The 2013 AMA Horizon Award winner makes his way into the professional ranks.
Matt Biscelgia is the newest Factory Connection recruit to make his professional debut. The Honda-backed Factory Connection program selects the most promising amateur riders, helps them to prepare as amateurs for transitioning to the AMA Pro ranks, and then brings them onto the GEICO Honda AMA Pro team. Riders who preceded Biscelgia in the program include Trey Canard, Justin Barcia, Eli Tomac—all three now AMA Pro Champions—plus Blake Wharton, Justin Bogle and Zach Bell.
Biscelgia’s professional debut took place late this season, and it was an eye-opener. As he said at the conclusion of the season final at Lake Elsinore, “It was so gnarly and hot out there. To see guys like Tomac [the overall winner at Lake Elsinore and 2013 AMA Pro 250 Champion] ride so hard and keep that pace in this heat shows me that I need to really get to work this off-season and take my personal fitness to an even higher level. Those guys are incredible, and everyone at this level is so good.”
With multiple Loretta Lynn titles to his name, recently winning the coveted AMA Horizon Award, and now joining the AMA Pro ranks as part of the GEICO Honda team on his CRF250R, Biscelgia is on a path to success. We talked to Matt about being a part of one of the most successful programs in the sport, and also to Rick Zielfelder—Factory Connection President—about the program.
Q: When did you start riding?
MB: I started riding when I was three years old and started racing when I was four. I am 18 now so I have riding pretty much my whole entire life. My dad used to be a pro and my mom used to ride as well, so they got me into it. I basically grew up at the track and have spent most my life around motorcycles.
Q: When did you sign up with the Factory Connection amateur program?
MB: I signed up with the Factory Connection amateur team about two years ago after I won my first Loretta championship. We talked with Ziggy and I was very fortunate to get put on their program. It is crazy that it has already been two years and I am already here in the pro program.
Q: How has this program allowed you to evolve as a racer?
MB: This program has really helped me evolve as a racer by being surrounded by a good group of people and having a great bike—the CRF250R—to get me to the finish line.
Q: How long have you been on a Honda?
MB: I have been on a Honda since I signed with the Factory Connection amateur program, so for about two years now.
Q: What do you like best about the CRF250R?
MB: I like everything about the CRF250R. The way it handles is great, and Factory Connection has got my suspension dialed just the way I like it. They are really fast bikes even just stock right out of the crate, and I really liked the fuel injection when I first got on it. Honestly, everything about the bike is great and obviously with the Honda name you know it is going to be reliable.
Q: What do you like best about being on the Factory Connection team?
MB: It is a long list, but like I said before it is a great group of people and I honestly think we have the best bikes out there.
Q: What advantages has that offered you?
MB: Having a reliable bike is obviously a huge advantage. You know that you can make it to the finish without any problems. Also, having a bike that you feel comfortable on is key because then you can push yourself even harder.
Q: What role does Team Manger Mike LaRocco play in terms of a mentor?
MB: Mike is a great mentor. He will tell us what we are doing right, what we are doing wrong and give us advice when we need it. He has experience as a racer so he does a great job as team manager.
Q: What's the best advice you have received from his team mentors/managers?
MB: They have definitely helped me a lot. There is no individual piece of advice that they have given me that has been the best, but all of them have helped me evolve as a person and as an athlete. They have really helped me grow.
Q: What classes did you win at Loretta's?
MB: I won Open Pro sport and 250A at Loretta’s this year. I also won the AMA Horizon Award, which was a big deal for me. It has been a dream of mine to win that award before turning pro so that was a huge accomplishment.
Rick “Ziggy” Zielfelder, Factory Connection President
Q: How long has the FC amateur program been going? And, how did it start?
RZ: We signed Trey Canard in 2006 to our first Amateur/Pro contract for the 2007 season. He rode as an amateur in 2007.
Q: How do you select your riders?
RZ: We look for stand-out riders of any age or class and try to learn their history and try and imagine what their progress will be and see if it fits in our program.
Q: How many amateur riders do you have on the program at a time?
RZ: It varies depending on how we feel about the available riders.
In 2008, 2012 and 2013 we had a “B” rider and an “A” rider. In 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 we had only one amateur rider.
Q: What was it about Matt B. that made him a good choice for the program?
RZ: Loretta’s is the biggest amateur race of the year. It isn’t the only race that we use to pick riders but it does carry a lot of weight with our selection. Matt has been very, very good at Loretta’s over the years.
Q: Which other riders have come up through the ranks in this program?
RZ: Trey Canard, Justin Barcia, Blake Wharton, Eli Tomac, Justin Bogle and Zach Bell.
Q: What do you think makes your program so successful?
RZ: We have been fortunate enough to have had Factory Connection trackside at each of the big amateur races for years and I have had an opportunity to build relationships with a lot of the riders and their families. That gave us the ability to get the riders we did. Now that these riders have had success in the pro ranks, it has allowed us to showcase our team effort and now with a proven team we have a much easier time getting the young talent.
Q: Your riders have won the AMA Horizon Award for a few consecutive years now. What does that mean to you?
RZ: I guess it means we have been making good choices. It is usually a good goal for our guys and helps give them a confidence boost as they head to the pros.