COOPER WEBB INTERVIEW: “THE MOST FRUSTRATING INJURY I’VE HAD”
2020 was Cooper Webb’s year to defend his 2019 Monster Energy Supercross title and prove that his prior success wasn’t a fluke. Cooper came on strong at the Salt Lake City Supercross Rounds and scored more points than Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen, but he wasn’t able to make up enough ground to repeat win the Championship. Still, Cooper proved again why he’s never to be counted out. Even after his horrific crash in Arlington, Cooper was still able to race again the very next weekend to keep his title hopes alive and he soldiered on through the pain of a back injury to finish second in the 450SX Championship behind Eli Tomac. Unfortunately, the injury from Arlington didn’t have time to heal while Cooper kept racing and it ultimately ended his National season after a small crash at the first Loretta Lynn National re-aggravated it. Now, Cooper is healthy, he’s a married man, he’s signed a two-year extension with Red Bull KTM and he’s going full-steam ahead towards the 2021 season. MXA caught up with Cooper to learn more about his injury, his honeymoon and his joke with Eli Tomac that caught everyone off guard.
BY JOSH MOSIMAN
FIRST OFF, CONGRATULATIONS ON GETTING MARRIED, HOW DOES IT FEEL? Yeah man! It’s been awesome. That’s what we did in the offseason, we were able to tie the knot. Everything has been great; we went on our honeymoon and now we’re back at it. It was really enjoyable and man it’s a really cool feeling.
WHAT DID YOU DO FOR YOUR HONEYMOON? We went down to St. Lucia down in the Caribbean and I think it was five days total and it was cool. I think with Covid and stuff traveling is kind of limited, but we were able to go down to St. Lucia with no real rules or regulations. We were able to get in and enjoy it and get back stateside.
YOU DON’T GET A VACATION LIKE THAT VERY OFTEN. No, usually for a racer you get a few weeks in the offseason. The last few years I’ve learned to try and go somewhere and relax and unwind and toss the cell phone away and just unplug. It was nice. That was our vacation this year and it was super enjoyable. It’s always a nice thing to get that relaxing time. I got more of that this year with being injured unfortunately. But it was a good real reset and we’re ready to go for upcoming supercross.
HOW IMPORTANT WAS THAT TIME OFF TO RECOVER FROM YOUR INJURY? It was huge. My back had been honestly kind of on the mend even from Dallas. I was just kind of managing it every week, every month. It just kept getting worse and worse and I just got to the point where it wasn’t getting any better. We kept getting MRI’s and it kept getting worse. Eventually I ended up tearing a nerve. So, it was kind of a calling saying ‘hey, you need to heal up’. So yeah, we took all of September basically and October doing rehab and therapy to get back at it. Then I was able to kind of unwind at the end of October and do the wedding and go on the honeymoon and unwind. It was awesome for the body and for the mind. It definitely makes you appreciate it when you’re not out there racing, it makes you want it that much more. So it was a bummer that it happened, but in hindsight it all works out and I’m definitely super hungry for this upcoming series.
WHAT WAS THE FINAL DAMAGE REPORT OF THE INJURY? So I ended up eventually getting to where I herniated three discs in my back and tore a nerve in my back. It didn’t require surgery, luckily. That was one of the things that we were kind of debating. We had a few different doctors and a few different opinions, but we opted to go without surgery. Usually you can fuse that nerve and kind of be done with it, but at the time I was 24, now I’m 25 and I felt like we didn’t really want to do back surgery at that age. Since then, I’ve done a bunch of PT (physical therapy) and since then I’ve been great, knock on wood.
HOW WAS THE THERAPY FOR YOU? It definitely opened my eyes to what I can do as far as mobility and flexibility and reliefs that will help the back. As a motocross rider you’re always taking those G-forces and your spine gets a lot of them. It was good to get more educated on that and I’m feeling good and healthy now.
DID ALDON BAKER WORK CLOSELY WITH YOU ON PHYSICAL THERAPY? Yeah, we worked at it. I went to actual PT facilities and did some stuff. Did some nerve work which I was pretty unfamiliar with. That was my first nerve injury ever, so we did some of that stuff. Then, about eight weeks in, I was able to get back to some more normal training with the gym and cardio. Once we got there me and Aldon worked hand in hand pretty much every day getting back to riding shape.
DID THEY USE ANY UNUSUAL MACHINES TO TEST YOUR NERVE FUNCTION? No, we didn’t do too much crazy stuff. A lot of therapy, a few medicines and medications, but nothing crazy. They did a cortisol injection to get the swelling down, but that was the first week. But nothing too, too gnarly.
“I’d wake up one day feeling perfectly normal and then I’d wake up another day and I can’t even get out of bed. So that was the really frustrating and weird part.”
WHAT MADE THIS INJURY DIFFERENT FROM OTHERS YOU’VE DEALT WITH IN THE PAST? I think just the inconsistency of back stuff. Bones are like ‘hey it’s gonna be six to eight weeks and you’ll be back at it’, even with ligament damage. It was more frustrating with the disc and stuff because I’d wake up one day feeling perfectly normal and then I’d wake up another day and I can’t even get out of bed. So that was the really frustrating and weird part. It’s like, what do you do? We were trying to get ready for outdoors and you don’t have time to sit on the couch and let it heal. And even that’s not a guarantee that it’s gonna heal. It was definitely a testing month I would say, and motocross really emphasized it more.
WAS IT EASIER TO RIDE THROUGH PAIN IN SUPERCROSS? Yeah, I could get away with in Supercross a lot more, but with outdoors you get a lot more strain on your back and it kept getting worse and worse. So that was definitely the most frustrating injury I’ve ever had. Usually, an injury is pretty standard, and the doctor will say how much time you’ll be off and when you’ll be back riding. I tried riding at Loretta’s and reinjured it there and we just decided it’s not worth it being out there if I’m not in it and at 100 percent. Luckily the team had my back behind that and recognized that the back at been bothering me. Looking back now that I’m healthy and feeling good again, I didn’t realize how much that it really was hindering me. Even after Dallas and during the Salt Lake City Supercross races. I thought everything was still all good and now that I’m able to take two months and let my body heal and do all these exercises and stuff I’ve realized, man I haven’t been able to touch my toes in five years and stuff like that. So, definitely as an athlete you’ve got to treat your body well, not only with strength and cardio but also with the flexibility side because your movements are crucial.
THE PHOTO YOU POSTED ON SOCIAL MEDIA WITH ELI TOMAC WAS REALLY FUNNY. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ELI? It was funny. Besides ‘hey, hello’ I’ve never really talked to Eli ever. On race day we’re always in our zone. We were at a photoshoot together and I kind of got to know him a little bit and he’s a super nice guy. Even though you have rivals and these guys you battle hard with, we’re all risking it and you’ve got to respect them. When I watch Eli as a fan, or Kenny (Roczen) as a fan, or whoever it is, you know these guys are all so talented and we all work our butts off to be in the position we’re in. So, there’s always that level of respect. Obviously, you’re in this sport, you’re competitive and you want to win, but in the grand scheme of things we’re all humans and there’s that respect amongst us all. But it was cool, we joked about it. I said, we should put a post up to stir up the internet and he was all for it. It was funny, I always like to joke around and stir the pot a little bit. Hopefully we got some people. I know I got a bunch of phone calls and texts about it so I was laughing pretty hard.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO SIGN ANOTHER TWO-YEAR DEAL WITH RED BULL KTM? Yeah, it was awesome. That was a fortunate part of covid. We were able to settle down and get the extension worked on which was awesome. So now I’m with the Red Bull KTM team for another two-years which is a great team. Obviously, I feel like I fit really well here, it’s an incredible group of people and we’ve had great results so hopefully we continue to build on those and hopefully we can bring some more Championships to these guys.
WHAT SETS APART THE RED BULL KTM BIKE FROM OTHER BIKES YOU’VE RIDDEN IN THE PAST? I think the biggest thing when I first got here in 2019 was the difference in weight. The KTM is a lot narrower and lighter than what I had ridden before. I think what separates these guys (Red Bull KTM) is their will to win. If you’re struggling with something, it doesn’t take weeks to address, it takes hours. I think it’s a nice thing when the guys are at the track every day from Roger (Decoster) and Ian (Harrison) to the suspension and the mechanics, not only listening to my comments about the bike, but also visually watching and seeing how they can be better. That’s a cool thing, when you’re around people who want to get better every day it’s super motivating for me and makes me want to do the same. Like I said, I think the bike is amazing. All of it’s great, the engine, suspension, chassis. But I just think how much they work at making things better is what separates them from a lot of the teams. And the whole brand, that’s their motto “Ready to Race.” So, I think that’s how everyone’s attitude is every day, we’re always racing and we’re all racers and we want to win.
“You’re the one who’s got to decide your destiny on race day”
ZACH OSBORNE IS NOW A 450 OUTDOOR NATIONAL CHAMPION, 450 SUPERCROSS MAIN EVENT WINNER, HE’S YOUR TRAINING PARTNER AND HE’S YOUR FRIEND. HOW DO YOU LIKE PRACTICING WITH YOUR COMPETITORS LIKE ZACH AND MARVIN? Everybody looks at it different. Practice is so much different from racing. I have some great training partners with Marvin and Zach and we have RJ Hampshire with us this year. We push each other a lot during the week and when we get to race day, it’s an individual sport. When we line up, you’re the one who’s got to decide your destiny on race day. I think it’s awesome, I have some great training guys, they’ve always been contenders. Me and Marvin battled like crazy in 2019 for that Championship. It happens, but for me, I’ve enjoyed having guys to ride with. I’ve never liked riding alone and it’s a good group of guys. We’re all competitive, but we can all sit there during the week and joke around and keep our egos and our tempers in check. It’s a great group of guys and it’s not just us three racing against each other, there’s about ten other guys that are contenders as well. So you just kind of got to worry about yourself, put in the work and when race day comes know that it’s all up to you.
HOW DO YOU FEEL GOING INTO 2021? I’m ready to go, it feels like we’re in a perfect spot. It seems like everyone started riding again after their offseason around the same time I started riding after my injury. I already feel super comfortable and confident on the bike. It’s nice because we’re starting from basically where I raced Salt Lake. That’s always nice, no big changes and nothing like that. It’s going to be a lot different starting in Houston opposed to Anaheim with the soil and with three races in a row. You’re going to have to come out swinging. It’s a long series don’t get me wrong, but you don’t have time to spare with short weeks in between races. So I’m looking forward to it, it seems like boot camp is gnarly, it’s hard and it sucks, but I’m starting to learn to enjoy it and it’s part of it if you want to win.