By Mike Alessi
Photos by James Lissimore
For years, Alessi has had the uncanny ability to either grab the Holeshot or at the least start in the top three. It may be his God given ability, a skill that he’s worked on over the years, or maybe it’s just luck. Actually, no, it cannot be luck as he’s holeshotted way too many races. Since he turned pro and has been in the bright spotlight, Mike Alessi has holeshotted more big races than anyone else in our sport, he’s just that good.
Since his first season in Canada back in 2014, we’ve had a front row seat to Alessi’s unique skill-set, and honestly, it’s been really fun to watch. His ability to qualify well and get a good gate pick, his gate prep, his reflexes, and of course his commitment to holding the throttle on longer than his fellow competitors as they charge into the first turn, all of these things are important if you want to holeshot as often as Mike Alessi has. At first, Alessi was reluctant to give away his cherished starting tips. However, after a lot of begging, as well as the knowledge that this would be helping our younger generation of riders, he agreed. So, without further ado, here are Mike Alessi’s Top 5 tips on how to get a good start.
1.Obviously, these days it all starts with trying to qualify well in practice so you’re able to get yourself a good gate pick. However, if you’re at an event where you just draw a number or close-peg then you will have to rely on good, old fashioned luck…for Moto 1 at least. When picking a gate, I usually go for a gate that I know I will be able to carry momentum into and through the first turn. I have always trusted my ability to get a good quality jump off the starting gate, so that is never a worry. So, have a look at the first turn and see which gate will allow you to carry speed through Turn 1.
2. Once I have narrowed it down to a few gates, I then look at which gate is in the best condition on the track side of the gate. Remember, you can do almost anything you want to your side of the gate but you’re never allowed to go beyond. So, I look for which gate has a straight and fairly smooth rut on the other side. This way you can prep your gate and then not have to worry about hitting a bad rut once you get past the gates. Also, look for any rocks or debris that might be in that rut on the other side of your gate. If you can, pick a gate that doesn’t have any of this stuff in the rut. If you really want a certain gate but there’s a rock in the rut on the other side, ask an official to remove the rock for you. Almost every official will do this for you as they don’t mind helping out. Golden rule, don’t ever go in front of your gate, this will get you in big trouble.
3. Okay, so now you’ve picked your gate and you’re happy with it. The next thing that I always do is a little housekeeping around where your gate drops. I always lift my gate forward so I’m able to reach the pin mechanism that allows the gate to drop. This way you can still remain behind the gate and within the rules. For whatever reason, there are always little rocks or hard pieces of dirt that might impede the drop of your gate. If you have the time then make sure you make the effort to clean around the gate as much as you can. This is perhaps the biggest mistake I see riders make, they just don’t take the time to clean around the gate so it can drop smooth and flat. Also, take a little time to pack your gate as much as possible. I’m not someone who tries to make my line level with the starting gate, but I do add some dirt so my line is smooth and packed well. This will allow my tire to hook up evenly and it will hopefully give me the proper traction when the gate drops.
4. Once all of the clean up and prep work is complete, now it’s time to focus on what you need to do. These final moments before the gate drops is unlike anything you will probably experience in your lifetime. During this time, I will try to keep the mood light between me and my mechanic, and I will also try to visualize myself getting the holeshot. Going through this process before each and every race gives me that extra boost of confidence I need prior to the start of an important race. So, visualize yourself getting a great start, and then while the 30 second card is up, get yourself into the proper position. Even though a motocross start is an adrenaline-filled adventure, to be successful at it you have to remain calm and be very smooth with your bike controls. So, get into the right position early, keep breathing, and get ready for the 30 second card to go up.
5. As the 30 second card goes up, I always make sure to take one last deep breath before putting my bike into gear and then looking at the gate. At this point, all of the nerves seem to evaporate into thin air as my sole focus is on getting off the gate smoothly. I know it’s hard to release the clutch with any kind of smoothness when you just want to go, but it’s very important to try to not let your clutch out too fast. You want to be smooth with the clutch so your bike doesn’t jump on you; this will make the front wheel want to come up. When this happens, your first instinct is to either pull in the clutch or let off the throttle. When you have 39 other maniacs all trying to get to the first turn ahead of you, little mistakes can’t happen. So, be smooth off of the gate, and then try to make that first shift of your bike smooth as well. Once you get a good jump, just focus on shifting and then holding the throttle on as long as possible. Finally, make sure you practice as many starts as you can during the week. I know that it can be hard on your clutch, so don’t go crazy. Just practice enough each week so you develop a consistent technique and a good feel for each start. I hope these tips are helpful and I hope to see you at the front of the pack all season long. Thanks for reading – MA800.