Talking with Eli Tomac the eve of the season-ending 2018 Monster Energy Supercross Series last May at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada: “Eli, the 2018 Monster Energy Motocross of Nations set for RedBud in October. If invited to be a member of Team USA, will you answer the bell?”
“Oh yeah,” answered the 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship MX450 champion. “That’s a really tough subject from last year, but the way everything falls this year, I’ll be gunning for that race, for sure.”
At age 25 Eli Tomac is arguably, the best overall supercross and motocross racer on Earth. A millionaire with one of the elite rides in all of international racing, life is good for the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider from Cortez, Colorado. Still, with the money, fame and adulation comes pressure and expectations, not to mention radical ups and downs in a form of racing where a rider is only as good as the last big thing they accomplished.
A two-time veteran of the Motocross of Nations (2013 at Teutschenthal, Germany and 2014 at Kegums, Latvia) Tomac will serve as Captain America come this weekend at RedBud and the 2018 Monster Energy Motocross of Nations.
Q: To motocross and supercross fans around the world, you’re easily considered one of the very best racers – if not the best racer – in the sport. To that end, do you think the nerves and pressure of such a huge race as the Motocross of Nations help a rider at your level?
ELI TOMAC: You know for me, I’ve done it enough now to where it’s good pressure, you know? Maybe early on in a career, yeah, sometimes it can hurt you. But for the most part, it’s good for us and for me. I dig it. I dig the pressure now that we’re on the home turf now. If anything it’s going to give us confidence. Yeah, I’m all about it.
Q: You haven’t raced since the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship finale at Crawfordsville, Indiana last August. Has the break been long for you? I’ve noticed you’ve been staying pretty busy the last few weeks.
ET: I kept myself busy. It wasn’t that bad. It was a good break and we had a little bit of time. We got a new bike, so that was exciting to get on. I think everything is better about it, too. I had motivation during this off-season and we still have an off-season after this race, but so far, for me, it has been easy time off. It’s felt good.
Q: I know you rode a KX250 two-stroke earlier this week. How was that?
ET: Gosh, when you jump on one of those… Maybe it’s because we don’t ride them anymore, but it’s so much fun. It was so much fun to just let that thing eat.
Q: I’d assume the power characteristics of the 250 two-stroke compared to your 450 four-stroke are radically different to a rider at your level. True?
ET: It’s way different. You have to ride them a lot higher up in the powerband, where with the 450 you have all that torque. The 250, you have to keep that thing singing up high; you have to keep her going.
Q: Hypothetically, how would you do at a 450cc National if you lined up on that bike?
ET: You know riding that thing the other day, if you could get it off the start and you were on the right track conditions, it could be competitive. But on the wrong track conditions and if you had to get off the start, you’d get worked. That’s where the four-stroke is different.
Q: After Sunday’s race at Imola, Jeffrey Herlings made mention a few times in the media of how he is determined to try and win both motos at RedBud. Is the overall team score more important to you?
ET: Well, that’s what’s going to be tough. I will say, yes, the team result is for sure at the top of the list, but at the same time, we want to show America that we truly are the fastest and the best, so if I’m in the right position, heck yeah I’m going to give him a run for his money and do everything I can to beat him.
Q: You’ve been a member of Team USA at the Motocross of Nations on two occasions: one time on the 250, and one time on the 450. With the exception of some bad luck and a few off-song starts, you have been very competitive at the event. All this withstanding, you sound strong and confident heading into RedBud. Thoughts?
ET: Yeah, I’ve been there and I’ve always had this good energy and a good racing spirit, and it has been exciting. That gets me through that weekend. It’s a double-day event and it’s long and tough, but we haven’t won as a team when I’ve been on it, but for the most part I’ve had a great time and it has been exciting.
Q: Do you think the weather will play a role in this deal?
ET: The weather can always throw a wrench in the spokes, but as long as it is not a downpour and the conditions are loamy, I would say that the playing field is the same for all of us. We’ll be just fine. If it does happen to turn into mud, I think all three of us are proven mud riders. Either way, we’re in a good position.
Q: You’ve won championships and a hell of a lot of big races, but I’m sensing a Motocross of Nations win would mean a lot to you.
ET: It would be. It would just be the icing on the cake for this year. We had a lot of success in both series in 2018, but to get the Chamberlain Cup for Team USA would be outstanding.
Q: We haven’t won the MXoN for six straight years now and all the American fans that show up at RedBud aren’t going to go home happy unless Team USA wins. It’s a challenge, but an exciting challenge, huh?
ET: I mean it’s going to be bonkers, but I think it’s going to be a good thing for us. We won’t know until we get there, but I think it’s going to be a good race and our team is healthy coming in so we’ll give it all we’ve got.