By: CHRIS KINMAN
Whether it's focus or fun, 250 or 45, Trey Canard has found equilibrium.
It's nothing new for a Lites rider to jump onto a 450 and race the premier class at rounds that are not in their series, but it is a bit rare for them to become an instant success and a podium mainstay. For many reasons, success in the Lites class doesn’t always translate into the big boy class. It could be a rider’s style not meshing with the bigger bike, or it could be the long 17-round series with longer motos that hold the racer back. Whatever the case may be, no Lites champion is guaranteed notoriety once they move up. However, sometimes success translates seamlessly from class to class as if there was no transition or growing pains to speak of. Trey Canard has translated his riding from class to class in just such a way. It actually shouldn’t be as much of a surprise, as he does have a way of bursting onto the scene
and making a big splash. In 2008, he entered the professional circuit amongst one of the more hyped freshman classes in years. Nico Izzi and Austin Stroupe shared much of the spotlight coming out of Loretta Lynn’s, and few had Canard as a favorite in their virtual racing brackets. Word was, Canard had little experience in Supercross, and many speculated that the whoops would be his downfall. Even Canard, himself, admitted the whoops were more than just another obstacle on the track for him. Plus, he was slated to race the same series as Ryan Villopoto, who was riding the wave of dominance in the Lites class and planned to take on the East Coast series in hopes of acquiring matching East and West championship plates. Canard, instead, stole the first three races with back-to-back-to-back wins in his professional debut. The Supercross world, including Villopoto, was left reeling. Five races later, Canard held up a number one plate as a rookie. He emerged from the shadow of his fellow classmates as the new star aboard a 250F. Since then, however, Canard’s young career has been, as he puts it, a bit of a rollercoaster. He has battled with injuries, including a broken femur and a snapped wrist, and has never really regained the momentum that carried him to a rookie season championship. That is, until now; 2010 has welcomed Canard back to the podium in the West Coast Lites series, and more recently, a near full-time residency on the 450 podium. So what has changed?
Trey has changed, and he is the first to admit it. In the last year, the young Honda rider has made a conscious effort to broaden his perspective as a person, as much as a racer. He has found that there is more to life than training. By re-introducing a lighter attitude and more fun into his daily program, Trey has found his rhythm again, and he is re-learning how much fun it is to ride a dirt bike for a living.
My life in general has been a rollercoaster over the last year or so. I’ve always been passionate and motivated, and in ’08, I took it to a new level. I was so hardcore, and it worked great for me. I won the East Coast Championship, and I was so motivated that in my mind I felt like I could do just about anything I wanted on the bike. I would ride five days a week and train twice a day. But I got to a point where I almost burnt myself out. During the ’08 outdoor series, I was kind of looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, and I probably wasn’t fully there mentally. It is probably a big part of why I ran into a lapper and got hurt. I felt like I was having a decent outdoor series before I got hurt, so I came into the ’09 Supercross season fi red up, and right off the bat I had something stupid happen. Jason and I got tangled up, and it ruined both of our seasons. Coming back from an injury is really tough, especially a leg injury. I talked to Nico Izzi about it; people don’t realize how difficult it really is. It’s a tough thing to get over, and then to regain that morale. I think that’s part of the reason this 450 thing has been so good for me. Coming off my wrist injury, I think I needed a little boost in morale. It helped remind me that I am still a professional racer and I can still enjoy racing, and that it’s all good. It’s been really important for me to see that and to have fun at the races. I put a lot of pressure on myself, but this experience has taught me that I don’t have to do that.
People have said they think I’ve changed over the last year, and I think they are right. I think I have lightened up a little bit; I’m still super motivated and serious about my racing, but I kind of took a step back. It has helped me keep my focus in the right places. I can focus on racing, but when I step back, I can think about other things. Even Ryan Dungey; he has a good balance. You can tell he is pretty lighthearted, and I think that’s where I struggled from ’08 to ’09. There is so much emphasis on this one thing. If you think about it too much, it can become overwhelming. I think that’s been the difference for me this year. Honestly, I haven’t ridden as much as I used to. I have backed it down a bit, and it’s made it so every time I go out there, I have a goal, a purpose. Every day seems really positive, and it helps me enjoy riding. Honestly, I don’t do a whole lot. Motocross is all I do, but I have more fun with it now, because it isn’t quite as regimented and cut-and-dry. I really enjoy riding my motorcycle, but when you do it all day, every day, 24/7, you can lose sight of that. And if the results aren’t there, like for me in ’09, it’s hard. Taking a step back helps me realize how much I love riding and why I do it. You know, it isn’t like that for everyone though. It’s about what works for the individual. Some guys need that straight-faced serious vibe to be successful. For me, though, it’s about being light and happy, and enjoying what I am doing.
Clearly, Trey Canard is enjoying what he is doing. He loves to ride his dirt bike, and when he took a call from Honda Red Bull Racing Team Manager Eric Kehoe, he also took a chance at continuing to race every weekend even though his own series was about to go on hiatus. Honda Red Bull’s Andrew Short suffered an ankle injury when he cased a triple inside Qualcomm Stadium, so the team had Short’s bike, but no one to ride it. Oftentimes, in these situations, a promising privateer or seasoned vet in their twilight will get a call to fill in, but Honda clearly wanted someone close to its camp. Canard has been on a Honda for years, and with his series on hold for 10 weeks, he seemed the perfect candidate for Kehoe and the Honda Red Bull Racing team.
I got a call from Eric Kehoe after the San Diego Supercross, which was a rough weekend for me. I think I was 25 points down from [Jake] Weimer at the time, and there was really nothing to lose by riding the 450, only something to gain. I got started Monday after A3… kind of rode the bike. I didn’t really test much, because I didn’t really know what to look for at that point. I kind of just jumped into it with only a few days on the bike. Indy Supercross didn’t go so well. I just didn’t feel comfortable. We probably could have made some changes to the bike to help my comfort, but I didn’t really know what I wanted at that point in time. But it ended up being good for me because I got a chance to see what I needed to work on with the bike, as well as myself. I got a few days of testing after Indy, and followed it with a good weekend at Atlanta. From there, it just got better, both with the bike and me as a rider. Toronto, I felt, was a bit of a low point for me, even though I got third. It was one of those days that I just didn’t feel good about anything that happened. But I got a week at home before Dallas, and I felt great about that. I put in 20 hard laps and I was really happy with that. Again in Jacksonville, I was really happy with the main event. I was pretty unsure most of the day because I didn’t feel right in practice. My timing was off and my cornering wasn’t so good, but I kind of figured it out in the main.
Canard’s quick adjustment to the 450 may not seem like such an accomplishment, as many, if not most, 250 riders out there use the 450 at least as a training tool. Canard, however, has focused on the 250 so much, that he had spent little-to-no time on the big bore… and he sure hadn’t raced it since he turned pro.
We have the all-new 250F this year, so my undivided attention was to that bike. I hadn’t ridden a 450 in about a year. But I feel like I rode the 450 well as an amateur. The setup was relatively easy because the bikes are so similar. Stepping up to the 450, and then back to the 250 has definitely helped me, and I hope that it has in some way helped Geico and Honda Red Bull Racing as well. And I think it’s actually helped with my focus of the West Coast Lites series. It’s hard to stay completely focused during that 10-week break of the hiatus. Competing in the 450 class has helped me stay in that race routine. It’s been good for me to finish a weekend, then look toward the following. And it is definitely preparing me for 2011. I was struggling around Toronto with all of the travel, so this experience is preparing me for the longer 17-round series next year. Also, it has helped me with the 20-lap motos. Five more laps doesn’t sound like that much, but to race them on a bigger bike at full pace is tough. Overall, I think this 450 thing has helped me find myself a bit, and hopefully I can continue through 2010 with this momentum.
There is an argument out there concerning how racers, who aren’t necessarily in the points battle, ride when they find themselves racing next to those who are. What if a rider out of the running slows a rider down or comes in contact with someone vying for a title? Does it matter? Isn’t it part of racing? Should they shut the throttle off, as if they were a lapper, to let them around? Who knows who actually posed this argument, and if any of the public honestly cares, but it has surfaced a lot in recent memory. The argument can become more heated when, say, a teammate of James Stewart impedes the progress of Stewart-rival Chad Reed. But does the argument still apply when a racer of championship caliber is racing up front with those same contenders, though he isn’t a full-time class racer? Canard was the subject of this question more than once, greatly due to his repeated podium appearances.
Erin [Bates] asked me something like, “You’re not in the championship, shouldn’t you be letting guys around you?” I don’t think I even answered the question. I was kind of bummed on it, to be honest. I know that television is looking for that little bit of drama because that’s what feeds their audience, but I have tried to stay away from that. I look at it as, yes, I am away from the championship points chase, but I am still a racer, I’m still another guy out there. If Chad or James came back, they would be in the same boat. For people to get mad at me, saying I am not in the class and only causing trouble, that wasn’t my intention. My intentions were to, one: fill in for Andrew [Short] at Red Bull Honda, and two: gain experience and race, because that’s what I am—a racer. I don’t feel like I rode dirty or pushed anyone around. Maybe I held someone up unintentionally, but that’s part of racing. If I had not raced, I think I would have done the team, as well as myself, a disservice. I feel I gained more experience in those six races than I have in a long while.
Trey has, indeed, gathered a wealth of experience this Supercross season, experience that will prove beneficial in the 2011 SX series. But has all of this experience taken away from his preparation for outdoors?
Trey doesn’t think so. He is quite confident in his outdoor ability, as well as his team’s ability to provide him with everything he needs to compete at the front of the pack. Yes, he is definitely looking forward to some good ol’ fashioned motocross, but Trey still has a more immediate job at hand. At press time, Trey was focusing ahead at the final two rounds of the West Coast Lites Championship and the East/West Shootout in Las Vegas. Supercross is the absolute priority for Trey until the second week of May. From there, he will redirect his focus toward Hangtown and the outdoor National series.
Normally, during the break in the West Coast Lites Series, you can start some outdoor testing, so I haven’t ridden outdoors in a long time. I am really looking forward to getting on an outdoor track. Right now, we’re here at MTF [Millsaps Training Facility] and I am watching all these guys ride, and the track looks sick. There is nothing better than hitting a nice rut. I am going to do a little bit of testing in this short time period we have, but I still have races to focus on before I get into an outdoor mindset. I trust the team and I know that they will provide the right setup for me. I have no doubt that we will be prepared for outdoors. I know we have the right tools, and I believe we can make our bike the best out there. As for me, I think I adapt pretty well to the outdoors, so it shouldn’t take too long to get better on the outdoor track. Right now, however, my focus is on Seattle, Salt Lake, and Vegas… then we’ll worry about the outdoors.
With or without the added experience Trey has gathered this Supercross season, he is still in the top running heading into the 2010 outdoor season. He has showed up on the radar of those who pick him to win a Supercross race in his rookie season, let alone a championship. And now, after proving he can hang with the big boys in the premier class, Trey will be a favorite to win this season. Either way, Trey is happy. He has something else in his life that is more important, and it’s molded a new perspective for him and has helped him embrace the “rollercoaster” that is his motocross career.
Some might take this wrong, but I am a Christian first. I take that very seriously. It’s not something I say, or try to act; it’s what I am. And to be honest, I want that to come before racing. It’s the one thing I will always have. I love racing and riding my motorcycle, but I can’t do it forever. You always have to be focused on what you are doing, but it’s about finding the right amount. It definitely helps to have something in front of it that you are sure of. But riding is right behind that. I have really enjoyed these last few months. I think it helps when I am doing well, but even when the results haven’t been good—Phoenix, San Diego, Indy—I think I had a much better outlook on things. Doing well has helped for sure, though. But I know that can always change. The bad races will come, but when they do, hopefully I will have a better outlook on them.
Originally published in the April 2010 issue of TRANSWORLDMX.COM®