If you were among those who thought Chad Reed, one of the most consistent supercross riders of his era (if not all-time), was in the twilight of his career heading into his 2014 stadium motocross tour, you wouldn't have been alone.
In a sport where the expiration date is often reached by the time a rider is in his mid-to-late 20s, Reed, 32, is to many, racing on borrowed time. A knee injury took him out of the 2013 series at the midway point, and when it did, the whispers that it was time for the native of Kurri Kurri, Australia to hang the boots up began.
Where other racers may have packed up their gear and retired, naysayers only made Reed more resolute in his mission. So Reed dug deep into his Wells Fargo bank account, leaned on his longtime sponsors who had hung with him through his career and fortified his Discount Tire/Two Two Motorsports race outfit for a 2014 Supercross run.
Fired up with enthusiasm, Reed dominated the three stops in Anaheim, California, finishing third in the Supercross season opener, then winning both Anaheim 2 and 3, putting him in a close second behind eventual 2014 season champ Ryan Villopoto. In Anaheim 3, Reed led the field wire-to-wire in a thrilling victory.
Then the week after Anaheim 3, in San Diego at Qualcomm Stadium, Reed, while going for broke to pass rookie sensation Ken Roczen, misjudged the whoop section, and he slammed down into the whoops and was taken to the hospital with internal injuries and broken bones. Reed underwent season-ending surgery to repair at least three broken bones in his shoulder.
Four months later, Reed, is now healed and preparing for the fast-approaching AMA National Motocross Championship Series. XGames.com sat down with Reed to get us up to speed on just what comes next for him and the men who got his back this year.
XGames.com: Okay, Chad. The end of the 2014 supercross season is upon us and you've healed up from your injuries. So just how have things been going?
Reed: So far, so good. Today I got back on the bike for the first time. That was good.
Yep, that was the word. To that end, were you just kind of motoring around and going through the motions on the bike?
Yeah, I just rode around. I was being cautious, for sure. I was just kind of cruising around and not pushing it. I don't officially have sign-off from my doctor to go ride. Right now I'm just trying to be smart. I've been off the bike for almost three months.
Did you end up with any blisters?
Not yet. That's what I was afraid of. My hands are so soft. There's just no substituting for riding a dirt bike. I like back-to-back century bicycle rides and it's easy. You just kid on a bike and just pedal it. Getting on a dirt bike and riding it for 10 minutes feels like you've literally rode a century. Every muscle in your body gets used and every little thing hurts the next day. It's brutal. Right now my goal is to be competitive for the Glen Helen National on May 25. At this point I'll just be stoked to be there and to be healthy and have a shot at it. I think with just a month of preparation it's going to be tough to be at my best at Glen Helen. I just hope that I'm almost at 100 percent and I can put myself in a position where I can win races and contend for the title. A 2014 outdoor title is the priority right now.
The crash with Ken Roczen put you on the sidelines happened on the very last lap of the race. Now that some time has gone by, was the crash just a sort of racing deal or do you still look back and think, "Man, I wish I would have just backed off and taken a fourth"?
It's easy to look back and think, "I wish I would have just sucked it up and taken a fourth" but I didn't want to be fourth. I wanted to be on the podium. I wanted to pass Roczen. Honestly, I don't feel that I did anything wrong. I committed to the outside and was just going a lot faster through the whoops. Roczen knew that and did what we all would have done and he protected his line. Unfortunately, I just had too much speed and had nowhere to go and ran into the back of him. I decelerated a little bit, but as soon as I did, it got me a little bit out of shape and I just had to grab another handful and get after it. The whoops are not easy to stop in or to drastically change a line in. I tried to get to the right but, unfortunately, I just caught him and that drove me into the next jump and I just blew out my shoulder and broke some bones. It was so disappointing. There was nothing I would have done if I was Kenny and there was nothing I would have change by me. I was going for a podium position on the last lap.
Did it take a while to shake off the disappointment of not only the crash and subsequent injury, but the fact you lost a genuine shot at the championship?
I think what we had going on this year was quite special. For me, I get a little bit of a laugh out of it because I'm not sure if the fans were happy or they were surprised that they were happy or if it's all the above. The initial feeling is that a lot of people were surprised that I was able to be competitive this year. Last year was a really tough year for a number of reasons and we made massive changes this year to rectify that and put myself back in the hunt. And I strongly believed that I could do that. So when I came out and was on the podium at the first race and was then able to win two out of seven races before I got hurt, things were going my way and I was riding well. And even though I got two wins and a couple podiums there, I still felt like I was rolling and we were still improving the bike. Honestly, and to answer your question, it still stings.
I'm bummed. I went to New York this weekend and I watched [Ryan Villopoto] lock up the championship for the fourth time and I knew I was really the only guy to give the guy a true run. In 2012, we were trading the championship lead back and forth and we were really close on points. And this year we were only two points down and I got hurt again. It's just a real bummer at my age and at this point in my career, I'm realistic and I know these years are going to run, but for now I still feel like I have what it takes to be competitive and win.
Well, before it went sideways at San Diego, there are many out there who felt that you had reigning champion Villopoto on the ropes and were punching away.
Ryan is a smart kid and obviously with four championships in a row, by no means did he luck into them. He obviously worked hard and he was in good places at the right time and won races and was fast, but I really did feel that we had the upper hand this year. I felt like we had it under control a little more than he did. I just felt strongly that we had what it took to take it to him. Not to claim things, but I feel that he wasn't at his best and were now finding out that he had some issues going on and it would have been nice to be able to be there and push him to his max.
The night you won at Anaheim 3 was incredible. You had all 45,000 fans inside Angel stadium behind you. Did you realize you were putting in what will no doubt go down as a legendary moment in the sport?
I led it from start to finish. For me, it was something that I hadn't done in long, long time -- to grab a holeshot and lead a race from start to finish. It just felt awesome, you know? It felt like we were solid and we were prepared to battle it out for the season. As far as the fans, I think they have come a long way.
I've gone from when Jeremy [McGrath} left and they weren't too happy with me at that point because I replicated Jeremy a lot. Then Ricky [Carmichael] was getting close to the end of his career and I think the fans then somewhat turned on me and that was a rough few years. Now, I think I've earned their respect with the team and know how much passion I have with the race team and with the sport in general.
I really care about the sport and I really want to do well and want the team to do well. We want to be here for many years to come.
Yeah, I think that people are finally seeing that. With social media, I'm glad to be myself. Sure, I get in trouble here and there with some people, but it's real. If I say something, it's me and it's not getting covered up. It's directly from me. I'm good with that. If people don't like that then I'm okay with it. I think with age that I've grown to a point where you grow-up and see things a little differently. I have a wife and two kids now and life is quite different than it was at the beginning and I love it more now than ever. Once upon a time I was making $4 to $6 million dollars a year and was mad at the world and hated it. It's funny how all that stuff changes.
We spoke before the season started and you were pretty candid in your thoughts and opinions about the motocross industry and just how "fair weather/what have you done for me lately" it could be. Did you use that as motivation?
I think the industry has been pretty harsh over the years. I don't trust the industry at all. I mean it is what it is and I've been around it for 28 years now. You spend 28 years around something and you learn the ins-and-outs. You have your good moments and bad moments. There aren't too many people out there that I trust.
How do you see the competitive landscape in supercross next year? There's certainly now a pretty radical blend of both veteran riders and talented, seemingly non non-intimidated kids.
I think next year is going to be tough. On paper, the talent is gnarly. Unfortunately for the series promoters, paper never really shows what real life is. Look at the winners this year. You have RV winning races, Ryan Dungey winning races and James Stewart winning races. All of us were past 450 supercross past champions going back to 2004. The only one missing from this group is Ricky. The only new winner we have this year is Roczen. Nobody else has been able to get in there and get a win. I believe people are going to change teams. Roczen will be one of them. [Justin] Barcia is changing teams. I think [Eli] Tomac has had a bizarre year. I think it's surprising some people didn't ride to their potential and maybe 2014 was a little bit of a wake-up call that the class might be a little more difficult than what some of these people think. The old guys are still getting it done.
Do you see Roczen as a major title threat in 2015?
I think Roczen did well. But 17 rounds of racing? It's not easy. I think for a kid used to the European lifestyle, it's tough. It's tough for him to come over here and adapt. We all have to adapt to that and kind of find a lifestyle and a program and everything like that works for you. I think he's still young and adapting. I think this year there was almost no pressure on him. Next year, he's the big dog on the team and he's the muti-million dollar guy now and when all that happens, people expect results. When you're not winning, they're pissed off. It'll be interesting to see how that affects him and how it changes him.
How about rookies Justin Barcia and Eli Tomac?
Both of them are super-talented. I think that you've seen both of them be good enough to get podiums. I don't know what they're missing, but something is missing a little bit. But I think that those guys will be in there. I think it'll be the four veterans who have all won titles, plus Tomac, Barcia and Roczen. They're all guys that are going to be super-competitive next year. It'll just be interesting to see if the paper ends up turning into how it really is on the weekend.
Ryan Villopoto won the championship last Saturday. You've talked about being happy and passionate about the sport. In your opinion, and from what you've been able to observe, does Villopoto feel the same way?
I was able to watch the race over the weekend. I was also able to see his TV speech and it was just gnarly, you know? To me, to see a guy win four-straight championships, and for the most part, be doing everything that you worked so hard to do, yes, there was no smile, there was no emotion. He said it. Sadly, he clearly said he was more pumped on winning the Toyota truck than he was with winning his fourth-consecutive supercross title. For me, that's just gnarly. I get it and I don't get it. I've been through those stages in my life where racing and the demands of it are tough. I just think Ryan has been through all that and he's probably over it. I just think he's spent.
Right now he's young and it's probably coming pretty easy to him and he's making a lot of money. Like I said earlier in one of my comments, the most miserable part of my racing career was when I was probably making the most money I've ever made. Now I'm making the least amount of money and pretty much paying to go racing and I love it more than ever. Whether he has the right people around him and if he can get back on track and find that passion will be interesting to see.