Friday, December 2, 2016

You're nothing, until you're something.

We quickly forget as fans of any sport who it is that we are really rooting for. I am a 32 year old grown man, yet it's a 17 year old kid that I expect to win on Saturday nights. If he doesn't win, the forums on Monday mornings will be filled with reasons why he sucks and doesn't deserve the ride he has. The pressure at the professional level of motocross is possibly higher than any other sport. Do we forget that these riders are young adults with lives of their own?

It starts at the amateur level. Performing well at big races puts you on the radar of sponsors and dominating your class sets you up to be "the next big thing." At one point it was Suzuki's amateur program that groomed the top mini stars to sure shot pros.

As the pressure builds only a few will truly handle the challenges placed in front of them. A few will plateau at a certain level and others will cave hard. Failures at this level can mean letting down not just yourself but friends, family, fans, sponsors and teams. Lack of results and injuries can take a rider to dark places.

Three very similar riders with nearly the same paths laid for them. Ben Riddle,  Shane Bess and Nico Izzi. All amateur national champions who'd turn pro with Factory Suzuki contracts. They'd go on to face similar results as professionals, loose their rides and after suffering injuries fall into a world of addiction.

Kentucky's Ben Riddle was the first of the three to turn pro. After a long stint with Kawasaki's Team Green,  he'd collect his final national championships as a member of Team Suzuki. In 2001 he'd make his pro debut under the Suzuki rig. He'd score a career best 6th place at the New Orleans Supercross that year. After breaking his leg at Washougal, Riddle felt given up on and one injury seemed to lead to another. After a stint with the Motoworld Suzuki team in 2002 and earning a few national numbers he'd hit bottom hard. Addicted to opiates and surrounded by the wrong people it'd turn worse and Riddle would find himself in prison for over 6 years. Now clean for 3 years, Ben is healthy and focused on a good life not just for himself but his wife, family and newborn daughter. He's giving back to the sport through Riddle Motocross Coaching and running a track back home in Kentucky called Sand Trap MX. Looking back now he says "injuries are just a set back, it's what you do during and after that determines how strong you bounce back." He knows it was his mistakes that took his career. "If I can help one rider avoid the same choices and path I took, that's why I coach."

Ben Riddle claims a National Championship | Photo: provided by Ben Riddle
Shane Bess of Oxnard, California made a name for himself at a young age. Pretty much the only kid who was able to beat James Stewart straight up. His skills landed him a Suzuki deal on 80's and took him through to the professional ranks. He'd break his arm just before turning pro and considers that his biggest setback at the next level. After being fired from Factory Suzuki, he'd spend a season with Team ECC before finding some success in Arenacross with the Troy Lee Honda team. Fighting injuries and suffering the loss of his girlfriend he'd turn to pain pills. This lead to dabbling with nearly anything Bess could get his hands on. After pills he became addicted to alcohol, then cocain, cough syrup and more, ending with heroin and meth use daily. "Slave" is the word Bess used to describe his addiction. It lasted over 8 years. After being stabbed, shot at and overdosing Bess became clean on December 27, 2012. "I was a liar, a cheater and a thief...but not today." Thanks to sobriety he's found god, rides a few times a week and is focused on getting his education. He wants to be a counselor. 

Shane Bess awaits his moto during his time with ECC. | Photo: provided by Shane Bess

Maybe one of the biggest mini stars in amateur motocross, Nico Izzi was a dominant force from day one. The Michigan native won 6 Loretta Lynn's titles along with multiple other national championships. When he turned pro in 2008, he'd find himself at the front of the pack early. Dealing with personal issues and having his baby girl due in 2009 added stress to his championship fight. A big crash would leave Izzi with a severely broken heal. He'd become reliant on his pain medication and when that was gone the cheaper route would be heroin. "I was scared of it, I was afraid to die." Izzi would find himself and another shot to prove himself on the track. His stint with Kilbarger Racing in 2011 would produce results and land him a Rockstar Yamaha ride. He was a solid top 10 guy in the 450 class when he'd tear his ACL. "It's was a recipe for disaster." The prescribed pain pills took Izzi back to a bad place. He lost everything. He was lying, stealing, begging and at rock bottom. He admits to just not being able to handle the pressure. So much was expected from him, but he was a failure. He wasn't chasing the high, it was numbing out the bad he was looking for. In early 2016 he'd seek help in Kevin Kolb of Sick MX. Izzi would slowly break his habits and reunite with former mechanic Thad Merz. The plan as of now is to be on the line for 2017 Supercross. Look for Izzi to race the 450 class beginning at the east rounds.
Nico Izzi all smiles. | Photo: Kyle Pesci
Drugs. We look at them as a crutch and a negativity. The users we see as bad people and we are quick to give up on them. Truth is these people most likely don't want to be where they are. It's a sickness. It takes good kids with a lot of talent to really shitty places. I'm really happy to call all three of these guys friends. I'm happy to say they've found themselves and a reason to live. We need to realize that these guys were all looked up to and expected to perform at a young age. When injuries took away all they knew in life, they had nothing. They even hated themselves. Addiction is real and it affects real people. 

-Kyle Pesci

This article brought to you by: Race Tech 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Next Level

The dirty truth in our sport is that no matter how fast you are and the support you had as an amateur in motocross, there will be a time where doing this as a career is up in the air and a ride at the next level won't be there. Factory spots are very limited and have seemed to slowly decrease over the years. 

Kyle Cunningham takes the spotlight during an off season race.
At the same time, I see the strength of the field getting deeper. As most silly season questions have aligned themselves we scratch our heads at others. Guys like James Stewart and Dean Wilson are still without team. Is it the depth of the talent pool that keeps guys like Kyle Cunningham, Heath Harrison, Anthony Rodriguez and Josh Osby from having support rides heading in to 2017 supercross? The list of really good guys without contracts is a long one. 

I question, what if we had more satellite teams? Who would you pick as your riders? I look back at teams like Pro Caliber Suzuki, Planet Honda, Yamaha of Troy, Subway Honda, Moto XXX and more that were crucial in supporting guys from 10th thru 20th. 

So as this sport grows in popularity, which I truly feel it has. We have live race coverage and more one off events than ever. Ryan Dungey graced the cover of a Wheaties box and the pages of ESPN magazine. Where are all the good rides?

Next I ask, would parts alone make the difference? Could good suspension or motors take a guy from mid pack and put him on the radar? Are fill in rides like that taken by Phil Nicoletti at JGR the true stepping stone to a full time gig or will results alone get you the break your looking for? Christian Craig and Josh Grant are two more guys who went from part time to season contracts. I ask if parts make the difference after looking at the results of guys like Gannon Audette. He had a good season going and was a top ten threat. He got his fill in spot with Pro Circuit and instantly went to the podium. After his time under the semi he'd also return to the mid pack. Is this coincidence or a sign that the bike is indeed a major factor? 

You be the judge. Let's here your opinions on this article. Who deserves a ride and who would you hire? 


-Kyle Pesci

This article is brought to you by:

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The List.

Here it is, The List. The 2016 season is officially over and now we will sit and wait on supercross. As fans wrap their heads around guys like James Stewart not having a ride for 2017, we look back at privateers who showed their speed in 2016. 

How The List works. If you made a main event in any Monster Energy Supercross Series event, qualified for a Lucas Oil Pro Motocross National or made the main gate at the Monster Energy Cup, then you are on "The List." We broke it down by state and countries. See who made the list and what states have bragging rights.

Heath Harrison

Ben Lamay 

Deven Raper


Nick Schmidt
Jeff Alessi
Adam Enticknap
Bryce Stewart
Darryn Durham
Tyler Bereman 
Michael Leib
Scott Champion
Trevor Reis 
Dillan Epstein
Steven Mages
Blake Lilly
Gared Steinke
Brandon Scharer
Dustin Pipes
Josh Mosiman
Bradley Lionnet
Bryar Perry
Zac Commans
Dylan Merriam
Kinser Endicott
Carlen Gardner
Austin Howell
Colton Aeck
Dakota Tedder
Tyler Enticknap
Dylan Schmoke
Jeremy Byrne
Keith Knight
KJ McKenzie
Jacob Smith
Travis Freistat
Austin Politelli
David Gassin
Kevin Weisbruch

Cody Church 
Cole Shondeck
Connor Olson
Todd Bannister 

Matt Hammer
Justin Rando
Seth Ciccarelli
Jason Brooks
Austin Phelps
Bobby Tiso

Coty Schock 

Paul Coates
Justin Starling
Josh Cartwright
Hayden Mellross
Gannon Audette
Kyle Chisholm
Eric Grondahl
Ricky Renner

AJ Catanzaro
Anthony Rodriguez 
Martin Castelo
Nick Gaines
Max Tannenbaum


Ryan Breece
Austin Kouba
Morgan Burger 
Kyle White
Cody VanBuskirk
Kenny Venarchick
Joseph Dalzell
Alex Nagy

Travis Sewell
Christian Telker
Shawn Miller
Dakota Robins
Shane Sewell
Jacob Grove
Sean Miller

Josiah Hempien


Michael Akaydin 
Jacob Baumert

Stone Edler


Tony Archer
Jacob Runkles

Petrick Delowery
Robbie Marshall
Shawn MacDonald
Ryan Dowd
Richie Tolman-Moschetti

Jacob Williamson
Marshal Weltin
Jarett Pesci
Jerry Lorenz
Jeff Walker
Michael Bidus

Henry Miller
Jesse Wentland 
Jake Loberg
Zack Williams
Jerry Robin
Nick Fratz-Orr
Joesph Perron


Justin Freund


Cody Gillmore


New Hampshire 
Aaron Ziefelder 
Travis Marsh
Alex Higley

New Jersey 
Dakota Kessler
Jeremy Smith
Joey Peters
Michael Giovanniello

New Mexico 

New York 
Ronald Beck
Aaron Lampi
Sean Ballard
Matthew Babbitt
Kyle Bitterman

North Carolina 
Steven McSwain
Keith Tucker
Isaac Teasdale
Carson Tickle

North Dakota 
Daniel Herrlein 
Levi Kilbarger
Logan Karnow
Lane Staley 
Dylan Walker
Jeremy Hand
Broc Peterson 


Kevin Rookstool

Dylan Slusser
Jared Lesher
Timmy Crosby
Bobby Piazza
Ronnie Stewart
Daniel Lippman
Dakota Yohe

Rhode Island 
Shane Kelleher

South Carolina 
Cade Clason

South Dakota 

Alex Ray
Sam Redman
Harrison West
Justin Ashburn

John Short
Vann Martin
Sean Hackley

Dalton Oxborrow
Brandan Leith
Riley Brough 



Chris Howell
Noah McConahy
Tevin Tapia
Nick Schmidt 
Collin Jurin

West Virginia 

Hunter Sayles
Cody Williams
Nathan Laporte

Bracken Hall

Lawson Bopping
Jackson Richardson

Cedric Soubeyras
Thomas Do
Max Despry
Charles Lefrancois

United Kingdom
Gracie Featherstone
Paul Coates

Killian Auberson

Dylan Wright
Shawn Maffenbeier
Tim Tremblay

New Zealand 
Cody Cooper

South Africa
Michael Docherty

Sean Lipanovich

-Kyle Pesci

This article is brought to you by: Dedicated Ride Co.