We are extremely fortunate in Canada to not only have a plethora of fast young riders but also to have those riders be as nice off of the bike as they are talented on the bike. One such rider is GDR Fox Racing Honda rider Tanner Ward, who last summer won his first-ever pro national. And not only did Tanner win a national, but he did it at Walton Raceway, a track that he’s been racing at since he was a young kid. For 2021, Tanner is once again a member of the successful GDR Team and with the help of his new trainer Todd Schumlick he’s been preparing hard for the upcoming Triple Crown Series. To get his thoughts on how everything has been going, we caught up with Tanner as he was driving to Gopher Dunes for another day of training.
MXP: Hey Tanner, what is going on today?
TW: Not much Palms, right now I’m just driving to Gopher Dunes so you picked a good time to call.
Before this latest remain-at-home order, I saw you riding back in March and although you had just got back on the bike, you said you felt pretty good?
Yes, at the time it was only a few weeks after my knee surgery so although I was a little rusty, I didn’t feel bad on the bike. I had built up a solid fitness base over the off-season so all I had to do was get comfortable on the bike again. As you saw, those first few rides weren’t the best but since then things have improved (laughs).
So you didn’t head down south at all during the winter?
No, I just stayed here and did a lot of off of the bike training. I was going to go down and ride with Ryder McNabb but with all of the restrictions and quarantine that I would’ve had to do, I decided to remain here, get my knee fixed up and then start riding in March. As it turned out we had a fairly early spring here in Ontario so I was able to get out riding early at my local tracks.
With the Triple Crown Series not starting until early July, there really wasn’t any reason to head south this winter was there?
No exactly! Obviously, it would’ve been nice to go to Florida and get out of the cold weather. However, it’s all about peaking at the right time, and with the opening round not being until July staying here was the best decision.
You’re coming off a great 2020 season where you won your first national, do you feel any different coming into this season than you did last year?
Good question! I would say that I do feel a little different and that has just carried over from last summer. I honestly felt different right after I won last year as I went from wanting to win to knowing that I can win. As you know, there is a big difference between those two feelings!
For sure, it’s almost like everything changes. Your food tastes better and the sun is brighter (laughs). So you’re coming into this summer with a lot more confidence. Have you been doing anything different than in years past?
I’ve actually changed up a lot with my program for 2021. As far as training goes, I started working with Todd Schumlick so that has been both different and great. Obviously, Todd’s reputation speaks for itself so he’s been an incredible addition to my program. Also, I’ve been working with Colton a couple of days a week with both training as well as riding. Colton used to work with Todd so he knows all of that program, and then with him doing SSS Suspension, we’ve continued to work on my bike set up. It’s just been great having Colton out there when we’re practicing as he’s great at sharing all of his knowledge.
So what you’re saying is that you’re happy with where you’re at right now?
Definitely! Like everyone I’m sick and tired of being lockdown and not knowing exactly when our racing season is going to begin. But it sounds like things are getting ready to open back up so hopefully, we can get a few AMO races in before the opening round of the Nationals at Walton.
I think it’s great that you’ve made a couple of changes to your program and you’re making the most of the people around you. Looking at the riders in the 250 class this summer, you have to be one of the favourites to challenge for this title?
Well, I certainly hope so. We won’t know where everyone fits in until we go racing but I feel like I’ll right there all summer. I learned a lot last year and I know what I have to do to be ready for the 2021 Series. All I can do is prepare and work with my team and we’ll see where we’re at this summer.
If I’m not mistaken, when you line up for the opening moto at Walton in July, you will be the only 250 rider on the starting line who has won a national moto. That’s pretty cool and no doubt confidence building?
Yeah, I’ve never thought of it that way. I think you’re right. That will certainly help my confidence heading into that opening moto, but as you know you’re only as good as your last moto. There are going to be a few of us who are capable of winning races this summer so all I can do is worry about me and do my best.
It sounds as though you’re on the right track and you once again have some great people in your corner. Looking at the big picture I think it’s important given the current state of support at the pro level in Canada that you keep working to become one of the elite guys out there. Support is going to be hard to come by for the next few years now more than ever it’s important to try and separate yourself from the pack.
I agree, even though bike sales and amateur racing are on a high right now, one area that has suffered from this pandemic is support for the pro series. Rockstar isn’t there anymore as a title sponsor, the OEMs have cut their marketing budgets, the teams and Jetwerx are doing their best but they have a lot less to work with. I try and not think about that though as I just want to remain focused on doing my best, but if I want to keep doing this at a high level then running upfront is very important. That is why I chose to invest back into myself by getting Todd as a trainer and doing things like that.
That’s great Tanner. I think in every sport people don’t realize just how much money the top athletes spend on trying to make themselves better. We see in those Red Bull Moto Spy videos how much riders like Roczen, Webb, and Barcia spend on trainers and items to make themselves better.
Exactly, this sport is tough if you look at the tracks that make up our series this year, they’re all challenging. Like I said, my GDR Team and I have been doing a lot of work and it’s getting to the point when we need to racing and see where we’re at. I’m looking forward to this summer and I hope it’s a safe and successful one.
Well Tanner, good luck with your training, and thank you for taking my call. Hopefully, these latest restrictions lift and we can hit the practice together again.
Thank you for calling Palms and yes, hopefully, we’ll see you guys at the track real soon.