This past weekend the Unadilla Pro National came back around, and the forecast was up in the air whether it was going to be a repeat of last years mudder or actually turn out to be a nice day. Some news that had been active in the pits was that Kailub Russell, the 5 time GNCC champ was joining Red Bull KTM for the last three nationals while the GNCC's were on their summer break, and the riders who would represent team USA at Motocross des nations this coming October would be named. Along with this some rookies would be making their pro debut's after graduating through the amateur ranks with last weeks events at Loretta Lynn's, so all in all it was set to be an interesting weekend, here are some of my personal takeaways;
1. It rained, and it rained pretty good as soon as practice finished up, totally changing the track conditions from practice to racing. The track conditions got so bad to the point where the famous "screw you" section of the track was actually removed due to the fact bikes would not make it up the steep incline. Racers elected not to take a parade lap prior to their motos, in fear of getting their bikes or themselves caked in mud before the race even began.
2. Mud is a great equalizer and shows who trains in all conditions - with some surprise breakout performances out of select riders from both classes we saw "Filthy" Phil Nicoletti actually lead some laps and going 3-5 on the day for a 3rd overall! For being a "Phil in" ride, I was extremely impressed especially since he hasn't had all that much time on the Husqvarna ever since switching from JGR Suzuki. Mitchell Harrison as well had a breakout performance, leading laps just like Phil and eventually making a small mistake but still settled with a 3rd overall for the first podium overall of his career, and you could just see how stoked and happy he was on the podium. Both these performances come from Rockstar Husqvarna riders, coincidence?
3. The fans of Unadilla truly do not care about the weather and when they go to watch the national, that's what they're going to do even if it means buying ponchos from the moto tee trailer and sitting in the rain all day. As you looked around, you saw giant masses of umbrellas filling the stands and hillsides of the track, and I'm sure those grassy hills got pretty tricky to walk up and down with all that rain.
4. With Unadilla being the round following the week off due to Loretta's the last few years, you would always see some new faces making their pro debut directly following racing their last amateur race at the Ranch, but this year it seemed pretty quiet with only riders like Luke Neese (30-DNS) and Joe Tait, a good friend of mine, and a few others making the step up to the big leagues. In years past it seemed multiple factory names would make their debut at 'Dilla and play a role in the racing but something was different this year.
5. Team USA is looking very strong this year after being revealed on Saturday with Eli Tomac, Justin Barcia, and Aaron Plessinger filling the team to attempt to take back the world title on home soil at Redbud. All riders have shown great rides this past season, with Tomac being the 450 points leader, Barcia contesting for podiums, and Plessinger leading the 250 class, I don't think we could have picked a better team and Team USA's chances are looking stronger than ever going into Redbud, to try to dethrone Team France from winning the last few years.
6. Clutches had a bad day at Unadilla, with mechanics scrambling to change them as you walked through the pits, you knew the riders were going to be tough on them, in order to keep those bikes moving in the deep mud. After the first motos you could actually smell clutches burning as bikes rolled by you off the track.
7. Riders were preparing for the conditions anyway they could. Walking along the starting gate prior to moto one, you saw riders with foam all over their helmets, their bikes, and even Dylan Ferrandis sporting two goggles at once. With weight reduction and vision in mind, bikes and riders do all that they can to prevent the mud from altering their riding, with foam reducing the chance of mud sticking to the bike, teams had foam placed on the top of helmets, lining the bike, and fenders and had multiple sets of goggles ready on hand with plenty of rolls offs equiped, if you can't see then you most likely can't ride. Many riders also took trips to the mechanic's area during the moto for a goggle change, and darted back off before losing much time, overall it was interesting to see just how different the prep for the race was because of the rain.
8. If you only wear your vans instead of boots while photographing the event, you're going to have a bad time.
9. We were able to see how a GNCC Champion would do against the top motocross riders in the country, and I think once the rain came down, it all went in Kaliub's favor. Being a woods rider, you face adversity in conditions and layouts and it's not often where they don't find mud at one of the GNCC's, where the Pro Motocross Nationals are different and most of the time the tracks are not muddy, and groomed and prepped for a day of hard riding. I think some fans were stoked for Russell, and how he was able to play a big role in the day, but others were almost upset by his performance with saying things like "He wouldn't have gotten even in the top 20 if that track was dry" or "He's got nothing on Tomac and those top guys" like people were defensive about Motocross versus Woods racing and thinking with Russell's performance, it would imply woods riders are more skilled, when in reality Kaliub is just an unreal human and certainly can ride a dirtbike.
10. As the rain settled and passed, all that was left was a muddy race track that started to dry up. With the rain stopping it almost made conditions tougher in my opinion (in certain sections), by tacking up it made ruts form and solidify and those are much more difficult than wet lines that can push over. Ruts got dug deeper and deeper and riders were forced to follow them and if they got cross rutted it was going to bring them to a meeting with the ground beneath them. Once one line formed up, it was the line that everyone chose, and with the repeating of bikes going over that same line, it eventually dried out and left the rest of the track still wet, so the track got one lined in a way and was hard to get around lappers and make the pass on the guy in front of you with the only option to go into the wet line that hadn't been touched and risk disaster.
Well tose were some of my takeaways from this past weekends gnarly race! Thanks for the read.
Interested to see my gallery from the day? Go check it out on alpamx.com!
This week in "How was your weekend" I talk to two racers of NETRA (New England Trail Riders Association) about their race in Weare, New Hampshire. The Rock Crusher Harescrambles.
Brian Dussault races in the AA Class aboard a Beta on the Beta USA Support team, and currently leads the series points standings, which is the first time in NETRA history a Beta has done this. He works full time, races the GNCC series in the XC2 class and trains consistently on and off the bike.
Austin Canova Races in the B250 class, and since graduating high school he has been learning to balance working full time and racing, but even with some time off from racing he came back this weekend to an incredible 2nd place finish.
Cole - So both of you guys did very well this weekend, tell me about the race
Brian - This race I was looking forward to because we were supposed to get rain Saturday night. This had me pumped because even if it’s a mud race I’d rather have that than dust. So the rain stopped as I was going up to the starting line, which was even better because no wet gloves. I got off to a good top 3 start heading into the woods. I was able to make the pass on second within a half a lap as I wanted to make sure first didn’t gap me to hard. By the end of the second lap I was able to get by first then I just put in good consistent laps till the end. This is my second OA and Pro win which makes me super happy and I am the new points leader. This is something I will never forget because in Netra history a Beta Motorcycle has never won a pro race or been in the points lead so for me to be the one piloting it, is so rad!
Austin - The race went well, got off to a bad start and got pinched in the first corner, I was able to make quick passes in the first few sections and it was a three way battle for the lead by the end of the first lap, Cole Bain ended up pulling a gap on me and that’s where I stayed for the rest of the race.
Cole - Was anything leading up to the race different for you to cause these results?
Brian - Personally I don’t think it was any one thing before this race that has led to this. I feel this was a long anticipated event that was made possible with all of the hard work I have been putting in since Christmas of last year. Since then I have lost 50 pounds, Quit drinking alcohol, and became vegetarian. So there has been a lot of things I have changed about myself from this time last year, but not days leading up to the race.
Austin - This weekend was just a “get off the couch and go have fun” kind of weekend, I didn’t really do much of anything to prepare. I raced the junior enduro and the vintage on Saturday, as well as the harescramble on Sunday. This year has been an off year for me with graduating highschool and everything and I just haven’t been fully committed to racing. I worked all week including 13 hours on Friday, just to come home to do bike work to prepare for the weekend.
Cole - When preparing for a race and getting geared up, do you have superstitions? (Putting gear on in a certain order, listening to the same songs)
Brian - I have always liked this questions in interviews but never had a great answer. I am just an average joe getting dressed the same way as everyone else but it probably just takes me longer.
Austin - I have a ton of superstitions while getting ready, but especially which boot and knee brace I put on first, it used to always be right boot first but this weekend I decided to do left boot first and right knee brace first for some reason that worked.
Cole - Explain how you got involved with NETRA-
Brian - So my dad raced enduros back in the early 90s then quit when I was born. We rode snowmobiles and fished till I was 16 then I got my first real dirtbike because my uncle rode and I thought it was cool. We went to a NETRA Knox Hare scramble in I think 2014 and I was so jazzed, I was like "Dad I want to do this, I can do this". So the following year shortly after learning how to use a clutch, I raced my first season and went from novice class to expert in one season. Since then I have been chugging away every weekend loving life.
Austin - I got involved with NETRA through my dad, who brought me to a nervous novice at the Hodges dam back in 2006, from there I started racing peewees and all the way through the ranks
Cole - What separates racing Netra from other organizations you’ve done?
Brian - NETRA is really unique in a way that everyone knows everyone and there all friendly. Some other series I have done either the series is so big and you don’t get to know a lot of the people doing it. Or the series is a lot of hype and people are just there to get in the Instagram video of the week. So NETRA is a great local series to race and the competition is killer as well.
Austin - NETRA is unlike any racing organization that I’ve ever been to, it’s a whole family atmosphere and everyone cares about the well being of others and loves to help out when there’s an opportunity to.
Cole - What was the toughest thing you had to overcome this past weekend? Whether it be a section of the track, vision fitness or what?
Brian - This weekend we had a freak thing happen where I had not ridden my race bike from the previous weekend and when I was pulling my bike out of the van Saturday at the race, I noticed my rear shock was blown. This was a freak thing that has never happened to me before and was probably because of not doing an oil change soon enough. So totally our fault, Between juggling work, school, and training it’s hard to not have accidents happen sometimes. So we went ahead and changed my shock out to my dad’s shock and he raced the blown one for his race and I had to ride his. So I battled his shock this weekend but it ended up being ok, was just a big nerve shaker.
Austin - The toughest thing that I’ve had to overcome this past weekend was not doing as well as I wanted to on Saturday. I really disappointed myself with a 7th place finish in the junior enduro. Going back to the hotel where we were staying, I didn’t even know if I wanted to race again on Sunday, but I wasn’t going to back out seeing as we were already here and I wanted to get some redemption from Saturday.
Cole - Thanks guys! Anyone you'd like to thank?
Brian - Thank you,
Big shout out to my incredible sponsors:
ZRT Throttle Tubes
Mobius Knee Braces
Obie Link Guards
My Parents and Girlfriend
And Cole Beach for this sick interview and dope photos every weekend
Austin - I’d like to thank my Mom and Dad, and all of my close friends who have helped me along the way.
I’d also like to thank NETRA for putting on such great events as well as having such a great atmosphere at the races
A Short profile of Brian is on the Beta USA's Racing Teams page - go check it out.