Photography By Shan Moore
With the National MotoTrial series getting underway this coming weekend, we thought this would be a great time to check in with five-time series champ Pat Smage to see how his preparation has gone for the upcoming schedule. Cycle News spoke with Smage while he was at an indoor mountain bike facility in Wisconsin.
How excited are you about the upcoming MotoTrials season?
I’m actually really excited. I had a really good off-season, definitely a lot better than the year before. While I was doing shows this winter I was able to go out to California, Arizona and New Mexico and ride with a lot of guys out there. That was a lot of fun and I got a lot of good training in, and I’m really looking forward to the start of the series.
You’ve been successful in the past when it comes to defending National titles, and you’ll be defending one this year again. Do you still get nervous and feel the pressure or is it old hat?
Oh yeah, there’s always pressure and I still get a little bit nervous. And if I wasn’t I don’t think I would perform the same. I think that’s all part of it and it’s something good that you need to have to push yourself and prepare that extra little bit more. You never know how well the guys are going to be riding coming into the first event, so you have to prepare to the best of your ability. Cody Webb has always ridden really well and you never know how tough he’s going to be. So I just do my best in training and try to make sure I’ll be at my best when the competition starts. Hopefully, I can defend the title and do it again.
Talk about the 2013 Sherco. How does the bike feel to you this year?
It’s pretty good, I just got my competition bike that I’ll be riding at the world round and at all the Nationals and I’m just getting a feel for it and getting it all set up. Everything is working great and I understand we’re not having the issues we were having in the past and it’s always a good thing to be able to have that trust in your bike.
Photography By Shan Moore
You had a very good showing in the recent world round in Tennessee. How did you adapt to the no-stop rules and had you been practicing the no-stop rules, even though the US series will be using the old “stop-and-hop” rules?
Thanks. I was a little surprised at how I did in Tennessee. As for the rules, I practiced them a little bit beforehand, and when I first started I tried to ride the same sections I was practicing on with the old rules and I learned real quick that was a bad idea (laughs). I had lots of crashes and fives. It got a little bit frustrating, and then I realized they’re going to have to change the sections. I mean, you can’t be riding the same tight and technical turns without being able to stop and hop. Once I started building sections for no-stop then it became a new challenge and it was something fun.
It’s going to be a learning experience for everyone.
That’s for sure. Not only the riders, but for the checkers too, not to mention the people setting up the sections. It’s going to be tough, because a stop to one person may not be a stop to the next guy, and you might see a bit of variance in the way it is scored, which is a bummer. But that’s going to be part of it, watching the guys in front of you ride the section to see how a particular observer calls a stop – if they give a millisecond or if they give a full second or two.
The MotoTrial series starts in New York. What is that place going to be like and what’s it going to take to do well there?
Well, obviously it’s not a lot of rider’s favorite place, but I’m going to try a different attitude this year and try to enjoy all the different types of terrain at all the rounds this year. Because the national championship should be based on a lot of different types of terrain, and the winner should be the guy who riders best on all of it. So, you’ve got the big, dry river rocks in Arizona and then the slick and loose hill climbs of New York. That place in New York is definitely not my style of riding but I’m willing to adapt and do the best I can.
Round two is in Vermont.
Yeah, and to me that’s always been a great place because they have a bit of variety there and I’m looking forward to going out there.
And from there you go out west to Arizona and New Mexico.
Yeah, and I spent a lot of time out there this winter so I’m looking forward to going back there and hopefully the practice I put in there will pay off. Most of the stuff out there is dry, grippy rocks and even when they’re wet there’s still great traction on them.
And then the last round is in Minnesota.
Yeah, at Duluth, which will be the closest round for me, so hopefully some family and friends will come up and cheer me on. Well end the year up there, and it’s a nice place, so hopefully I can end it on a good note.
Aside from Cody, who do you expect will be the up-and-comers that might challenge you this year?
I’ve been riding quite a bit this off-season with Bryan Roper and Karl Davis Jr., and they are so close that wither one of them could step up and challenge me and Cody. Actually, I look forward to that day and I hope it does come this year. I mean, I came out of nowhere and I’m still surprised I’m doing as well as I have because I was a last place guy for so long, and then somehow I made the jump. One of those guys could do the same thing I did. Just having another guy to worry about would be cool, because it’s been just me and Cody for so long.
What about your shows, how are your shows going? I know you guys got a lot of publicity when you were on America’s Got Talent.
Yeah, that definitely helped quite a bit. We’ve been booked a bit more than I would like to, but I guess we’ve got to take what we can get and keep doing all we can because that’s not always going to be there. We love doing the shows, riding motorcycles and entertaining the crowd is a great time. It’s a little bit of work and a little bit of travel, but you just have to do what you can and enjoy it.
What other kind of riding have you been doing during the off-season?
I’m trying to do a lot of mountain biking as some cross training; it’s fun and it’s a good tool to build endurance. I used to do a lot of running, but I just enjoy it as much as I enjoy mountain biking. I’ve been doing some bicycle trials, too. Just trying to stay sharp as much as I can.
Keith Wineland is not riding the series this year.
Yeah, I was kind of surprised to hear that. He’s always said it might be his last year, but you never knew if he would show. It’s definitely going to be a hit to the series without him.