Once again, Austin Stroupe is on the move. After spending his first two years as a Pro on the powerful Pro Circuit Kawasaki Lites team in 2008 and 2009, he moved to the factory Suzuki team rig in 2010. Now, Stroupe has again changed teams and will head into the 2011 season riding a number-74 Yamaha YZ450F as a member of the Valli Motorsports team.Stroupe, who turned 20 in August, began the 2010 season as Suzuki’s weapon of choice in the East Coast Lites class, but when new Suzuki signee Matt Moss got injured at the end of 2009, Stroupe was given the chance to fill in for the Australian on the factory-backed Suzuki RM-Z450, figuring it would be a good opportunity to use the early rounds of the Supercross season to warm-up for the East Lites series. Stroupe turned a lot of heads right away, showing he had the speed at times to hang with the “big boys,” so when the East Lites Series came around, he was expected to give defending champ Christophe Pourcel a run for his money. And he did.Stroupe was the only rider in title contention with series leader Pourcel late in the series, but that’s when Stroupe injured his shoulder at the second-to-last round of the East Lites Championship at Houston. Unfortunately, not only did the injury prevent Stroupe from battling Pourcel to the bitter end, but would ultimately also kept him off a bike the entire 2010 outdoor series.After the 2010 season, Suzuki offered Stroupe another position on the team but his new deal would mean actually racing less than he wanted, so he chose to move on.We recently caught up to Stroupe, who spent most of the summer at home in North Carolina, while he was out testing his new Valli Motorsports Yamaha in California and chatted with him a bit about his new deal and his long ride down the road to recovery.Tell us about your new deal for 2011?Well, I recently signed with Yamaha Valli Motorsports, and Scott USA is backing me with gear from head to toe. And I will be competing in the 450 class. I’m just getting started for the 2011 season, so I’m a little behind from my injuries from the past. We’re just now trying to get a lot of time on the bike, get in some riding time and get used to the Yamaha.So what did you do to the shoulder exactly?At Houston, I tore my rotator cup, and I tore my ligaments in my bicep. I also had to get a plate and screws taken out of my collarbone, so that took about five month’s total. Then around Red Bud, early July, I was supposed to start training again, and I started back, but I ended up crashing my mountain bike and re-tearing my shoulder. That set me back another two months.When did you start riding again?I got released in October, on the 24th, from my doctor, so I flew out here and started riding again. I then got the deal done with Vali Motorsports and have just been working up to these days so far. I’m just trying to keep something solid going. November fourth, I first rode the Yamaha, so I guess I’ve been riding about a little over a month now. I rode about three weeks outdoors, and then tried to get into Supercross as quick as I could. So I’m probably on my second good week that I’ve had so far riding Supercross.How does the shoulder feel?It’s strong overall, but it is a little weak just from being off for eight months and not doing a lot of strength with it, I didn’t want to mess it up. I’ve had to take it pretty easy with it, but it’s getting there, getting stronger. I’m wearing a brace right now, but other than that, it gets a little sore after riding and stuff.Are you happy with your progress?Everything is looking good, really. I may take the first two races off and come in on the third round just because I’ve gotten a really late start. Like I said, I didn’t start until November.
How do you like riding the 450 compared to the 250?
I really like riding the 450, and I’ve grown a little bit, especially last year. The weight situation is a lot better, last year I had to starve myself [riding a 250]. I can gain a little weight now, so that’s a lot better.You got your start riding Yamahas didn’t you?When I was an amateur, when I was on 80s, I rode Yamahas forever. Mike Guerra was my team guy, so it doesn’t feel too weird to be back on Yamaha. It’s actually like where I started at. The Yamaha [YZ450F] is obviously a contender bike, and I think it’s a great bike so far. We’ve just been doing a lot of work with it, but it’s suiting me pretty well.How is your testing going?We’ve tested a bunch of motors but not too much suspension-wise. I’m later in the game than everybody, but I’ll pick it up here in the next week or so.How did your deal with Suzuki fall apart?Things didn’t really fall apart with Suzuki, they wanted me to stay with their team and do outdoors only, because I had pointed out in the Lites class. For a long time, my agent – my dad – tried to talk to the AMA about letting me race the Lites class for another year, just because of the injuries I’ve had the past three years. I haven’t raced any outdoors, really, I only raced three outdoors the last three years because of my injuries. [We] waited forever to find out from them, and then we found out we couldn’t, so my outdoor deal [with Suzuki] wasn’t enough to keep me [racing] through the whole year, so this [deal with Vali Motorsports] came together. So, me and Suzuki are still on good terms, they helped me out, gave me a shot last year. I have to thank them for that.Any final words?No, not really, just that I’m excited, man, and things couldn’t be any better. I’m just excited to be able to ride and be back injury free and not worry about anything.