The Motocross of Nations is officially underway! Riders and teams took part in various activities at RedBud, to kick off proceedings, but Eli Tomac still managed to spare ten minutes for MX Vice. Tomac touched on all of the hot topics leading into the Motocross of Nations, including his switch to the all-new KX450 and upcoming battle with Jeffrey Herlings.
MX Vice: You're back at a races, which must feel pretty foreign after six weeks or so of off-season. Just talk about what you have been up to since Indiana. I guess you celebrated a little bit and then it was game on?
Eli Tomac: Yeah. I took a little bit of time off, as usual. After that, we got on the new bike so that has been a really good transition. That's just been the most exciting thing is getting on that 2019. It's been pretty easy getting it where we are actually better… What I think is better than my old race bike. That's what we have been up to is getting the new bike ready. We obviously got some motos in, so we are in a good spot.
I asked [Jeffrey] Herlings the same question after he won his title. Obviously, once you have achieved that the job is done. Is it tough to celebrate yet get yourself back into the mindset of "I have got another job to do" at the same time? There's still a tiny bit of unfinished business.
It is and it isn't. I have been doing my motos. I took a couple weeks off, but then rode again. I felt fine. I didn't feel like I lost anything or was behind the ball at all. I'm good to go. I'm ready to race.
What about the switch to the 2019? Was that questionable at all for you? Obviously it is a big switch and an all-new bike. Was there a bit of doubt in your mind at all?
There always is that question, on what the bike's going to be like. A lot of times it can be a lot different. But for me, the chassis was nothing but better. A lot of times if there are really big chassis changes, that is where you can run into some trouble. But for us, it was pretty straightforward. It was nothing but good. Like I said, I have been excited. We have not gone racing on it yet, but it should be good.
It does sound like everything's much improved, but was there one thing that just took a little bit of time to get used to? Something that maybe you did not expect or you just had to put a lot of time into?
It sounds like a straightforward answer, but no. It was all better. The motor was a massive improvement. The chassis still feels like a Kawi to me, which is nice and stable. Actually improved some lean stuff too. It is all sweet.
From one of the press conferences this year, you mentioned that part of the reason you are back to the ‘Nations is you learned some stuff or the grief that you got from fans kind of opened your eyes a little bit. Just talk about that process.
Yeah, it was realising that you have only got so many years to do it. I'm here now and we're going to do our best to get it done. I chose not to race last year and I do regret it, so I'm back.
I guess if you had pushed yourself those years, maybe you wouldn't have the same appreciation now and wouldn't be able to enjoy it as much as you are undoubtedly going to this weekend? That was obviously something you had to do for yourself to get to this point in life and in your career.
It kind of was. I'm just fortunate that I had the option to do it. You can't do that all the time. Fortunate to be back on the team and doing what we can to get it done.
Heading into this weekend, how is it going pressure-wise? Obviously, you have done a few of these, so you kind of know the process, the different starting rules, all of that. It is at home this time, so is that added pressure or is that a bit of relaxing to know that everything is familiar? You kind of know what you are getting yourself into?
It is going to be big to have that home-field feel and the track that we raced on in our AMA series. I think the advantage is with us, because of the track time. It's a little bit changed here and there, but we kind of know the environment. It's not like we are the defending champs right now, so we don't have a whole lot of pressure, right? Our numbers are 25, 26, 27 so we're not really defending anything right now. We have to go out there and take it back.
Obviously, there has been a lot of talk leading up to this. Everyone's excited. On a scale of one to ten, how sick are you of hearing about the Herlings/Tomac battle? I'm guessing even today you are probably going to be asked that a hundred times.
Yeah, if it happens to where we're both out front then that's sweet. Let's do battle. I'm going to do everything I can to be in front of him. This is the race where you can't be selfish. You have got to think Team USA. It would be great to get out there and do battle with him.
Is even that an internal struggle in a way? Right now it is easy to say it's a team thing, that's the goal. But once the helmet goes on, you know how it works. You are a racer, so if you see an '84' in front of you then you are obviously going to want to push that limit. Then, at the same time, you cannot really. It is just weird.
It's weird. That's what it is, but that's what makes the race so cool. You got to have the strategy. You have to know what you're doing and know your position. It would be awesome to go out there and do battle with him.
Obviously, things have changed a little overnight. It's rained a lot and everyone seems to think that's a disadvantage for the Americans. You have had a fair few mud races in recent years though, especially this year. Do you feel a little more well-equipped to handle that now?
Yeah. I think us three guys are pretty good mud riders for our series over here in the US. I think having ridden here and we had a couple mud races this year, I would say it will probably level it a little bit more so than if it was totally dry. That's just part of it.
At the end of the weekend then, say Team USA finish second but you win the individual overall. Would you be pissed? Would you be stoked? Same as if the roles were reversed? You win as a team, but lose individually? How are your feelings going to be?
Goal one is team. Everyone's going to be happy and it's all going to be awesome and sweet if the team wins. That's definitely the most important.
Obviously it would be nice to say that this is the end of your season, but the Monster Energy Cup is next weekend. How is that turnaround going to be? I guess Tuesday you'll be on a hard-baked supercross track in California?
Yup, that's what it will be. Back to the supercross on Tuesday. That's part of it. I've been riding a little bit at home and I've been fine. Monster Cup isn't like full-on. It's a little more open. It's just a fun race. You have got the three, ten-lappers. You haven't got to go out there to do twenty-six laps, which was kind of what our average was last year in our supercross mains. You have got to be ready for that, but the three tens you can kind of just roll into it.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX