MXA INTERVIEW: JEREMY MARTIN IS BACK FOR THE 2020 SUPERCROSS SEASON AFTER A LIFE-CHANGING INJURY
Just as his 2018 season was coming around, fate turned it upside down for Geico Honda’s Jeremy Martin. It was at the Muddy Creek National in Tennesse when Justin Cooper and Martin collided, sending both riders down. Jeremy took the brunt of the crash which resulted in a broken back and just like that the 2014 and 2015 250 AMA Outdoor National Champion’s 2018 season was over and unfortunately, so was his 2019 season. As it turned out, a botched operation to repair Jeremy’s burst fracture of his L1 vertebrae resulted in another issue that required an extensive operation, and another year (2019) of missed racing. So, what did the 26-year-old do? He endured and pushed through the pain and dark thoughts to return to his racing at the 2019 Monster Cup.
By Jim Kimball
JEREMY, AFTER ALL THE TIME OFF WITH YOUR INJURY, WHAT WAS IT LIKE LINING UP AT THE MONSTER CUP? It was just nice to be back doing what I love, and in a way just serving a purpose again. It is one thing to go to work every day, be at a job that you don’t really care about, and you are just there for the paycheck. So, it was really nice to actually be back on the line, wanting to be there, doing my job, feeling the nerves and everything of wanting to perform, and do well. It was a great feeling!
MOST WOULD AGREE THAT THE MONSTER CUP WAS A SUCCESS FOR YOU, WHAT WAS YOUR TAKEAWAY AFTER THE NIGHT ENDED? Yes, the Monster cup was pretty good. I rode as well as I was going to ride. I got good starts, and I put myself in good positions. Unfortunately, I got taken down in that last main, and I ended up 14th. But you know I was in 5th place going into the last main, so I probably would have got 6th overall. I felt I was looking good, but I would be lying if I said I was not bummed that I did not get 6th overall. I ended up 8th, but all in all, I went there, and I did what I wanted.
“I WANTED TO PUT MYSELF IN AN UNCOMFORTABLE SITUATION
AND SEE HOW WELL I PERFORMED.”
WAS RACING THE MONSTER CUP SOMETHING THAT YOU HAD PLANNED, OR LAST MINUTE? It was a very last-minute thing, and there was no plan with the team. Actually, there was no plan with anybody, other than just me. I was like, “I feel pretty decent, and want to race.” Eli (Tomac) was getting ready for Monster Cup and I was riding with him. It sucked to be just putting this work in, and not going to the race. I wanted to put myself in an uncomfortable situation and see how well I performed.
I IMAGINE IT WAS GREAT PREPARATION FOR 2020. Yes, absolutely. You have to think that I have been out one and a half years. It has been a long time since I raced and it was a very long time that I was completely off the motorcycle, so any little bit that I can do, I am catching up. I dug myself a massive hole with the broken back, while everybody else is coming off a full season of racing. They may have been taking a little vacation, but they are still relatively fit. They are not coming right from the couch.
“FOR MY WHOLE LIFE I BASICALLY WORKED FOR ONE GOAL AND THAT IS TO WIN ON MY DIRT BIKE. THEN THAT WAS COMPLETELY GONE. THEN, YOUR TEAM MANAGER IS NOT CALLING YOU ANYMORE, YOUR PRACTICE BIKE GUY WENT AND GOT A JOB, SO HE IS NOT CALLING YOU ANYMORE. YOUR FAMILY IS WORKING, ALL YOUR FRIENDS ARE WORKING, AND YOU ARE JUST SITTING THERE EVERY DAY ON THE COUCH.”
Ryan Dungey, the new part owner of the Geico Honda team chats with Jeremy Martin.
YOU WERE SIDELINED SO LONG, AND HAD SEVERAL SETBACKS, BUT WAS THERE ANYTHING GOOD THAT CAME OUT OF THAT INJURY? Yes, absolutely there was. If you would have asked me back in 2018 or 2017 before the injury and said, “hey, do you think you are going to break your back one day?” I would have told you “no way, I doubt it.” A lot of people are scared of any back injury. I was scared, but unfortunately it happened. It is a part of my life; a part of my journey, and I have no other option but to accept it and move on. That is probably the biggest thing I learned from it. I was really in a bad spot for a long time. My whole life I basically worked for one goal and that is to win on my dirt bike. Then that was completely gone. Then, your team manager is not calling you anymore, your practice bike guy went and got a job, so he is not calling you anymore. Your family is working, all your friends are working, and you are just sitting there every day on the couch. So, it put a lot of stuff into perspective about what real life was like, and what the next chapter in life will be after racing.
YOU MENTIONED ELI TOMAC A FEW MINUTES AGO. WHAT IS IT LIKE LIVING IN COLORADO AND TRAINING WITH HIM? So, I got cleared at the end of August to start riding, and initially started riding at home. I was in no position to be able to even be out here in Cortez and training with Eli. I was not fit enough. I could barely ride twenty or thirty minutes on the bike that first day I rode. Because of my injury there was so much atrophy. Everything was such a massive shock to the system because I had not had that impact of jumping, landing or any of that stuff. I really had to take things slowly and build the body up. Once I got healthy enough, I have been out here with Eli training. You cannot deny that training with a guy who is really one of the most dominant dudes in the 450 class is going to help you. He will help hold you accountable during the off-season, until you get into racing.
YOU ALSO RACED THE PARIS SUPERCROSS, WHAT WAS THAT LIKE? Paris was really fun. I was very fortunate to get a call from Eric Peronnard (Promoter) and get an offer. He called about a month before the event and I was like, “dude, I want to go, but I am not in a position to be able to give you a yes right now. I can’t really seat bounce anything super hard right now because the impact. There is some pain there; I am in for the race, but I might have to back out.” Fortunately, enough though everything got pretty strong, and I was able to race the event and it was really, really fun!
WHEN YOU WERE CLEARED BY YOUR DOCTOR YOU WENT FULL FORCE INTO TRAINING AND RIDING. HOW PAINFUL WAS THAT? Absolutely it was painful, don’t be fooled. But I took it easy, trust me. There were days that I could not train after I rode. There were days that I could not do certain things, but I knew that the easy part was to get back into shape to get strong. The tough part is dealing with the initial pain from the injury, and then trying to get the bone to heal – and to heal right. It is all about trying to be patient to get the okay from the doctor to say, “hey, you are fully healed. You can sustain taking a hit on the motorcycle. You are good to go.” For myself, once I got the green light, that was honestly the easy part.
OF COURSE, I KNOW YOU ARE CONTRACTED TO RACE THE 250 IN 2020, BUT I IMAGINE THAT IF NOT FOR YOUR INJURY THAT YOU WOULD ALREADY HAVE MOVED UP TO THE 450 CLASS. If I not had the injury; a lot of things would have been different. You know, “would have, should have, could have,” right? I would have been the 2018 Outdoor National Champion, and I would have got a 450 contract. I probably would have done outdoors in 2019 on a 450. A lot of things would have been different man, but I am not going to sit here, and not going to cry about it. It is what it is, and I still got a 250 deal through Geico when I was hurt. They stood by my side, which is very unheard of, and I am very fortunate. I have no 450 deal now, and I have to perform. My back is against the wall regardless of the injury, and what has happened. I have to go out and I have to win. I have to get a 450 contract, so I can continue to evolve and get to the next step in my career.
SO, THERE IS PRESSURE TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP IN 2020? For sure, there is the pressure of trying to win a championship, and I have been fortunate enough to win two. But the pressure is not comparable to what I had to deal with; the broken back, laying in the hospital bed with the infections, the doctors trying to fix you and they just sometimes don’t know what to do. You know, the pressure of just sitting there and hoping that your career is not over outweighed anything that I ever dealt with, as far as trying to win a championship. So, to me right now, the pressure is good. Pressure is what makes you perform, and it is what really brings the best out of you. I really think that the pressure I have to win is what makes me excel.
I KNOW THAT YOU’VE BEEN IN CALIFORNIA RECENTLY WITH GEICO HONDA TESTING, IS THE BIKE WHERE IT SHOULD BE? Yes, absolutely, the bike is definitely better than what I rode back when I was winning in 2018, so that is a positive. I feel like we have the bike in a spot where I just need to focus on myself, and I need to better myself as far as mentally and physically on the track. This is time to just go racing. Basically, a lot of people are coming off a full season, whereas I had to learn how to walk basically. I had to learn how to ride a dirt bike again, and get back in shape, so 2020, here we come!
IS THERE A CHANCE YOU CAN RACE A 450 IN SUPERCROSS ON THE OPPOSITE COAST? Definitely not, there is no chance of that right now. It would be cool if that opportunity was there, but I am just grateful to have what I have. To come back after 1 and a half years off, and have a ride is awesome. We are just going to focus on what we can do right now, and that is being the best I can be. I would love to do the East Coast Supercross series. That is the plan, but you never really know what may happen. So, I am thinking East, but someone could get hurt, and there you go, I am West.
IT WOULD BE PRETTY COOL TO SEE YOU RACING AGAINST YOUR BROTHER IF HE RACES EAST COAST TOO. Yes, for sure. If I do not race with him in the Supercross series, it’s a bummer. But I think that there are a couple of East-West Shootouts. If we are on opposite coasts, we will still race each other, but it may not be a full knock-out, drag-out brawl in Supercross. But for dang sure it will be that way in outdoors with twelve nationals.
WRAPPING UP JEREMY, I IMAGINE THAT COME 2020, YOU ARE GOING TO BE PREPARED AND READY TO WIN. Yes, absolutely. No matter what coast, whether it is west or east, regardless of what has happened to me, I race to win. I almost lost everything I worked for, so if I am going to line up and take the risk, I am sure going to go for the win. I’ll put myself in the best possible position to win!