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Motovan Presents MXP Chatter With Jess Pettis

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Jess Pettis has been through a lot during his career and like most pro riders, sometimes things go really well, but sometimes things go really bad. After injuring his wrist back in late November Pettis wasn’t able to prepare properly for the opening round of the 250SX West Series in Anaheim. Because of this Pettis and his Red Bull Thor KTM Canada Racing Team decided that a better plan would be to have him compete in the 250SX East Series which didn’t begin until mid-February. However, as he was getting ready for the 250SX East Series disaster struck and Jess crashed hard while riding in California and ended up suffering multiple injuries. Sadly the result was Jess having to take some time off and sit out the 250SX East Series. It was another tough blow for Jess, but as he explains in this interview life is much better now and he’s focused on the 2022 Triple Crown Series.

MXP: Hey Jess, good to hear your voice again, I feel like it’s been a while. How are things going?

JP: Hey Palms! Yes, it has been a while. I think the last time we chatted was the night before I crashed in California.

You’re right! When I heard that you had crashed and were injured my first thought was that I had just spoken to him like 12 hours ago and everything was going so well for you. Things can change pretty quickly in this sport, can’t they?

That’s for sure! Yeah, we had just spoken and at the time things were going well and I had just got finished riding at the KTM test track in Menifee. Looking back now I should’ve never had gone riding the next day as I didn’t sleep good and when I woke up I just felt off. Even when we got to the State Fair SX track I didn’t feel great and the track was completely blown out. I wished I had just packed up and gone home or even just did easy laps and rode around the whoops as they were in really rough shape.

Just a few weeks before the opening 250SX East round Jess crashed hard while training in California.

I’m sure you’ve asked yourself this question many times over the past five weeks but why didn’t you just pack up and leave?

I remember thinking that I didn’t want to be ‘that’ guy who trains at Baker’s Factory and then thinks he’s too good to ride a blown-out public track. Obviously, I should’ve made a different decision but live and learn I guess.

Can you take us through the crash and what injuries you suffered?

As I mentioned the whoops were really blown out and slippery. One lap the back end just got sideways and then caught the top of one of the whoops and threw me off the bike. I don’t think it was a hard crash but what got me was the bike landed on my back and drove me to the ground. When I got up I felt my collarbone and the plate that I had in there from a previous injury was all bent so I figure it had broken again. But the bad thing was that I was having trouble breathing and when I did take a breath I was coughing up a lot of blood. Anyway, we called an ambulance and they rushed me to Emergency and once I arrived there I was in pretty bad shape. I had a collapsed lung so they told me that they were going to insert a tube in my side. I figured that meant they were going to give some freezing or put me out or something, but no they said here it comes and then they stuck me with this tube. It really hurt and at the time I just remember thinking here we again!

That’s terrible Jess! You’ve been through a lot in your career and I’m sure the thought of yet another comeback was pretty overwhelming at that point. So you had a collapsed lung as well as a broken collarbone?

Yes, and I also injured my Scapula so I was in pretty rough shape. As I said, the crash wasn’t that bad, and if the bike didn’t hit me then I would’ve been fine.

How long were you in the hospital and what happened once you got released?

I was in for a few days and they had to make sure my lung was okay. Once I was released I wasn’t allowed to fly so I just hung out in California for a bit and then I went home to Prince George to have surgery on my collarbone. They had to remove the bent plate and screws and then basically redo everything. After my surgery, the plan was to just stay in PG and heal up for a few months but I was in a pretty dark place mentally and I decided that I needed to getaway. So I packed up my van and drove back to California and I’ve been here ever since. I just figured that if I wasn’t able to ride or race then I at least should be in a place where I could enjoy life. I mean don’t get me wrong, I love it back home but since I wasn’t able to snowmobile or really do anything, there was no point in being there and having to deal with winter. So I headed back to California and so far everything has been progressing nicely.

Well, as bummed as I am to hear about your injuries, I’m excited to hear that your life and those injuries are improving. How do you feel right now?

I feel really good right now and then next week I’ll be cleared to get back on the bike and start riding again. The plan is to stay in California and start riding easy on the new KTM 450 and slowly get back into shape. I’ve been able to ride my road bike and do light gym work for a few weeks now, but I had to wait a bit for my collarbone to heal fully.

Jess knows that crashes and injuries are sadly part of this sport and when they happen you just have to pick yourself up and try again.

That is great news as not only do you get to ride again but you also have the new KTM450 waiting for you. So you mentioned that you’re going to remain in California for a bit. What is the plan for the next few months?

I’ll just ride out here through the rest of March and in April I’ll head to ClubMX for our team photoshoot. After that, I will most likely stay at ClubMX and do some riding and training and then go to Quebec in May for my final preparation for the Triple Crown Series opener in Kamloops. We’re almost in the middle of March so time is moving quickly.

It sounds like you have a good schedule coming up and one that gives you a lot of time to prepare for your second season in the 450MX class. I don’t want to harp on the injury thing but here’s a question for you. You’re not the only SX rider to get injured in the past few months. In fact, in recent weeks we’ve seen a plethora of top riders go down with injuries. I know this might be a long and complicated answer but why do think it’s so hard to remain healthy in this sport right now?

Good question Palms! I think most of it is because Supercross is so gnarly and it’s risky. Not just the races are risky but during the week guys are having to push the limits more and more. As I said before, my latest crash could’ve been prevented with better decision-making on my part, but that’s easy to say after the fact. Regardless of whether you feel good on a certain day or not, if you don’t go riding you feel guilty and feel like you’re losing out on training. So sometimes you try and push through a bad day and it doesn’t go well. I think SX is just so competitive right now that riders are always pushing and trying to find that little half-second here and there. And sometimes things go wrong. It’s really unfortunate, but that is the reality of the sport right now.

I was thinking about this after your recent crash but I feel like one of many large benefits to a program like the one at the Baker’s Factory is that Aldon has found a way to get his riders locked in mentally every day. Meaning, that each day you guys through the same preparation and the same process before you ride and that gets you mentally ready. You’ve spent a lot of time there, would you agree with that?

For sure, Aldon has done a great job and every day you go through the same thing so you know you’re focused before you ride. Also, his track preparation is amazing as he does a great job of letting the track get rough and challenging while keeping it from getting dangerous. I’ll be honest though, there are days when you wake up and feel like absolute crap but you still have to go out and ride hard. Those days are the toughest as your body and mind are begging for rest but you cannot take one. Having been through his program for two years now I think those days are the ones that benefit you the most because during the season there are going to be race days where you don’t feel well, but you still have to perform.

Now that Jess is all healed up, his main focus is getting ready for the 2022 Triple Crown Series. Photo by James Lissimore

I would imagine that during Aldon’s famous boot camps there are a few days when you just don’t want to get out of bed (laughs). Before I let you go Jess I want to ask you about this new FIM World Supercross Series that was announced last week. It sounds like it’s going to begin in September and then have 5 or 6 rounds in various cities around the Globe. I’ve heard rumours of stops in Paris, Qatar, Australia, the USA, and even perhaps the opening round being held in Toronto. Is this a series that would interest you? You could race all summer in Canada and then still get scratch your SX itch in the fall. All while travelling the world. Sounds pretty good to me?

For sure something like this would be great for me. I don’t really know too much about the series other than the same rumours that you’ve heard. But yeah, if I could be involved I’d love to travel to different places and race SX. I think it would be great! Count me in (laughs).

Well, I guess we’ll see what happens with it moving forward. Anyway, Jess, I’m glad you’re all healed up, and thank you for taking the time to chat with us. I know all of our readers have been very concerned about you. All the best and good luck with your Triple Crown Series preparation.

Thanks, Palms! Yes, we’re getting back on track here I’m definitely looking forward to the next few months of riding and training.

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