Ben Townley Talks About His Long-Awaited Comeback

Kit Palmer | May 21, 2010

Despite having spent much of the last three years banged up and broken, Ben Townley, the 2004 MX2 World Champion and 2007 East Lites Supercross Champion, hasn’t lost the will to race. But even if he had, no one would have blamed him.Ever since coming to America in 2005, the friendly New Zealander has suffered more than his share of injures. Not long after arriving in the U.S. and setting up camp at Ricky Carmichael’s house in Florida, Townley suffered a serious knee injury while preparing for the 2006 Supercross Series and sat out the entire year, but he came back a year later to win the ’07 Lites Supercross crown. However, more injures, seemingly one right after the other, has pretty much kept Townley out of the spot light ever since.Townley decided it was time to get healed up and took a leave of absence, so to speak. He returned to his home in New Zealand to recharge his batteries and give his body a much needed break. That was over a year ago, but now he’s back and he says he’s ready to race again. The 25-year-old hooked up with Troy Lee and will go for the 450-class outdoor Championship on a TLD/Red Bull/Lucas Oil Honda, starting tomorrow at Hangtown.And it should be mentioned that Townley has a new number-one fan – his three-month old son, Levi, who, along with his wife, Lucy, will be watching from the side of the track tomorrow.So how does it feel to be back in the United States racing again?Excited, that’s the best word. I’m really excited to get out and go racing, excited about my team and the whole package that I’ve got set up, it’s just an awesome time for me. It was good to have a break and get healthy and enjoy some time at home. I left home when I was young. So the whole process for me, even though I’ve been out of racing, has been a real positive one, and I’m looking forward getting back into it.When was the last time you truly felt 100-percent fit on a bike?That would be 2007, the last National at Glen Helen, that was the last time I was healthy, really, at racing. And then I went to Budds Creek for the Des Nations and I got injured there, and that’s when it all started. I injured my right shoulder at Budds.I tried to come back too quickly and then injured my heel. I came back from that and was healthy, and then I re-tweaked my shoulder – actually, to be honest, it [the shoulder] was never right. And that’s when I decided to take time off racing, and that was sort of the middle of ’08, and here we are the middle of 2010.It’s been a long time.It seems every time you get up, you get knocked right back down by injury. Mentally, how do you cope with that?That’s the great thing about the human mind, because I’m healthy now, you forget what the bad times were like. I’ve been able to get past all of that time, and I’ve gotten to the point to where I’m healthy, and I’m ready to move forward – and the human mind also remembers the good times. In the middle of ’07 when I was winning a lot and battling Villopoto – I still remember how to ride like that and I’m ready to ride like that again.Since your last injury, when did you first start feeling good on the bike again?I had surgery about this time last year, then I did all the rehab process – I’d say by the end of September [2009] is when I got back on a bike and did a lot of trail riding and club events in New Zealand, and have been healthy ever since.How do you feel on the bike now?I’m feeling excellent, I mean, I feel normal again – there’s no other way to put it. I feel good because I feel normal.For you, what has been the hardest part about your comeback?Probably getting fit. It’s very hard to get yourself back into that position as I was in as far as strength and fitness, like when I was on top of my game in ’07.Technically, Hangtown won’t be your first race back.I did club races initially at home, and then I did some National racing in New Zealand. I rode the New Zealand Supercross Series, and a bunch of one-off motocross meetings. I’ve done a lot of racing in New Zealand. So it’s not like I haven’t been on a start line, but I just haven’t been on a gate at this level in a while. This will be the first time for that.How do you like your new team?The team is awesome. The best word for that is comfortable. I wanted to come back with a team, where I could come back, use the equipment I wanted to use, and get set up the best way I could, as far as what I used to feel like, and build from here. That’s where I am at now. I’m using Bones [Pro Circuit’s Jim Bacon] for suspension, Mitch [Payton, Pro Circuit] is helping with the engine, and obviously my mechanic, Clint, and David Pingree [TLD team manager] are working really hard to get a set up and the best direction for me. It’s awesome. I can’t imagine being any better prepared with the bike.


Kit Palmer | Off-Road Editor

Kit Palmer started his career at Cycle News in 1984 and he’s been testing dirt and streetbikes every since – plus covering any event that uses some form of a knobby tire. He’s also our resident motorcycle mileage man with a commute of 120 miles a day.