Yamaha Motor Canada Presents MXP Chatter With Cole Thompson

We are now down to just days before the 2022 Monster Energy Supercross Series kicks off at the home of Supercross in Anaheim, California. When you think of the opening round of SX, you also immediately think of Angel Stadium as it has hosted Round 1 countless times. Also, when we think about SX in Canada the name Cole Thompson quickly comes to mind as he has been our dominant SX rider and SXTour Champion for several years. Well, this weekend in Anaheim the two are going to come together as Cole will be on the starting line in the highly competitive 250SX West Class. After a few weeks of riding in South Carolina on his new 2022 YZ250F Cole decided that he loved his new Yamaha so much that he wanted to race it against the best riders on the planet. So, after putting in place some support from key sponsors like Parts Canada and Factory Connection, Cole packed up and headed West to California and the opening round of Supercross. We caught up with him on Sunday afternoon as he was making his way through Arizona.

MXP: Hey Cole, how is the drive so far to California.

CT: Hey Palms, happy new year! The drive is going okay but I’m glad I left early and gave myself a lot of time to drive out here. Right now we’re in Arizona but yesterday we drove through a big snow and ice storm. It was a slow drive for sure.

Being a Canadian you must be at least a little used to driving in bad weather, but down there it’s probably the other drivers you have to watch out for?

Without a doubt! They don’t usually get snow and ice down here so no one knows how to deal with it. All you can do is just slow down and watch out for cars going everywhere.

I guess in some ways it’s sort of like leading a race and coming around to lap the riders at the back of the pack. Sometimes you don’t know where they’re going (laughs). Anyway, you’re heading west, and overall you must be excited?

I am for sure! It’s been a challenging few months but here we are headed to the opening round of the 2022 SX Series and I couldn’t be more pumped for it. Chloe and I are in our motor home and when we get to California we’re just going to stay in a campground and then travel to the practice tracks and races from there.

I will be honest with you, I was a little surprised to hear that you were going to be racing in Anaheim as I knew you didn’t have a lot of time on your new Yamaha’s. However, everyone in Canada is pretty excited that you are.

When I headed down south at the end of November my plan wasn’t to race the opening round, especially in the 250SX class. I was hoping to just get some seat time on the YZ250F and then maybe transition to the YZ450F and race some east coast rounds. But as I got riding the 250F I fell in love with it and started to put in some good laps on the practice track. Then after a few weeks, I decided that I just wanted to race against the best guys so why not head to Anaheim and have some fun. That’s all there is to it!

Cole Thompson cannot wait to line up this weekend at Angel Stadium. Photo by James Lissimore

Well, sometimes that is how it goes. I’ve been in your position before when you’ve spent multiple years on the same brand and then you switch and instantly fall in love with your new bike. It’s amazing what kind of mental boost you can get from doing that. It’s almost like the sun is all of sudden brighter and the birds are chirping louder (laughs).

That’s exactly how I felt from the first moment I rode the new YZ250F and I knew it wouldn’t take much to get the bike race-ready. I feel like the YZ450F needs a little more testing time for me to feel comfortable on it for SX, but the 250 is ready to go.

Okay, let’s pause on talking about this week and go back to this past summer. I had you picked as someone who was going to win motos and even take a run at the 450MX title. At the time, Dylan Wright wasn’t quite 100% healthy and Pettis was coming back from knee surgery. I don’t know, I just liked where you were both physically and mentally and I thought you would take a run at that title. What the heck happened (laughs)?

Good question! I remember interviewing with you before the MXTour Series and at that time I was feeling so good. I had worked my ass off both on the bike and off of the bike, I hired Davi Millsaps as a trainer and he had me feeling confident. I had also gotten my health situation taken care of from the previous year so that was good. You were right, I was in a good place, and then once the series started things just kind of fell apart.

Was it a mental thing or a physical thing, or even a bike thing?

Looking back it was a combination of all three really. Once we got into race conditions I started to struggle with the bike and then that started to get me down mentally because we just couldn’t seem to fix it. There was a speed that I could race at and still feel comfortable with the bike, but if I pushed harder than that, which I needed to if I wanted to run with Dylan and Jess, I knew I would eventually end up on the ground. You know what it’s like when you start to struggle and you can’t seem to fix things, it can really eat away at your confidence. Not to mention, when you’re on a team and your teammate is winning races on the same bike, it makes it even more difficult to say that something isn’t right. Anyway, all summer the KTM team was great but in the end, I just wasn’t able to find the comfort I needed to race on that edge.

For sure those struggles are real and I find that as you get older that comfort feeling is sometimes harder to find. Yes, you have a lot of experience built up but you almost have too much muscle memory and the signals can get crossed easily. In my opinion, we saw that with Eli Tomac in the USA and that is why he decided to switch brands and reset. Just like what you’ve done. So you get through the summer and then the SXTour rounds come along at Gopher Dunes and you dominate. That must have felt like sweet redemption?

I actually started riding SX before the Nationals were over so I knew I was going to have some good races at Gopher Dunes. As soon as I got back on SX I felt comfortable with the bike and with my riding. So from there, my confidence soared and I came into the SXTour races with the mindset that no one was going to beat me. Also, before the opening SXTour round, I got a call from KTM saying that my services were not going to be needed for 2022. Those words were obviously tough to hear, but honestly, they just motivated me more than anything. I won the SXTour and then I started thinking about what type of deal I could put together for 2022 and beyond.

Cole’s last ride on his KTM was a successful one as he won the 2021 Triple Crown SXTour 450SX title. Photo by James Lissimore

Did KTM offer you anything for 2022?

Yes, I think I could’ve continued with a lesser deal and just raced a few of the events that I wanted to. However, as the weeks went on after the SXTour and really after I rode one of the YZ250F’s that my brother had at home, I was like I love this bike, let’s go in a different direction.

So, fast forward to now and you’re headed to California with a couple of Yamaha’s in your truck you’re going to be on the starting line at perhaps the biggest race of the year. Is your YZ250F fairly stock?

I think this is going to be the most stock bike I’ve ever lined up with. I was able to keep Parts Canada as one of my sponsors moving forward so I’m really appreciative to them. Factory Connection is helping me with suspension and Kevin Tyler and the MX101 crew is providing me with a motor, ECU, and a couple of other parts. Other than that my bike is stock and honestly I’m not even worried about it.

It sounds as though you’re in a really good place Cole. You sound happy and I can hear the excitement in your voice. So the plan is to get to California and then hit the practice tracks there?

Yes! As I said we’re going to be staying at a campground and using that as our home base. From there, we can drive to the local tracks and have some fun. I have to pick up my new engine from Allan Brown and then we’ll do some testing during the week. After that, it’s onto Anaheim and the opening round.

Cole looks good on Blue!

That sounds like fun! I know this might be a difficult question to answer right now, but what are your expectations heading into not just Anaheim this weekend but the first six rounds of the 250SX West Series?

Honestly, I don’t have any expectations as far as results go. This is the first time I’ve felt this way in a long time and it feels great. Obviously, I want to go to make the main events each week and keep improving, but I don’t have any outside pressure to do so. I know my speed and how well I can ride so it’s just a matter of going out and trying to do my best.

Well, it sounds as though you have a great mindset heading into Round 1. With Jess Pettis now out of the 250SX West Series, I have a feeling that you’re going to have a lot of Canadian fans cheering for you. Good luck and thank you for chatting with us. Safe travels and happy new year!

Thanks, Palms, and happy new year to you and your family!