MXA INTERVIEW: ZACH OSBORNE KEEPING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE
Zach Osborne currently sits tenth in the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross Championship point standings and although he isn’t as far up the ladder as he’d like to be, Zach is still fighting forward and striving for excellence. He has had moments of brilliance this season while leading laps and he was only one spot away from landing on the podium at Anaheim 2 when he finished fourth overall in the Main Event. In this interview, Zach expounds on his career so far, he talks about the team dynamics at Rockstar Husqvarna, his training partners, Cooper Webb, Jason Anderson and Marvin Musquin at the Baker’s Factory and more.
BY JIM KIMBALL
ZACH, WHAT MADE YOU LEAVE GEICO HONDA AFTER RETURNING TO AMERICA? Well, when I first returned from racing the 250 World Motocross Championships, I signed with Geico Honda for 2013-2014. Then, Husqvarna approached me for 2015. That was going to be their first year back in professional motocross and Supercross, so it was the resurgence of the brand. They approached me with a two-year deal that was really good and something that I felt that I could make some headway on. Obviously, my two years at Geico were a little bit turbulent, but there were some podiums in there, too, so it was not a total waste. But, I felt like the Husqvarna ride was a really good fit for me. We came to terms for a two-year deal, and here we are five or six years later.
THE ROCKSTAR HUSQVARNA TEAM WAS NEW AT THAT TIME. WEREN’T YOU CONCERNED ABOUT JOINING A STARTUP TEAM? There was nothing to be concerned about due to the fact that it was basically a spin-off from KTM at that time. It has gotten further away now, but at that time there was really nothing for me to be concerned about. I was able to ride the bike beforehand, and it was something that I felt comfortable doing. I felt like it was a good fit for me as far as where I was personally and mentally at the time. It was just what I needed to do.
WAS THAT WHEN YOU RELOCATED TO COLORADO AND BEGAN TRAINING WITH ELI TOMAC? That was in the first year of my Husqvarna contract in 2015. I stayed at Eli’s place for a couple of months during outdoors. It was a good deal. I appreciated and enjoyed my time there. In the end, I chose to do something different, but it was a good experience.
ELI GENERALLY TRAINS BY HIMSELF. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON HIS STYLE OF TRAINING VERSUS WHAT YOU DO AT ALDON BAKER’S? I don’t really have a thought. What Eli does works for him, and I think that is the main thing—finding something that is good for you. I know his program is really solid and he has an awesome place to ride, so those are the two biggest things—having a good place to ride and being comfortable with what you are doing. Obviously, I chose to do it a little differently, but that is what works for him.
WITH COOPER WEBB, MARVIN MUSQUIN, JASON ANDERSON AND YOU AT THE BAKER FACTORY, IT WOULD APPEAR TO BE WORKING. Yes, but it does not work for everyone. The Baker Factory is something that I enjoy. I like working with other guys. I feel like we definitely make progress on a weekly basis, if not on a daily basis. So for me, that is the biggest thing, just continuing to make progress all the time and being able to ride with three of the best guys in the world. I believe that is very beneficial for all of us.
YOU HAD SOME GOOD RIDES AT GEICO HONDA, BUT AFTER SIGNING WITH ROCKSTAR HUSQVARNA YOU BECAME THE DOMINANT GUY. I think the biggest thing during my Geico time was just the transition coming back to the States. It was not super simple. I had some things that I needed to learn and things to iron out. With the Husky team, I had really good success, and much of that comes with the atmosphere from the management and the team. The people that I have around me have been really supportive and very understanding of what I need to make the job happen. That is probably the biggest thing—the laid-back atmosphere that we have on the team.
WE HEARD THAT ROCKSTAR HUSKY OWNER BOBBY HEWITT IS A LAID-BACK GUY. He does not try to force anyone to be something that they are not. He understands that although this is a business, at the same time, we have to be comfortable in our own skin, and that is one reason why he has had success with a lot of guys with different personalities. The biggest thing with Bobby is that he gets to know us on a personal level first, and then he works the racing side around that.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WINNING THREE 250 CHAMPIONSHIPS FOR THE TEAM? It was an incredible feeling to win three titles straight for the same team, and with the same guys. That is what everyone dreams of. It does not get much better than that. Obviously, if I could have escaped the injury last year, I could have maybe won a fourth title outdoors, but at some point, I just have to sit back, be grateful for what I have and not wish for something else.
DO YOU KNOW THAT YOU ARE THE WINNINGEST 250 RIDER SINCE RYAN VILLOPOTO? I did not know. It is pretty cool, but I think that there is something to be said for the people around me. I have been super comfortable with the team and the bike. A huge part of success is finding a bike that fits you. I was able to do that pretty quickly with the Husky.
WHEN IT CAME TIME TO MOVE TO THE 450, DID YOU NEGOTIATE WITH OTHER TEAMS? No. I have never taken an offer from another team. They have always upped my contract a year or even two years in advance, and that has just been the way we have done business. I have never really needed an offer, so I have been really fortunate in that manner. They have been very gracious with believing in me and giving me whatever I wanted.
JASON ANDERSON FEELS THE SAME WAY ABOUT THE TEAM. That is pretty much where I am, too. Obviously, I am a little bit older, but I have a couple of years left, and I would like to finish it here. Any time you change teams or change bikes, it takes a year or two to find the comfort you are looking for, so for me, this is just the place to be.
YOU WERE INJURED JUST PRIOR TO THE 2019 SEASON. WERE YOU READY FOR THE 450? I felt really ready. It was super unfortunate to have had an injury right before the start of the season. It somewhat ruined the whole season to not start at the first round and miss a bunch of time. But, we were able to get it turned around towards the end of the season and put the ship in the right direction. It is always tough to get injured and then play catch-up while the other guys are racing, so it was unfortunate timing—a worst-case scenario—but, it is just one of those things that happen.
WOULD YOU HAVE BEEN A CONTENDER RIGHT AWAY? I would like to think so. I came into the 450 outdoors healthy, and I was a contender from the first race. I feel that I would have been competitive in Supercross also. I would like to think that would have been the case, but at the same time, you never know. Those things happen and are something you just have to deal with.
TELL US ABOUT TRAINING WITH THREE OF YOUR BIGGEST COMPETITORS. I have a good understanding of what it takes to win, and I have an opportunity to ride with three of the best guys in the world day in and day out. I think that the best thing for me is to keep the peace and enjoy the time that I get to be there. I don’t really feel there is any rivalry. Any one of us can win at any time, and a lot of it sadly depends on the start. That is just a fact. It all depends on your track position at the beginning of the moto. There is not any one of us who can make up 30 seconds in the moto or just smoke someone, so for me, it is just a good understanding of what we have as a group, and the advantage that we have over everyone else.
HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP CHANGED WITH JASON ANDERSON AND MARVIN MUSQUIN SINCE YOU MOVED TO THE 450 CLASS? I am the same guy. For me, it is business as usual. We all have a good understanding of each other’s personalities—when we need space and when we don’t. When it is time to joke and when it’s not. So, for me, it has been pretty much the same.
HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR RIDING STYLE ON THE 450? Yes, I have. At the beginning of the 450 outdoor season, I was struggling with being able to go out there and send it. I knew that was my weakness, and that is what I worked on. I have always hung back a little bit and let the race develop in front of me. But the 450 guys are too fast and too good to let them have anything. You have to be firing from the gate drop.
MOST PEOPLE SAY THAT THE 250 CLASS HAS MORE COMPETITION THAN THE 450 CLASS. YOUR THOUGHTS? In my opinion, the front four or five 450 guys are a little bit more established. Those guys are really fast, and it is gnarly at the front. In my opinion, there is no difference between the 250 and 450 classes as far as intensity goes.
YOU ARE 30 YEARS OLD. IS THAT OLD? I hope to race for quite a few more years. I have a really good opportunity right now with Rockstar Husqvarna Factory Racing, and it is not something I am going to waste. I want to go out there and win. I feel great, but at the same time I keep things in perspective and set realistic goals, so that is what I have been trying to do.
YOUR WIFE AND KIDS TRAVEL THE CIRCUIT WITH YOU. IS THAT A HANDICAP? We travel as a crew, and we enjoy doing it. We are in the season of life where we are super fortunate to get to live the life we have dreamed of. We don’t ever want to live in a way where our kids say, “Why weren’t we there? Why didn’t you ever take us?” So, we travel as a group. There is no handicap to it at all. They are who I am working for, so why not do it with them?
TELL US ABOUT THE 2019 MOTOCROSS DES NATIONS? Obviously, we came up short of our goals as a team, but much of it was decided on the first lap of the first moto when Jason Anderson and Justin Cooper collided. It was a huge bummer, because everyone made such a huge effort to be prepared, but the race did not go our way. Still, it was a great experience. It is a unique race. There is a lot of strategy to it, and it is tough to win quite honestly. I was on the team in 2017, and we had Cole Seely have two DNFs and Thomas Covington blew out his knee. It is difficult to think of things as more of a team than as an individual. There are a lot of factors to winning the race; they are endless.
WOULD YOU SIGN UP FOR THE MOTOCROSS DES NATIONS, REGARDLESS OF WHERE OR WHEN? Yes. It is close to my heart. Even though it is after the end of our season, at a time when we look forward to some time off, our team saddled up for another six weeks in the heat and humidity of Florida. I don’t blame anyone who turns the MXDN down. I understand, but I always hope to get picked.
DO YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN WIN THREE STRAIGHT 450 CHAMPIONSHIPS LIKE YOU DID IN THE 250 CLASS? Of course. If I didn’t, I would not be putting in the effort each and every week to be at the highest level. The day that I think that I can’t reach my goals, I will retire. I hope to be on this team for a couple more years and racing at the front.
GIVE US YOUR CAREER IN A NUTSHELL. There were a lot of expectations on me at a very young age. It did not pan out. I had the opportunity to go to Europe and be there for five years. It was pretty difficult at first, but those were some of the best days of my life. I still keep in touch with tons of people from there, so I really enjoy going back to Europe and seeing all the friends I made while there. To now be back in the USA, on the big stage, is pretty incredible. I never left an opportunity untouched, and from my view point, I do a pretty good job of putting it all out there every time I am on the track. My journey, if you wrote it down, is pretty unlikely, so I am very grateful and very honored to have gone full circle and still be kicking here at 30 years old and at the best level of my life.