personalities of these riders and maybe pick up a tip or two to implement into your own racing program.

Shane McElrath
Shane McElrathBrown Dog Wilson

Shane McElrath

Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM

Visualize/Write: "I pray and I do visualization, especially if there are parts of the track I'm still figuring out. I go over stuff in my head. In the semi-truck, I can rest and think in the front of the rider lounge." Shane worked with a psychologist years ago who taught him to write down everything he did. "You really start to see what's paying off and what's holding you back. It's really helpful to look at it that way. With our training routines, you don't notice changes day to day, but you will notice them month to month, especially if it's written down.

Sleep: Shane is serious about sleep. "I like to get deep sleep. It's taken me four years to get it down to a science, from the whole routine after dinner until bed. It's tough enough to train, and consistent sleep helps. I like to be up before the sun, and I like to be in bed around 10 p.m. or earlier and asleep by 10:30."

The routine is strict and calculated. Dinner is wrapped up by 7:30. Then he relaxes, letting his “body go downhill.” He brushes his teeth before a shower so he can head straight to bed afterward. In bed, he turns on a fan that blows air on him all night, and he lies on his right side. After browsing apps on his phone, he turns up the volume on a white-noise maker (he custom mixed a “thunder strikes and thunderstorms” loop) and turns on an adjustable massager in his bed that is set on a 30-minute timer. He puts on lip balm, rolls over to his left side, and falls asleep quickly. “I wake up at 5:45 a.m. and I test my resting heart rate for 15 minutes. I load my heart rate onto my phone. For checking heart rate, it needs to be at the same time every morning.”

Many riders will take a nap at the races, but Shane says that once he’s up for the day, he doesn’t need any more shut-eye. He discovered sleep science from being fatigued. “I was running my body in the ground. It’s cool to hang with your buddies at night, but it sucks when you’re worn out and you know what you need to change but you don’t want to because you want to hang out with your friends.”

Cooper Webb
Cooper WebbBrown Dog Wilson

Cooper Webb

Monster Energy/Yamalube/Chaparral/Yamaha Financial Services/Yamaha

Schedule: Cooper likes a loose schedule without too much regimentation. He sleeps as late as he can and likes to get into the paddock just as the riders' meeting is starting. He likes to wait until as late in the morning as possible. "I'm one of the last guys down to practice. I always am, actually."

Diet: It stays strict, but he isn't packing away prepared meals on dry ice. He will take what the hotel has to offer in the mornings and prefers an omelet and potatoes. At the track, however, his trainer Gareth Swanepoel keeps track of what goes in Cooper's mouth and when. Cooper likes chicken and rice about an hour before the first moto. He used to be superstitious about eating at Outback Steakhouse the night before a race but says, "That only works for so long." He enjoys a cheat meal on Saturday nights, and one of his favorites is In-N-Out Burger.

Information: Cooper only wants to hear what he needs to know, such as a specific area on the track or a setting that could use improvement. "I don't need lots of information." At the moto­cross races, he doesn't watch film and he doesn't fret over lap times. "The more I can keep my mind off things the better."

Space: Don't talk to Cooper when he comes off the track, whether it's following practice or a moto (even a championship!) that he just won. "I like to be on my own for five minutes. I don't want anyone to talk to me. I put the bike on the stand, and I have my chair there. Even if it's a good practice. I'll just sit there and think." The team staff know not to speak with Cooper, and when he's ready he will initiate the debrief session.

It’s the same after a race, but with live television wanting to speak with the winner as quickly as possible, Cooper’s routine was often disrupted in the summer of 2016. “Even if I win, I need a little bit of time to let things soak in. I’m not sure why I’m like that. Usually I repeat the whole race in my head—the start, what could have been done better. You’re out there on the track by yourself with no communication other than a pit board for 35 minutes. Then you suddenly go from being by yourself to a group of people wanting your attention. I just like being left alone. I’ve always struggled with people being in my face, even as an amateur. I need that little bit of time to take a deep breath whether it’s 30 seconds or whatever. Having to unwind is the best way to describe it.”

Justin Barcia
Justin BarciaBrown Dog Wilson

Justin Barcia

Autotrader/JGR/Monster Energy/Suzuki

Eggs: Following practice, Justin can be found standing over a stove or grill cooking eggs. In his boxer shorts. "People giggle when I cook eggs in my boxers. I like to cook them myself. That's my thing. Everyone is like, 'What the hell?' They [the JGR staff] all think I'm weird as it is, so it's fine." Justin has found that eggs over easy with rice works best for him and is easiest to digest.

Nap: After signing autographs he likes to escape to the bunk at the top of the JGR rig and get 30 minutes of quiet time, preferably a nap. "I don't have a motorhome, so I put up my 'do not disturb' sign in the bunk. People hopefully get it that I don't want them in there." If he doesn't sleep, he'll try to find an episode of Forensic Files. "I love mystery shows."

Can't operate without: "If I don't have coffee, my day isn't right." He prefers grinding his own Illy beans, but when he's on the road he'll settle for Starbucks or something from the hotel lobby.

Cole Seely
Cole SeelyBrown Dog Wilson

Cole Seely

Honda HRC

Consistency: Cole doesn't like surprises on race day, so he tries to keep Saturday mornings the same as every other morning of the week, which means a consistent wake-up time, breakfast, and schedule. "I always want enough time to be getting things executed, whether that's drinking, eating, warming up, stretching, or going over the bike. If I don't get enough time to do that stuff, I feel off."

Warm-up: Warming up is highly valued by Cole, and because his race days have big chunks of time between riding sessions, he goes through his routine several times every Saturday. Before practice he gets on a spin bike for 10 minutes and goes through a series of sprints. Then he does walking lunges and various stretches. He keeps a set of 5-pound dumbbells on the Honda truck and performs a simple upper-body routine. His entire warm-up session is 15 minutes long, and he repeats it before the first and second motos. In between, however, he wants his heart rate as low as possible. "It's relaxing to watch your heart rate and try to get it to go down. Sometimes I fall asleep while I'm watching it decrease."

Alex Martin

Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM

Diet: Alex has been gluten-free for nine years, and he travels with his own food. An avocado and turkey sandwich (on GF bread, of course) is his preferred between-moto meal. Before the race he's eating chicken and rice and a mix of supplements. Although he keeps a strict and clean diet, he doesn't mind admitting he likes eggs and hash browns in the morning from places like Bob Evans or Denny's. "It's not bad to expose yourself to some bad food once in a while. Your system needs to be able to handle that."

Hydration: Water is the norm, but over the past year he's discovered carbonated water. "It helps me settle my stomach on race day. After a second moto on a hot day your stomach hurts sometimes, so I'll drink some Perrier or San Pellegrino." With Red Bull as a team sponsor, don't look for those familiar green glass bottles in Alex's hand on the podium.

Blake Baggett

Rocky Mountain ATV/MC/WPS/KTM

Goggles: "It doesn't matter if it's hot, cold, raining, or shining, I put my helmet and goggles on before I ride down to the starting line." Blake likes to make sure he knows how everything is going to feel before it's too late to make adjustments. "I don't prepare my own goggles, but I get panicky about them and I will check everything over." If it's cool enough, he'll leave everything on. "The only reason I'll take them off is if I start sweating." Blake runs 28 tear-offs, and he wants the first one to be easy to grab so he makes sure it has a tight fold so it sticks out far to the left of his frames.

Hands/gloves: Blake sprays his hands (but not his fingers) with a substance that improves grip and then immediately slides on his gloves, which he likes as tight as possible (he wears an extra small!). "You're basically gluing the glove to your hand, but I don't get blisters as easy." He discovered the method in 2013 after time off from injury. When he returned to riding, he found that his hands were blistering and shredding so badly it looked like he had third-degree burns on his palms.

While many riders prefer a set of gloves that have been worn in a little, Blake prefers a new pair every single time he gets on the bike and he removes the inside product tags before slipping them on. "They haven't been stretched yet and they're a little thicker in the palm. They just don't fit the same after they've been worn."

Adam Cianciarulo
Adam CianciaruloBrown Dog Wilson

Adam Cianciarulo

Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki

Focus: Adam uses breathing to calm himself and clear his mind of any distractions while waiting for the gate to drop. "I make sure I'm breathing on the line. Just super deep, in through the nose, out through the mouth, kind of a yoga breath. To calm myself down, I normally do a couple of those. I just try to focus on air coming in and out of my lungs. It's easy to get lost in the moment, especially big races like Supercross and outdoors. It's just a way to calm myself down and to focus on the process of doing something instead of the surroundings." He snaps back to the task of the start when the 30-second board is put up.

Dean Wilson
Dean WilsonBrown Dog Wilson

Dean Wilson

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna

Red: You'll never see Dean riding with anything but red gloves. "I won every race at the Winter Olympics (Mini O's) one year while wearing red gloves. When I didn't wear red gloves, I got injured."

Whip it good: Like the other 39 riders, Dean spends the sighting lap looking for good lines and practicing his start technique. But he always finds one jump where he can snap off a good whip. "It's to tell myself we're still here to have fun. And why not pump the fans up?"

Habit: Dean always finds himself adjusting the Velcro on his gloves between the time the bikes fire up and the gate drop. "I want them to be the perfect fit."

Jeremy Martin
Jeremy MartinBrown Dog Wilson

Jeremy Martin

GEICO Honda

Habit: On the starting line, when the bikes fire up before a moto, Jeremy has a habit of wiping his lips dry with the sides of his gloves. "I don't know why I do this, but I do it three to four times."

Supplements: Jeremy wasn't a supplement user, but a week before the first Pro Motocross round in 2016, he realized he had overtrained. "I was done. Everything was out of whack—hormones, everything. I wasn't the same person." Two races into the season he started taking supplements—electrolytes, amino acids, magnesium, salt tablets, etc.—in a hasty effort to correct his fatigue and catch up. It threw his digestive system into turmoil. "I couldn't eat; I couldn't throw up but I wanted to. My stomach was in knots. Motocross really pounds your system; it's hard on your gut." He's since learned about the proper supplement dosages and better timing. "Listen to your body," is his best advice.

Hydration: "I like room-temp water. Cold water upsets my stomach."