Respect your elders!
How about a round of applause, better yet, stand up for the old boys! I think it’s about time we give a little recognition to 3 guys who are all eligible for the vet class yet continue to show the kids how to do it every weekend. I think it’s just plain awesome and I have an immense amount of respect for these guys that are still out there, racing professional motocross at the highest level our great country has to offer. Now, I may be a bit (well, maybe a lot) biased here, because I consider each one of them my friend and I have a different type of soft spot for each one. I am very proud and realize more and more lately, just how fortunate I am to say I grew up (and I use that term extremely loosely) alongside all three of these guys and was able to witness how they became who they are within our very small world of motocross in Canada. So, in no particular order, let’s go back in time and take a look at how each of these legends have carved their own path and their names into Canadian motocross history.
Let’s start it off with the youngest of the group, but by no means does that suggest he lacks any experience. Mr. Shawn Maffenbeier is the most recent inductee to the plus 30 crew but if you’ve seen him up on the podium without his helmet on, you may think otherwise. Ha! Born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, Shawn was on a dirtbike at a young age and followed the general grassroots path of racing dirtbikes in and around his home province and Alberta. After a while, the kid got pretty damn good at it and stuck with it all the way up until he went pro in 2008. Shawn told me a story this year about how around that time, he just left home and lived in a van to chase the dream! I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, you’ve gotta want it!
My first memory of Shawn was watching him in 2009 at the Pro National in Morden, Manitoba riding a YZ450 as he was on the radar of the team I was working with at the time. By 2011, he started to figure a few things out and finished 6th overall in the MX1 class. The first win of his professional career came in 2013 in the MX2 class and by 2016 he was a title contender and finished runner-up in the series. That result gave Shawn his very first opportunity to represent Canada in the MX2 class at the Motocross of Nations in Maggiora, Italy. Carrying the momentum into 2017 and now aboard the FXR MX101 Yamaha YZ250F, Shawn captured the Canadian MX2 Championship and once again headed overseas to represent Team Canada at the Motocross Of Nations this time, at Matterly Basin in Great Britain. Just when you don’t think it could get any better, he followed that up the next year in 2018 by winning the MX2 Canadian Triple Crown Championship. After proving himself over and over again in the MX2 class, 2019 was the rebirth of his 450 career. After almost a decade off the big bike, he came in with a wealth of knowledge and accomplishments which turned into expectation. In his first year in the premier class, Shawn landed on the podium twice and in 2020 he finished the series 3rd overall. For 2021 Shawn went “home” so to speak, and returned to the MX101 team, this is where I come in. Over the years I got to know Shawn, but only from a distance as we were never on the same team, I’d helped him here and there but never worked directly with him. This is the year I joined the MX101 team and was very excited to work with a rider with as much experience as Shawn and it quickly became apparent that he had a very, very great understanding of how the motorcycle works. We gelled instantly and began dissecting the intricacies of the Yamaha 450, bringing as much as we could from his experience the previous year on the same bike, which was under the OTSFF tent that had ceased operations at the end of 2020. By this time, Shawn and I had become “the old guys”, we both started to realize how fortunate we are to make a living racing (and working on) dirtbikes for a living in Canada and found a new appreciation for what we do. The end of the 2021 race season ended a little sour as Shawn had an injury at the penultimate round in Deschambault, Quebec which led to some off-season thoughts of retirement. But, the painful end of the season was quickly forgotten as Shawn and his beautiful Fiance, Robin tied the knot in a lovely ceremony just a few weeks later.
After returning home to Kamloops, British Columbia, Shawn healed up, and the guy went and got a real job! After many, many long days driving a rock truck all winter in the middle of nowhere, B.C., the decision was made that there would be at least one more chapter added to his illustrious career. This season has been a bit of a rollercoaster for Shawn, but at this point in his career he understands that this is racing, and managing the highs and lows are just a sliver of what makes a good rider, great. On a personal level, I’ve gotten to know Shawn quite well, and we’ve become great friends. I think this is the most enjoyment I’ve ever gotten out of doing this job, perhaps because of that newfound perspective I mentioned. We both encourage each other to keep it simple and keep it fun but can simultaneously operate at an intelligent level. We both have a very comprehensive understanding of racing, the bike, and everything in between that’s involved in our sport. It has been an absolute pleasure working with Shawn in what could be labelled our “golden years”.
The next old guy shares a birth year with me and is just shy of a 20, yes, TWENTY, year professional career. After winning the MX2 qualifying race in 2003 at the final round in Walton AS AN INTERMEDIATE rider, this guy has had a career that can only be described as absolutely phenomenal.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Tyler Medaglia.
After a promising amateur career that was capped off by beating the eventual MX2 champion in the pro qualifier, Tyler headed south that winter to put in the work and prepare for his first professional season in 2004. However, it wasn’t meant to be as he sustained a near career ending back injury before it even started. And sadly, in 2005, he had another major injury to his humerus which delayed his pro debut even longer. During those two years away from the sport, he was able to live like a regular kid and just enjoy time at the family home near a small town outside Ottawa, Ontario. It shouldn’t go without mentioning, Tyler has a younger brother, Jeremy, who also made a very substantial impact on the Canadian moto scene. After basically 2 years off the bike and helping his brother develop his craft, it was easy for Tyler to regain the motivation he needed to make a return, although essentially, his debut in 2006. His results that year earned him a spot on a team for 2007, and he has successfully held a job ever since, and to me, that in itself is one hell of an accomplishment. If you’ve ever watched Tyler ride the sands of Gopher Dunes, it should come as no surprise that this was where he got his first professional win. Also, in only his third year as a professional he was able to finish 3rd overall in the 2008 Canadian MX1 Class. Amongst his 450 performances, Tyler also showed us that he can ride the smaller 250F quite well, and, on a supercross track. After taking back-to-back wins in ’07 and ’08 at the Montreal Supercross, he headed south in 2009 to compete in the AMA West Arenacross series and brought home that Championship also! After that, he came back up north for the summer and finished 5th in the MX1 class. All that success caught the eye of the most dominant team this country has ever seen and in 2010, and 2011 Tyler went back-to-back again, this time with the Canadian MX2 outdoor Championships. A really cool story with his first championship in 2010, it was also the year his first son was born, not only was it the same year, it was the SAME DAY! I’ll never forget seeing his pitboard that said “IT’S A BOY” What an awesome day for him!
2012 was a transition year as he moved over to the GDR Honda team but unfortunately ended his season a little sooner than planned from injury. In 2013, he joined the Austrian organization and found himself a home for several years. For 2 seasons on the KTM, and then 2 on the Husqvarna, Mr. Consistent just kept putting in solid results ending each year within the top 6 of the series. Self-admitted, there were a few things that took his main focus away from racing dirtbikes during those years, and rightfully so as Tyler and his beautiful (not to mention also badass on a dirtbike) wife, Heidi, just kept having children (lol) and a love for racing bicycles developed from years of cross training became more prominent in his life. I can tell you, to be able to maintain any sort of relevancy as a top professional athlete while having little ones at home is a tall order, and yet again this guy just pulls through and keeps raising his own bar.
2017 through 2020 he joined the Huber motorsports group where he raced Honda’s and then the team made the switch to Kawasaki’s by the end of his term there. I remember at the end of 2020 hearing that Tyler and the team had decided to not renew his contract and I thought, wow, this is it, what a career, cool to see him go out on his own terms… HA, boy was I wrong. Just when you think the guy is done, he shows up at the beginning of 2021 on the newly formed team with the Cobequid Mountain Sports team aboard a new release from the Austrian group – Gasgas Motorcycles. In just a year the team has more than doubled in size and has made it clear they’ll be around for a while, and if you look at the WMX, 250, or450 score board for 2022, you’ll see what I mean. Throughout this unreal career of significant accomplishments, Tyler has represented Team Canada at the Motocross of Nations EIGHT times! Yeah, EIGHT. Captain Canada has been representing the Red and White on the highest stage before some of the guys he races today were even born. I’m going to give you a quick second to absorb all that and pick your jaw up off the floor but please, sit back down and hold on to your hat because it doesn’t stop there. This man’s bike skills also bleed heavily into the off-road racing world where he has again, represented Team Canada at the ISDE, or International Six Days Enduro, several times which I wasn’t able to confirm during my research (yes, I actually asked these guys for info) This event is the equivalent to the MX Of Nations, just, in the off-road world, and by now you shouldn’t even be surprised that he holds the record for top finishing Canadian at this event. He ALSO holds the same record in the GNCC series in the United States which is one of the most challenging, grueling, gnarly, and quite frankly, in my opinion, crazy forms of dirtbike racing there is. I’m almost done… Before having to head home to put the final touches on preparation for our 2022 Canadian Motocross nationals, Tyler was leading the Full Gas Spring Enduro Championship in the States as well. Phewww! Now you can relax. This man is one of the most talented dirtbike riders to ever come out of Canada, and I can, without hesitation, say that he is riding better now than he ever has. It’s incredible, just when you think he’s on his way out, he shows up again, and again, and reminds everyone exactly who he is.
Now last, but certainly not least. This man does it all, he deserves a special note of recognition solely based on the fact that while the other two are training or recovering, or doing whatever professional athletes do, this guy is probably several hours into his workday at the full-time job he has. This is the main reason we only see him at a handful of events during the season, but when he does show up, he SHOWS up and you can usually find his name somewhere between 5th and 10th. Not bad for a 35 year old, full time HVAC guy, with a wife, and 2 children. My absolute favorite South African, now a full Canadian Citizen, is my very good friend, Mr. Liam O’Farrell. For many years I’ve been close with Liam simply due to the fact that I’ve known his wife for too many years to count. So, naturally we’ve became close, and although he’s the same age as me, I’ve always looked up to him and felt like he’s a big brother, I consider and love the O’Farrells like family. It is truly one of the coolest feelings after all these years, we’re now going to the races with our little families and watching our kids run around together. Call me soft ice cream but that’s the stuff that warms my heart.
Around the young age of five, Liam’s father introduced him to racing, but it was predominately in the off-road world where he first developed his skills in racing hare scrambles. He eventually ended up focusing more on motocross and by 2001, he was the South African 85cc National Champion. In just 3 short years he added 3 more championships in the 85, and 125 High School (schoolboy) classes and ultimately turned pro in 2005. Later that year he competed in the MXGP Of South Africa and placed 16th in the MX2 class and in classic Liam fashion being as consistent as he is, he placed 16th again the next year in the same race. 2007 was Liam’s last year at home and he left his mark, he claimed not only the MX2 but also the MX1 South African National Championships. This was a delicate, and very pivotal time in Liam’s professional career, it was to be decided whether to head to Europe and chase the MXGP series, or head overseas to Canada and compete in the Canadian motocross series. I don’t have the information as to what led to him ending up in Canada, but I know for a fact I’m not the only one who is extremely grateful that he made the choice he did. Liam has spent almost his entire time in Canada aboard a KTM, only to ride a different brand 2 of the 15 years he has been here. Originally riding for a small dealership team in his first year in Canada in 2008, and only competing in 5 of the 9 rounds, Liam finished the year up 13th overall in the MX1 class. 2009 was the first of only 2 years he was able to compete in the entire coast-to-coast series, and he bettered himself and finished 8th overall. 2009 was good for Liam as this is the year he met the love of his life, Pam. If you were around the Canadian national motocross scene in the early to mid-2010’s you may have had the pleasure of meeting this absolute wonderful human being as she worked for the Leading Edge team for a couple of years in order to be at the track while Liam raced. In 2010, the second and last year he was able to compete in the full series, he finished up 11th, but there were more important things for Liam happening that year.
As I mentioned, he met the love of his life the year prior, and things clearly progressed quickly as these 2 got married that year! A newlywed in 2011, things downsized a bit as the importance of real-life came to fruition and he focused on local races and only a handful of nationals. 2012 was a disastrous year as the team and bike he was offered to ride turned out to be one giant waste of time, and just chalked that up as a life lesson. The only time Liam has had a slice of podium pie here in Canada came in 2014 at the Deschambault National in the MX2 class. I can’t even remember his moto scores, or if it was just a moto, but I remember feeling so happy for him to finally land on the box, and to be able to share that special moment with his wife Pam, it was so great to see. 2015 was a fun summer as I had just moved home and wasn’t tied to a team for that year, so we all went to the races together and I made sure there was mixed gas and a clean filter in his KTM 250 2-stroke. Being back at the Canadian nationals with one of my best buds made it so much fun again, and that was to be Liam’s final year racing at that level.
In 2016, it was time to focus on obtaining the necessary qualifications for his job at Priority Mechanical and head back to school. Real life was setting in nicely and for lack of a better term here, he had his priorities in line. With the birth of his first child, Sloan in 2017, it looked to be another summer off the bike, and rightfully so, family is always the most important thing. But good things happen to great people and the Priority Mechanical MX Team was formed and Liam found himself aboard yet another KTM competing at the local races again and the odd national through 2020. Now, this is when National series had to jump through flaming hoop after flaming hoop to even run a single event, let alone a series. It wasn’t the usual 9 or 10 rounds that went across the country and unfortunately the “rules” only allowed events to be run in Ontario, but they pulled it off. This dramatically affected Liam’s ability to race a complete series again and he took full advantage. In 2020 he finished 8th overall in the entire Triple Crown series which allowed him to choose a career number, an achievement that I know meant a lot to him. The new “21” came out swinging again in ’21 earning a career-best, of 6th overall in the MX portion of the series. I was so proud of my bru! This year, like a broken record, once again Liam is just doing what Liam does, joining the series halfway through, stealing points from the top 10 crew, and then going back to work Monday morning. Although he may not have all the accolades the other two have, the other two also don’t have a full-time jobs and are still able put it in the top 10 on any given Sunday at a pro national. This man has made a career out of being one of the most physically fit guys on the track at all times, often making late moto passes while others’ tongues are dragging in the spokes. Although that is absolutely, 100% fact, I tend to think it’s more of a glimpse of how he operates and who he is as a person – determined and reliable, always going to be there and pushing through to the very end. Now, whether the last lap at Walton this year actually marks the very end or not, I am proud of you, proud of everything you’ve accomplished on and off the track, and I’m proud to call you a very good friend.
It’s no question that these three old dudes have carved different paths and have made different impacts on the sport from many angles. I am very grateful to be a part of the era(s) that saw the beginning and the middle of these guys careers. I am extremely grateful to have worked with both Shawn and Liam and to be able to join Captain Canada at his 8th MX Of Nations last year. And man, I am so damn excited to witness and/or be a part of the last chapter of each of these guys’ books, whenever that may be. I think it’s truly badass that these guys are still out there racing at the level they are and although they may have different paths, it’s clear they all share one thing. The undeniable love of motocross.