When the Rekluse AMA National Enduro Series kicks off on February 27th in Salley, South Carolina, Thad DuVall will be among the riders expected to be podium contenders during the 2011 season. That's based on a brilliant third place finish scored by the West Virginia native at the final round of last year's series in Indiana. It happened to be DuVall's first-ever national enduro and he surprised a lot of people with the finish.
DuVall's main focus in 2010 was the Grand National Cross Country series, and it will be among his priorities in '11. But with the help of seven-time National Enduro champ Randy Hawkins and Am Pro Yamaha Racing, DuVall hopes to stand atop of the box in both the GNCC series and the AMA National Enduro series in the coming year.
Cycle News recently spoke with DuVall to see how he is preparing for the 2011 season.
So what are you doing right now to get ready for the upcoming season?
I'm at Randy Hawkin's house down in South Carolina right now, just training and riding. Jordan Ashburn is down here now and a lot of other guys and we're just working out and riding and trying to stay healthy.
Are you excited about riding the enduro series this year?
Yeah, I'm pretty excited. We've been testing the YZ250F to make sure it has enough power and I really like the bike. We rode the Sumter event last weekend and we had some issues with the bike but we worked some kinks out of it and I think it's going to be a good bike for me. I want to ride the 450F at the GNCCs and the 250F at the enduros.
Why are you riding the 250F at the enduros?
Just because it's lighter. I think the 250F is plenty powerful enough to run with the 450s at the enduros and, so I think it's a good bike for that series because it's so light and I can throw it around.
You surprised a lot of people at the final round of the enduro series in Indiana last year. Does that give you confidence that you can be a contender this year in that series?
It's going to be tough, because I'm a rookie in that series, and it's going to be a different world for me. But it was fun riding that race and it's been a long time since I had that much fun. It's kind of a new world and we'll see what happens. I'm kind of sure I can be top-three every week, I just have to stay consistent.
Randy Hawkins is certainly one of the best mentors when it comes to enduro racing. What have you learned from Randy?
He's actually worked with me a lot. When we test, we not only talk about what I need to look for in the GNCCs but also what we need to think about for the enduro races. We've been working really hard on tight sections and on his farm there are some tight areas that we can ride and do some testing to get ready for the season.
Last year in the GNCC series you had some really impressive rides, and you led a lot of laps, but you also had a tendency to crash a lot. Have you thought about that aspect of your racing?
Yes, I think I have matured a lot since last year. Even when we came back after the summer break, I was more consistent and ended up with a fifth and a fourth. I had a few problems at the Powerline race, but then I came back and got second at the Ironman. So, I think I have matured a lot and I think this year will be different. Even on the 450, I have learned that I don't have to ride it wide open, I can sit back and relax a bit. So we will just wait and see.
There are a handful of guys, including yourself, who are going to race both the GNCC series and the National Enduro series and that kicks off with eight straight weeks of racing. That's going to be a tough run.
Yeah, it's going to be tough, but our main thing is going to be to remain healthy. I think I'm in good enough shape where I don't have to worry about getting mentally drained. I really want to concentrate hard on both series and I know I need to stay 100% healthy. It doesn't really matter if I win or get third, if I'm in the top three every weekend then I will be in the hunt.
Will it be difficult switching back and forth between the 250 and the 450?
No, that's been ask of me several times and I don't think it will be a problem at all.
What is the main difference between racing enduros and GNCC?
The biggest thing is that the GNCC series is a three-hour motocross and in the Enduro series you race and then you stop. You go real hard for 20 miles and then you take a 20-minute break. That's something I'm going to have to get used to and I did struggle with it at the Enduro in Indiana. I didn't know what to do during the breaks, if I should relax or stay warm. But I think I have it worked out for this year.