When we look back at a few of our most successful Canadian riders, there are obviously a lot of differences between them. Where they’re from, their riding style, and what years they were successful are a couple of things that stand out. However, as different as they are, one of the common denominators that all champions share is their will to win and their distaste of losing. I mean, let’s face it, we all hate to lose, whether it’s a game of basketball, a race, or even a card game during this lock down that we’ve all be in. But champions and people that consistently find success absolutely hate to lose and they start their days like that. It’s not a reactionary emotion, it’s part of their preparation. I’m not sure if some of you have been watching the new Michael Jordan series “The Last Dance” on Netflix but it really goes in depth showing what an animal MJ was during his long and successful career. He not only hated to lose on a daily basis, but peak performance and the need to improve consumed his thought process from sun up to sun down. Again, like all champions he cared so greatly about the little things and left no stone unturned in his pursuit of excellence. He was hard on his teammates during practice and in games, and pushed them to be the best they could be, even when they didn’t want to be. Like all of the great leaders from our time, he never asked anyone to do the difficult tasks that he wasn’t willing to do himself. Like a Tiger Woods or Ayrton Senna in their prime, Jordan did everything humanly possible to win and was driven by the fear of losing.
I don’t want to start a debate here about who are or were our best Canadian riders. That is the beauty about opinions, everyone is allowed to have one. We’ve been so lucky in Canada to have had so many great riders over the years. However, if I were to pick three from the past four decades then those riders would be Ross Pederson, Jean Sebastien Roy, and most recently Colton Facciotti. This trio won multiple titles, enjoyed success on a global scale, came back from injuries numerous times, and during their respective era were considered the rider to beat by their competition. Even though these three riders came from different places and had many different attributes (both on and off the bike), they all shared the same work ethic and mental state of mind of a Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Because, at the top level of any sport all of the athletes are talented, which is why they’re competing there. But at some point, the going is going to get tough and that is when these guys really shine. I’ve been lucky enough to know all three of these riders quite well and I’ve seen them all perform under pressure, seemingly when others cannot. I’ve also witnessed them away from the races and I can tell you that each one has given me examples as to why they’ve been so successful. I don’t want to leave out any details so I’m going to split this into three parts this week and look at each rider separately. For Part 3, let’s take a look at 6-time 450 National Champion Colton Facciotti.
With the ink barely dry on Colton Facciotti’s retirement papers, his successful career is still very fresh in our memory. Having won the 2019 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series, Facciotti went out exactly how every top rider wants – on top and on their terms. There aren’t too many athletes in any sport that get to step away with a championship trophy in their hands. However, Colton did last year at Walton Raceway and it was one of the great moments in Canadian moto history. Last year’s 450MX title gave Colton a total of six for his career, one more than JSR but much fewer than Ross Pederson. Colton’s pro career spanned almost two decades and during those years he went up against some very talented riders from all over the world. He also battled back from very serious injuries, so no one can say that Colton wasn’t tough as nails. In fact, when I asked his friend and Team Owner Derek Schuster last year what he thought Colton’s greatest strength was, he replied, “He’s the most mentally strong person I’ve ever met.” If we look at almost every champion, including the three riders I’ve spoken about (Ross, JSR and Facciotti), mental strength is most certainly an attribute they all share. So is the ability to stay in the moment, suffer through discomfort and make the best out of a bad day.
While Ross Pederson could best be described as extremely determined, JSR very assiduous, to me Colton Facciotti was the picture of precision. If Colton was out riding a track all by himself, I’m willing to bet that at the end of his moto it wouldn’t be hard to tell what line or lines he was riding. His ability to put the bike where he wanted lap after lap was as good as any rider in history. You cannot ride like this if you’re not “thinking” your way around the track. It takes visualization, discipline, and precision to consistently put a powerful, heavy two-wheeled machine exactly where you want on a rough track. It also takes both mental and physical fitness because riding in that manner can be exhausting. Thanks to a strict training program, Colton (like Ross and JSR) was incredibly fit and could always handle the workload of a stressful race day. This is actually a great exercise for any rider to try when they’re out practicing. Go out and try to hit the same lines again and again for the entire length of your moto. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s fun to try and over time it will make you more of a precise rider.
As I mentioned in the first two parts of this story, over the years there have been moments where each of these riders have impressed me with the steps they took to be the best. With Ross, it was that few days I spent with him at this home in Alberta, with JSR it was time we spent training together in 1993 and again in 1996. But as far as Colton is concerned, as much as I’ve watched him closely while winning races over the past decade, I’ve never really spent any time with him away from the track. That changed, though, last June when I travelled to Gopher Dunes for a media function. It was the week in between the opening two rounds of the 2019 MXTour, and Colton was coming off a great performance in Calgary. At the time he wasn’t completely happy with his riding and he knew it was going to be a difficult summer ahead. After my media obligations were completed at the ‘Dunes’ I made my way back into their shop where Colton was getting ready to do another practice moto on the Gopher Dunes corner track. It was a rainy day so most of the local tracks were muddy and un-rideable, so instead of taking the day off, he decided to do some motos and corner work on the very short ‘corner track.’ Knowing that it was probably the last thing he wanted to do at this point in his career, I decided to go out to watch him and run the stop watch. I mean, we all know that riding is much more fun when people are watching. When I asked Colton how long he was going to ride, he just smiled and said “I guess until I stop.” So, he started riding and I started the watch!
The track was short and Colton’s lap times were under 30 seconds. During this moto his times only varied about a half a second here and there but he stayed consistent, and like I said, he rode like he was on rails. Lap after lap I gave Colton his lap times, and after 40 minutes he finally pulled off and took a break. I can’t recall exactly how many laps he did but with 30 second lap times and 40 minutes spent on the track, you can do the math. It was very impressive to say the least. Colton had just come off a moto win the weekend prior in Calgary, he was tied for the 450MX points lead, it was raining, but he still decided to do a 40-minute moto on a short little corner track because he knew that he needed to get better. A few days later after a big overall win at Round 2 in Prince George, I said to him that those corner track laps must have been the difference maker! I’m not sure if they were or not, but my point is that good riders know what they need to improve and they find a way to get it done. Colton could’ve easily taken the day off, but he didn’t and now he’s able to look back and know that he did everything he could to win last summer’s MXTour 450 Championship. Like Ross at home or JSR at my track, Colton impressed me that day and I won’t soon forget it.
So, there you have it, three different champions going about their riding very differently, all while sharing many of the same attributes. All three riders were fun to watch during their best years and they certainly have raised the bar very high. Who is going to be the next rider to fill their championship winning boots? Colton Thompson, Dylan Wright, and Jess Pettis are just a few of the names that appear to have all of the right tools. All three Canadian riders have won 250 titles in the past few years; Cole has even won a 450 indoor title and of course the overall 2018 Triple Crown Series. But winning an outdoor 450 championship is the toughest title to win in Canada, not to mention how difficult it must be to win five or more. With Colton now retired, it’s time for the next generation to take over! I for one cannot wait to see what the future holds!