MXA INTERVIEW: ALEX MARTIN WANTS HIS SUZUKI ON TOP IN THE 2020 SUPERCROSS SEASON
It was only recently that JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki officially announced their roster for 2020. Joey Savatgy and Freddie Noren will be joining the team in the 450 class, while Alex Martin will enter his second season on the 250 alongside Jimmy Decotis. By his own account, Alex Martin is not happy with his 2019 season. In spite of several podium finishes, the recently turned 30-year-old simply expected more of himself. Coming into 2020, Alex is determined as ever to make 2020 a stand out year. With his never-say-die attitude, and a year’s experience with the Suzuki RM-Z250, Alex has big expectations going into the new year. While this team may have felt some recent economic pressures, we are certainly not counting them out! Enjoy this interview as Alex talks about 2019, the off-season, his riding buddies, his brother Jeremy, and 2020.
By Jim Kimball
2020 MONSTER ENERGY SUPERCROSS SEASON SCHEDULE
LAST YEAR WAS OBVIOUSLY YOUR FIRST YEAR WITH THE TEAM WHEN YOU HAD A SERIES OF HIGHS AND LOWS WITH YOU GETTING USED TO A NEW BIKE AND TEAM, DO YOU CONSIDER 2019 A GOOD YEAR? Let’s say that I am definitely grateful that I have a two-year deal. Just going over to JGR was definitely a learning year for me with the bike and team. I really enjoyed working with the guys, and the Suzuki for sure. I was very comfortable on it right away, but it definitely took some work to get the thing competitive for wins and podiums. We got a few podiums in the outdoors, although I was not exactly where I wanted to be. The team is paying me to be a title contender, and we definitely fell short of that this year. But, at the same time, I felt that there was a lot of progress made. There were definitely some highs though, and at the end of the day, we could go home and be happy that we definitely made progress, and that we were competitive at times.
WERE YOU ABLE TO TAKE SOME TIME OFF AFTER IRONMAN AND ENJOY THAT? Yes, during September and October, I took some time off. I was off the bike for six weeks total and it was nice. It was definitely a long year with just grinding and trying to make the bike better the whole time. Training wise, I definitely wanted a much-needed break. I did a little bit of golfing, checked out the local brewery scene, and enjoyed eating pizza and food that I otherwise would not have. At the end of that, like mid-October, I did some testing up in Charlotte with the JGR guys. Getting back on Supercross, I was like, “boy, I think I need to go on a diet here.” (Laughing)
AFTER TAKING SOME TIME OFF, A RIDER AT YOUR LEVEL REALLY NEEDS TO GET BACK TO THE GRIND OF BEING IN RACE SHAPE RIGHT? It is a grind. There is a lot of pressure. I put a lot of pressure on myself, and between sponsors whether it is JGR, Suzuki or Answer; there are a lot of people you need to accommodate. JGR expects certain results from you, and if you are not there, it can be very stressful or demoralizing. But I just put my head down and work through it. At the end of the day, I guess I could sleep, knowing that I did the best that I could do. It was certainly not for a lack of effort. We did get some decent results in 2019, so there was some definitely some sunshine along the way, and that helps the moral for everyone with the fact that we are on the right path for sure. There are definitely expectations and you want to meet those for sure.
WHAT DID YOU DO AROUND THANKSGIVING TO GET READY FOR THE 2020 SUPERCROSS SEASON? DID YOU TAKE THE WEEK OFF? I was up in Charlotte testing with the JGR guys. We rode Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday during the week. We were just doing a little suspension testing, and a couple of things with the engine, but nothing too crazy. Typically, I like to not change too much once we get down to training, so that way, I can just kind of pound the motos out, and not realty think about the bike. Then I can just worry about my fitness, and my actual skillset to hone in on the intensity of getting up there. I finally turned 30 years old recently, so I am definitely focusing on getting that speed, and make sure that I am competitive with the younger guys.
THERE IS KIND OF A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “TESTING,” AS OPPOSED TO “PRACTICING” ISN’T THERE? Yes, testing for sure is a lot different. Obviously, your main goal is to try to make the bike better, rather than really focus on fitness or training. Testing days end up being just as tiring, and maybe, even more so than simply training because you never really get into a rhythm. You might do maybe five laps, stop, make a change, then go back out and see if you notice a difference. It helps you refine and get more in tune with your bike. You can determine what the bike needs. You have the benefit of feedback, so you go in the right direction, which is more challenging than I can say at times.
WOULD YOU SAY THAT YOU’RE A GOOD TEST RIDER? I have gotten better at it, the older I have gotten. Testing is definitely beneficial for making sure the bike is the best that it can be. Then when that’s done, you can ride differently for training. You can ride longer motos and embrace the suffering. 15 minutes or 20 minutes can be grueling and pretty tough, and then you have to embrace the suffer aspect of it.
MANY RIDERS USE THE TERM “BOOT CAMP” WHEN THEY BEGIN PREPARING FOR THE FOLLOWING SEASON, WHAT DOES THAT CONSIST OF FOR YOU? A little touch of reality, because most of us don’t ride September and October, unless you are doing Monster Cup. September and October are pretty mellow, and you might let yourself go a little bit. Your diet is not strict. You are maybe staying up a little later than you should at night. For myself, November 1st, or that first week in November, is more or less “Okay, let’s get to work, and get back to being strict with everything.” At that point the volume and intensity of training goes up. In September, I took six weeks off the bike but when I did get back to riding a little bit in October, it was just maybe a couple of times a week. In November, you are riding three to four times a week, the intensity is high, you are doing one and half to two-hour bike rides, and the gym sessions are a little bit more difficult. It’s a grind.
It has been interesting having Adam and Kenny in the same class now. They are very close in speed now during practice, so come race day, I cannot really say what is going to happen.
IN THE PAST YOU HAVE TRAINED IN FLORIDA, AND RIDDEN WITH A GROUP OF FAST PROS’; IS THAT STILL THE CASE? Yes, I am a member, and train at Moto Sandbox with some guys. I have the luxury of training with Adam (Cianciarulo), Kenny (Roczen), Chase Sexton and Lorenzo Locurcio. Kyle Chisholm is out there, quite often, so we have some really high-level guys that I can train with. It is fun because we can all group together and do the bike rides and stuff like that together and our motos on the track. We try to time it where we can at least do motos with each other most of the time. It is a fun group to train with. I enjoy training with Adam, Kenny and Chase. It definitely makes the tough days a little easier to have someone who can embrace the suffer with you.
HOW HAS THE ATMOSPHERE BEEN WITH CIANCIARULO AND ROCZEN RACING IN THE 450 CLASS AGAINST EACH OTHER NOW? It has been interesting having Adam and Kenny in the same class now. They are very close in speed now during practice, so come race day, I cannot really say what is going to happen. They have both been laughing and joking around having a good time. They have been very good natured towards each other, so it is kind of fun to see that. It is just a fun group, and everybody seems pretty chill with each other. There is not a lot of ego during the week on the practice track.
LET’S TOUCH ON YOUR BROTHER JEREMY MARTIN. HE IS BACK RACING; HOW COOL IS THAT? It has honestly been really exciting to see him out there again. It was especially cool at Monster Cup, being his first race back in like 16 months. It was a long, long road for him. I saw him when he was probably at his worst in the hospital in Bristol, Tennessee just after the crash when he was in such severe pain. As his brother, it was really almost emotional to see him back on starting line. Then with the fact that he came out and holeshot a couple of times in Vegas and was more or less top five there was amazing. Then in Paris he holeshot almost every main, it seemed. If it had not been for the 14th in the one main at Paris, he would have probably been 2nd or 3rd overall.
YOU MUST BE A PROUD OLDER BROTHER. Honestly, it is really cool. I am proud of what he has been able to overcome, the adversity he has went through. He got the approval to ride back in mid-August and from that point, he was all in. The number of hours he was putting in on the bicycle, in the gym, and even on the dirt bike was incredible. The fire is lit, and I think he is definitely looking to make a statement for next year for sure.
AFTER 2019 BEING A LEARNING YEAR FOR YOU WITH A NEW BIKE AND TEAM, WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON 2020? It is definitely a make or break year. I am expected to be in the championship hunt, and winning races. Of course, the ultimate goal is to win a championship. With having said that, I think the best way for me to approach the season is to just focus on myself, and work on my weaknesses in Supercross. Whether that is whoop speed or simply intensity.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ON THE BIKE RIGHT NOW? I do feel very, very comfortable already at this point in the year. We are head and shoulders above where we were last year with the bike, engine and suspension. We really have a good handle on what the Suzuki needs, and for now, it is just minimal changes, just making sure that I am as competitive and as fast as I can be. Fitness has really never been an issue; I feel that is my strong suit. I am definitely wanting to kick some butt next year and put that Suzuki up on the box, and make the JGR guys look good for all the hard work that they have put in.