CHRISTIAN CRAIG INTERVIEW: BACK IN ACTION FOR THE MXDN

CHRISTIAN CRAIG BACK IN ACTION FOR THE MXDN

Of the three riders chosen to represent Team USA in Ernee, France in three weeks, Christian Craig may have been the biggest surprise. Even in the press conference, Craig admitted that he may have been the third or fourth choice. However, there were several key factors in selecting Christian Craig. Firstly, he has returned to riding after a severe injury sidelined him for much of spring and summer, he wants to go, and his team is supporting him! All are very important in rider selection. Team USA, comprised of Aaron Plessinger, R.J. Hampshire, and Christian Craig, may not be the 2023 winning team of Eli Tomac, Chase Sexton, and Justin Cooper, but they are all more than enthused to defend Team USA’s Championship! In my opinion, that makes them a great choice. We caught up with Christian Craig while he spent several hours in Chicago this past Friday.

BY JIM KIMBALL

Seattle was the last race Christian Craig had finished, where he placed 9th. He would go down the following weekend and miss the remainder of the year.

CHRISTIAN, YOU ARE A MEMBER OF TEAM USA FOR THE UPCOMING MXDN IN ERNEE, FRANCE! Yes, I found out Tuesday of this week. It was something that I always wanted to do but given this year, being injured all outdoors, it was a long shot. But with the cards being dealt and other riders backing out, I put my hand up. It is a huge race to obviously come back to and try to prepare for – but I am up for this challenge. I am up for fighting for our country, trying to do my best, and trying to bring home that Chamberlin Trophy that they did last year.  

EVERYONE WATCHES A RIDER WHO IS RETURNING FROM A LENGTHY INJURY, BUT IN YOUR CASE, LITERALLY, IT IS GOING TO BE THE ENTIRE WORLD. Yes, very true. I have had my fair share of injuries, ups and downs, and I know what it takes. I have come back too early and come back too late. I have done it all. I know it is going to be tough. I expect it to be hard. I expect other riders to be fast. It is not like it is going to be easy. All I know is that I am going to be prepared, and I am going to have motos under my belt. I am going to be strong. I have a good group of guys. Obviously, we train together full-time.  We will know where we stand and we will push each other each day to get better and to be as ready as we can. We have about three weeks from today.  It is a big challenge for us, but I am up for it, and I am excited because like I said, I have been off all summer, and all I want to do is race my dirt bike. Being here in Chicago and not racing right now today is tough on me, so I have something to look forward to in France, and I am excited.

Christian has been recovering and getting back into shape.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN BACK ON THE BIKE? A little over four weeks. The first week was just feeling it out and cruising around. The second week, I was back doing motos with the guys. Aldon has one mode only, and that is motos or sprints with the boys, so, no easy way into it. But it has gotten me here today, and it has helped me progress and get better. The elbow is doing good. I am in a good spot with that. It is mainly just me doing my laps, putting the seat time, and getting comfortable, which I am doing right now.  It is just fine-tuning it and being the best, I can come to Des Nations.  

IT WAS A DIFFICULT SEASON FOR THE ROCKSTAR ENERGY HUSQVARNA 450 TEAM, WASN’T IT? It was a tough go for the team. They have had the 250 guys, but I made it ten rounds, and Malcolm made it two, so yes, a tough go for us, but we also have a lot to look forward to. I believe me and Malcolm are going to be a lot stronger than we were this year, and more prepared now that I have a year under my belt with this team and the bike. I am getting more comfortable each day. I think you will see a big change coming next year, but I am excited. It is exciting for the future for us and the team and me, so I have a lot left to fight for. I want to keep doing this and keep fighting for wins and being upfront. First step is going to The Nations and see where we stand.

Christian Craig will be joining Aaron Plessinger and R.J Hampshire for this year’s MXON Team USA.

CHRISTIAN, AS FAR AS YOUR TRAINING AND RIDING, ARE YOU CHANGING ANYTHING UP FOR FRANCE? No, Nothing changes. Literally, I show up every Monday, and we do our motos together, so I think you do what works best for you. Aldon and the team know what works. They have plenty of championships to look back on, and Aldon has trained many guys who have gone to Des Nations. He knows what it takes.  I put my full trust in him.  I am sure he is going to have a three-week little training block for me lined up when I get back home. Like I said, I am ready to suffer through it.  It is an exciting time, but like I said, it is going to be a lot. It is going to be an experience in front of all the fans. Man, I can’t wait. 

HAVE YOU BEEN WATCHING TAPES OF THE ERNEE TRACK? Yes, of course. I think I have watched every race that Ernee has held already in the past two days, so I know what to expect. The last Des Nations was in 2015 there.  I watched that video plenty of times.  I know what to expect.  I know I have not been there but I have an idea.  It is a hard-packed base with some rocks and some ruts, so I like it.  It’s on a hillside. It reminds me of Glen Helen, the ups and downs, side to side, off-cambers.  I grew up at Glen Helen, so I think that was a lot of reason for picking me also. They know I am good at hard packed tracks and that is what we are facing this year. I hope that is going to favor us. I guess we will see each other in October.

IT IS COOL THAT THE THREE OF YOU ALL RIDE TOGETHER. It is cool that we are all together. We have been all year. We know what our weaknesses are, and strengths are. I think that will help play into the strategy. Say, AP is faster, or I am faster in one moto. Obviously, you are going to have to put your ego aside and do what is best for the team.  

It will be interesting to see how Christian lines up after so much time away from the races.

I SUSPECT YOU GUYS WILL BE THE CENTER OF ATTENTION AT HE MXDN!  YOU GUYS ARE IN FOR AN AWESOME EXPERIENCE.  HOPEFULLY THE FANS ARE GOING TO GO CRAZY FOR YOU GUYS.   Yes, especially coming with numbers 1, 2, and 3 as defending champions. There is a lot of pressure on us, for sure. Seeing the previous videos going to Des Nations in 2018 , I know it is very chaotic, but if you are locked in before that gate drops, that is all that matters.  You can enjoy the experience, but when those goggles go on, I will be ready to race.

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