MXA INTERVIEW | SHANE MCELRATH TALKS ABOUT 2018 & HIS FUTURE AMBITIONS
Primarily known for his Supercross skills, 2018 has been a big year for Shane Mcelrath. Not only did he take his first outdoor moto win, he also took his and the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/ KTM teams first outdoor overall win. Eventually Mcelrath would finish fifth overall in the 250 outdoor motocross championship, only six points out of fourth. But it may be the fact that he stayed injury free in 2018 which sets him up nicely for a great 2019 season. We tracked down the 23-year-old at his current home in Florida to hear more.
BY JIM KIMBALL
SHANE; WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON 2018? I am pretty pleased with the year as a whole. I really set out to reach a lot of my goals and we did that and we also set some more. We finished the year healthy, and for me that was huge. I think that was only my second time ever finishing Supercross and outdoors without being injured. I had some broken ribs in Supercross, but I did not miss any races, so for me that was a huge accomplishment in itself. I got my first outdoor win, got my first moto win, and got my most podiums in a season before, so I am pretty pleased with it.
THEN YOU TOOK BOOKEND WINS IN THE SUPERCROSS CHAMPIONSHIP. YOU WON THE OPENER, AND THEN THE FINAL WEST COAST ONE. Yes, I did win the first and last separate West Coast Supercross rounds. I podiumed at Vegas, which was a really big goal of mine, so I was really happy to end Supercross on a good note. I just had a couple of bad races on the Supercross schedule, and you cannot really afford to have bad races at all. That will definitely be something to fix for next year.
WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT HAVING TWO 250 EAST-WEST SHOOTOUTS THIS YEAR? I thought it was really cool and it is really tough to just come and race at Vegas, especially for the West Coast guys because we had such a long break, but then we spend a lot of time on outdoors and like there is just a lot going on during that time and then to just show up and race all of these different guys, it is kind of I guess tough and then it being at Vegas and I mean sometimes it is hot and sometimes it is muddy, but at the same time, if you are not doing that good in the championship, you kind of just write Vegas off to oh well whatever happens, happens. For this year, like I said, I wanted to end good, because I really wanted to do good in outdoors, so the first East-West Shootout, I struggled really bad on the track and I just was not comfortable and it showed in my riding, like I just did not do very well there. I got a bad start. When I am a little uncomfortable and I am a little off the pace, I am definitely not going to be catching the guys at the front, so that was really frustrating, but at the same time, I enjoyed it and I think it is cool getting to race with those guys, not just one time at Vegas, just because I like to race everybody and I really like outdoors too and I like it because everybody is there. I like riding Supercross, but I mean sometimes you win some and you are just like yeah, I won, but I was not really racing anybody. It is like I just like to race everybody, and I mean that is why winning an outdoor championship is huge, because I mean there a lot of people who can get away with just going 15 minutes on a Supercross track and getting a win in, but outdoors is where you really get to see who puts in their work.
That is where I like to challenge myself and be like, alright, let’s see how far we can push ourselves and let’s see who else can push themselves. There is just a lot bigger challenge there.
CONTINUING ON WITH OUTDOORS, YOU MIGHT HAVE STARTED JUST A LITTLE BIT OFF? Yes, I initially felt pretty far off on the bike set-up for outdoors. That was really what I was worried about this year. It was like I don’t want to do that again, because that is kind of how we started every year. Well, then it just so happened that we started right back there again and so it was really tough to persevere during that time, but at the same time, it did not take as long to get set-up, because it was O.K., we need a big change and we made a big change and it was like O.K. that was better, but we need another big change, so it was hard to kind of go through that and the team was really good throughout it. I mean we all worked together and we made progress and that was huge, so we ended up getting our first win and yeah, like I said, I like to race everybody and outdoors we have more races than we do Supercross, so it was like alright let’s take what we learned last week and go and work on it this weekend. So, it was pretty warm there and it was pretty humid. I have been in Florida now for a little over a year and now whenever we go race everywhere, it is just one.
YEAH? Like Florida is hot and that is what I really noticed this year, but it took me a year to really get adapted and that really helped us out during outdoors this year. Even when I was really struggling in the beginning with my bike set up, I could notice a difference in just the way I felt on the bike, like my fitness and everything it takes. I am not tried at all, I just cannot push my bike any faster than this and that was encouraging, but at the same time, it is like let’s just keep making progress and we got a long way to go, but we can be in this thing, so that was cool.
THE 250 CLASS IS JUST STACKED OUTDOORS. Yeah and that is really cool, because 250’s, you can only really make them go so fast before they will blow-up or you will have bike problems and plus like you have bigger guys, heavy guys and you also have smaller guys, so I feel like there is a lot more of a time to it in the 250 class, just because you just don’t have a lot of power. I mean yeah, our bikes are fast, but all the bikes are fairly even.
Whereas the 450 class, I mean you can make them go as fast as you can hang on to them. I mean some people, like Eli, Eli is a big strong guy and he can probably make his bike go a lot faster, whereas like Marvin, who is more of a smaller guy, more of a technical rider, he just wouldn’t be able to hold on to something that was so fast, so the 250 class is definitely stacked and we usually get a good split-up between Supercross for the 250 class, but outdoors, it is like the top ten guys, like every weekend could potentially win anytime and that is what is crazy to be a part of because it is like wherever you start is kind of where you have to figure out what you are going to do because sometimes like just the depth of the start, like the dirt how it is plowed, sometimes it makes a big difference for a guy like myself who is a little bit bigger than some of the other guys like Forkner or Justin Cooper. I might have 20 or 25 pounds on them, so that is huge in the 250 class.
THERE WAS SOME OF US THAT WONDERED MAYBE WITH THE DEAL THAT BROC TICKLE WENT THROUGH IN SUPERCROSS, THAT MAYBE KTM WOULD ASK YOU TO MOVE UP TO THAT 450 TEAM. Yeah. There was definitely some meetings that went on, but we all kind of agreed that I expected to have a better outdoor season than I did have, but it is most likely going to be my last year in the 250 class, 2019 is. I really want to make the most out of it. I want to get the most experience and I want to do the best that I can because I do want to be on a KTM 450SXF. That is my dream ride and kind of the goal and motive for the 250 team. That is the stepping stone to the KTM 450SXF. We just agreed that right now, we want to keep learning and keep making progress. We want to step up at the right time and I don’t just want to be a top 10 guy. I want to be the best that I can be and I want to be battling as close to the front that I can, wherever that is and I just want to make the most of it, so we agreed that we would do that when we were ready and just right now, or at that time, was just not really the right time, so yeah.
NOW WITH YOU HAVING A LOT OF GOOD SUCCESS ON THE 250 THIS PAST SUMMER, WHAT 2019 MIGHT BRING? I would like to think that I would make progress continually next year in the same amount or more so than I did this year and for me, I mean just for my confidence and strength, my endurance and everything this year was in my eyes on a different level than it was before and to me that was huge and encouraging because that is what we work for. That is why we bring out Baker Factory, because we do want to be the best. To see that progress made, it is like O.K., I now, like you said, I have potentially one more year in the 250 class and then going up to the 450’s and now, I am more so seeing myself riding the 450, just because of the improvement in the strength and my confidence and endurance. It is not just go ride the 450 and go do the best you can. It is like the 450 is a lot of bike and especially doing outdoors for two motos and riding it is almost completely different than the 250 and I do like to ride the 450 and I feel like I am more suited to a 450, but I am still gaining strength and for me that is really what is important and when I make up the 450, I want to be physically ready and mentally ready, not just like O.K., well there were still some things that I still wanted to do in the 250 and am I really going to be able to ride this for 17 Supercross rounds and 12 outdoors? It is like, well, I don’t want to come in like that because I am already doubting things. Even just this year alone, it is like seeing improvement in my strength really made me look forward to getting on the 450 because I see myself riding it. I see myself handing it. I see myself pushing it and everything, so that is really kind of the goal in mind.
YOU TOUCHED ON THIS A LITTLE BIT ABOUT RELOCATING TO FLORIDA. IT WOULD SEEM LIKE TYLA RATTRAY’S PROGRAM HAS BEEN GOOD FOR YOU? That really has been huge for me. I mean I have always thought that I kind of worked hard. I have always thought that I want to push myself, I need to be pushed and I feel like I could do whatever people would ask of me, but when it comes down to me asking of myself and me pushing myself, there are not many people out there that can push themselves hard enough to go that extra mile when they think that they cannot push anymore and that is really been a huge part. Just the process of training and the scientific side of increasing your threshold by just body wise, not just on the motorcycle. Just the correlation between our training and our riding and our resting, our eating. That has been huge, to see it as a whole, because it makes a lot of sense now and it also opens up really any door that you may want to reach. It is like, O.K. well, I was at this point and I was like I don’t know how much I can do of this. Like, I am not sure how much more I can take and a couple of months down the road, it is like, I was struggling then. That is a piece of cake now, but there is a process to it and there is a lot of perserverence that goes along with it, but to see the benefits that it has made over the course of now I am going on my third year working with Tyla and it is like, O.K. my first two years were like leaps and bounds and now it is like let’s get going and let’s get stronger, mentally and physically stronger and lets just see. I mean there is really no limit to it and I mean I think Ryan Dungey was a good example of that. He was always there, no matter where it was, no matter how it was, he was always there and I mean that is the consistency we work towards, the fitness we work for, the endurance and everything, but in the back of our minds, it is like we want to be better than Ryan Dungey. I mean he has really set that bar and now it is like Tomac and Marvin are really like at the top of the class and a few other riders are probably right there and in front of them here and there, but I mean that is just really what we work for.
HAVE THE TEAM DYNAMICS CHANGED MUCH SINCE YOU JOINED? No, not really and I think that is mainly because of all the team members. T.K. has been the team manager since I joined and Troy is the team owner, but they started the Troy Lee Designs. At the time it was the Troy Lee Designs Lucas Oil Team and they started it because they loved being at the races. They loved just riding motorcycles, so they started out it as a fun thing and now it is the Factory KTM Lights Team and I mean there is a lot of things that have been pushed to the corporate side, but at the same time, it is still the same people running it, same motives behind it. It is still about having fun racing on motorcycles. We just may be representing different people now, so not much has changed since I have joined them and when I got on it was Christian Craig was there and I only rode with him a handful of times and he got hurt before I went pro, but then like Cole and Jessie, they all kind of helped lead me when I was just getting on the team and really, I would learn from them and just kind of follow them and do things that they would do and now I kind of climbed that ladder and I still do that with some people, but now I also have people behind me too that I still like to work with. I mean we are a team for a reason. We have always worked together and we have always challenged each other and that is part of who we are as a team and that really has not changed at all, so I really like that.
YOU JUST MENTIONED EARLIER THAT YOU ARE GOING TO CALIFORNIA. Yeah, actually my wife and I have an anniversary next weekend and her parents still live in California, so we are going to go out and stay with them and just kind of hang out with our California friend and family.
For another week, but I won’t start back riding until the beginning of October. For the 250’s, we have a new bike this year, like the KTM 450’s got last year.
We will be doing some testing and I have not done anything since Ironman and it is pretty nice just because I mean, we don’t really get time off during the year, so to get some time off it is so nice. We are still moving into our house. Tentatively, we moved in March, but there is a lot of stuff that we have not been even able to touch because we have been gone weekends and have been busy, so yeah, we are still off right now, but in week and a half, we will be right back at it and I am not racing Monster Cup this year, but I am going to watch and my wife and I are flying to Red Bud and we are going to go watch Motocross of Nations and then we have Straight Rhythm in a couple of weeks. We kind of have a busy schedule to start back on, but it is going to be nice.