ANTTI PYRHÖNEN’S SUMMER COLUMNPublished on 16.8.2012 7:27
This summer, I am spending quality time in Finland between the last race in Slovakia and the next in England. One week before Matterley Basin – where we join the MX1 and MX2 riders August 19 – we have a third SX round in Siilinjärvi on the track of our Motocross of Nations manager Jussi Vehviläinen.
Speaking of the MXoN team race at the end of September after our last MX3 race, this year will be the tenth time that I am selected to represent my country. It is a great honor, as it shows that after so many years in motocross racing I am still one of the best riders in Finland.
I do not know any of the present riders who can say they were selected ten years for the MXoN so it makes me extremely proud. My first year was in 2001, in 2007 our federation did not send a team to the race in USA, in 2010 I was out with an injury.
Our best results with the Finnish team were a third place in Spain in 2002 and another third place in Belgium in 2003. I assume that my team mate Ludde Söderberg will be selected as well. Our third man on the team should be Harri Kullas who rides the MX2 bike but it seems unlikely that he recovers from injury in time. If not, then maybe Ludde can ride the smaller bike at the MXoN, I think he will do really well. Then it remains to be seen who will be the third rider picked by our federation managers, probably Santtu Tiainen.
Let’s talk about the first seven MX3 races this year and begin by saying that Portugal has been canceled, as we already expected. It has been quite a good season without any highs but also not any lows so pretty consistent all in all. In Italy I rode under my level to see me loose a lot of points, and that was unfortunate. I overcame that bad weekend and now, after our last round in Slovakia, I still can reach third place in the championship, which would be really cool.
I am quite okay with my season although so far no diamond has been shining with a podium score but that is still a possibility with 2 races to go. I must admit that I have not been able to make the flying starts that I used to do in 2009 when I had an awesome bike and pulled the lead nearly every race.
The Hondas from 2009 and this year may technically not be miles apart and we have been working hard to get a perfect engine setting, but it never clicked 100%. The new suspension is in good shape, but for the engine we could never find that little extra. We tested so many engine parts like high compression pistons, different cams, electrics and mapping for the injection. For a small team that we are we have tested really a lot.
On a race day I put these negative thoughts behind me that not all works 100% and do the best I can. Really, in racing you are never finished with finding that little advantage over your competitor, in your bike or in yourself. I know I am quite demanding and give Jussi my mechanic always plenty of work to do.
There is missing something this year and we can’t put a finger on it. In the opening race in Valkenswaard I took the holeshot, however in most races I started around fifth place but it also happened that I was twelfth or even further down the field. I always came back to fourth or fifth place so that was satisfying, but not yet a podium score as there are 6 or 7 guys that always fight for the best positions.
Additionally, we have not been lucky with the weather and we had rain and mud nearly every race or at least during a part of the weekend. In fact, the only dry weekend was that last round in Slovakia. There we were racing under a burning sun but that does not bother me too much, since I have been racing under similar circumstances in Chile. Racing in 40 degrees is possible when the body is fit and mine is fit.
Not scoring a podium result bites my confidence a bit, making podiums gives you a boost which is really an extra with so many fast guys in the game. Once you make a podium you make another one and another. With that extra shot of confidence you can go a bit faster here and brake a bit later there. When you are in a flow everything seems to work better and you don’t start changing your bike and so on. If not, you might be struggling at certain stages of training and racing.
My way of working is that I begin to work even harder if my confidence is not really at a peak. It works for me, but I think when I look back that it was never really perfect this year. I was a bit sick in the season and I cannot deny that we have been struggling with the bike settings. Then before Slovakia I twisted my knee and lost one week of training so it feels I have not really been able to do what I needed to do.
As you will remember we spent the first 7-8 weeks of this year in Belgium and raced in Holland. We worked mainly on sand tracks and that is for me the best way to build condition and speed. It was bad weather all over Europe so we did not do any real hard track training while nearly all MX3 races are held on hard tracks with only Valkenswaard being a sand track. Yeah we should have gone to hard tracks maybe, however in Belgium and on sand you can always ride. I think I was prepared for all kind of tracks and it shows in France, there I had a good race on a hard track, one week after Valkenswaard.
Although I have now been at home for several weeks, I only took one week off from training, after which I started a very tough training program for the last part of the season. I want to defend my Finnish SX title and go out for a top three score in the last 4 MX3 motos in England August 19 and in Germany September 23.
When I finished third in 2009 I hoped to do the same or a touch better this year. So now people start to ask what will Antti do next year? I don’t spend too much time thinking about it. I still feel fit, I can fight with the best in the game, I have great sponsors and a loving family and friends behind me. A team of great people who inspire and support me and make it all possible.
I usually focus on the present year and put other ideas to the background. Well this year is a bit different as last winter we have started the Fit24 gym in Hyvinkää with my best friend Tomi. He and my father and Merja have put in a lot of work to get that business off the ground and it gives me an alternative when the day comes that I will hang my helmet.
While they were busy with the team to get the gym ready and open for the public, my focus was all the time on my racing. Even when I am no longer racing myself I would like to stay involved in my sport at the highest level in a new job.
I know for a fact that for nearly every racer or say every athlete, it is hard to give up what you love to do, what more or less fills your life 24/7. Motocross is my life and I admit it is very hard to say ok, it has been enough, when you love it so much and you have put so much hard work into the sport to be successful.
Every day evolves around your sport and that makes you selfish, that’s the truth of it. It is a really big issue to quit, as it will be very tough for me to start what others call a “normal” life. Of course a new life in a new direction, it will be a new challenge to make that a success as well.
It feels like a struggle to step down and fill that hole in your daily life, if you can find a new challenge then it will make it easier. So for me, being involved in a successful gym in my hometown, it could make it easier … in the future … haha, let’s say it feels like I will continue.
This is my life and I do not want to give it up … yet!
I wish everyone a great summer!