Catching Up with…Mike Alessi
By Billy Rainford
#800 Mike Alessi has been racing Motocross for as long as he can remember. The California native came up through the amateur ranks as one of the fastest riders ever. He’s raced all over the world and has most recently found a home racing our Rockstar Energy MX Nationals. Mike finished 5th last season and hopes to finish on the top step of the podium in Canada before he retires. It was Mike’s week for the Frid’Eh Update this past week but we didn’t get in touch with him until after it went live. Here’s our conversation we had the evening before Saturday’s Oakland Supercross.
Direct Motocross: Hello, Mike. Thanks for chatting with us today. Can we start by asking you to sum up last summer in Canada for us?
Mike Alessi: Last summer was really good. The first 4 races, I felt like Regina, Calgary, Nanaimo, and Kamloops…even though Kamloops went bad, I still came out pretty good. I tied for 4th overall on the day and got 2nd at Calgary and Nanaimo, and was riding really good and felt really good but then once we got to the east coast everything kind of changed.
We had problems with the bike handling and it was tough to ride once we went to the sandier, softer conditions. The west coast, it was really good on the hard pack. I rode really good and the bike was working great.
The team tried everything they could to make it better for me on the east coast in the sand, but I just felt like the harder we tried, the worse it got. We were taking so many steps in so many different directions that we were going backwards, I felt like. It was tough.
Overall, the team works hard and I worked hard and we all tried our best. Had we not had that double DNF at Deschambault I would have, more than likely, been 3rd in the championship, but that’s how it goes. Racing is is pretty cool and you have to take the good with the bad.
It was just unfortunate there was a log, an actual tree stump log, and I hit it and ended up crashing and cracked 2 ribs and did an AC separation in my shoulder, so that wasn’t too good for me. I had to ride the last round at Barrie in a lot of pain, but I soldiered through it and got 4th overall on the day and salvaged 5th in the championship.
On teammate #61 Vince Friese:
“You have to admire his ‘go for it’ attitude and never say die. At the same time, sometimes he does do a few moves that are questionable but at the end of the day he’s just trying to race the best he can. But off the track he’s a really cool dude and a nice guy. He’s definitely somebody I call my friend.”
At Deschambault, that was down the big hill too, wasn’t it?
It was that brand new section that they had built up on the side of the hill. They didn’t have a lot of the logging and trees cleared out off that section because it was so new. It was just unfortunate. It would probably be about a foot, foot-and-a-half in length and probably, in diameter, about maybe 15-16 inches think.
I just ended up hitting it and it took the front end out from under me as I was coming down the hill and I just did a big crash off the side of the track. It was one of those things where I couldn’t believe a log was sitting on the track during a professional race.
I didn’t actually see your crash but I think you were off the track and ended up in a ditch. It was pretty bad.
It happened simultaneously with (Brett) Metcalfe when he crashed on the other part of the track when he broke his wrist. We both crashed at the same time.
So, if we had to pick, do you have a favourite track in Canada?
Honestly, a lot of people probably don’t agree with this but I like Nanaimo. That’s probably one of my favourite tracks. I got a moto win last year with Monster Energy Alpinestars Kawasaki in the 1st moto and I was riding really good there. I ended up 2nd overall on the day and got a moto win. I generally like that track. It’s kind of slippery and it’s a lot of throttle control and technique and I feel like I ride that controlled throttle a little bit better maybe than most of the guys and I enjoy that track where it’s slippery and a little bit tough to deal with.
I try to go to that race with a positive attitude and I always see to do good there. In 2014, I got the overall there and then I got 2nd with Jason (Hughes) this past year.
So, you’re one of the few guys who are sad that we’re not going back there this year?
I am! I’m very sad. Honestly, I enjoy that track and the scenery, it’s beautiful.
Oh, I wanted to ask you this too. It seemed like, at almost all the races, you were down on the starting gate for the MX2 and always helping someone at the line? Was it specific riders or what were you down there helping people out?
I’m just generally a nice guy and want to help out all the guys, the privateers, you know. I know what it’s like to be in their spot. They’re trying their best and I try to give them a little advice with what they can work on or what could be better or just helping them put on their hole hot device.
I just want to give them some motivation and try to help everybody out. I’m generally a good guy and I just want to be there for all the guys. I cheer them on during the motos and wave them on with my towel and clap or whatever it is on the side of the track.
Ya, because most of the other MX1 riders are back in their pits during the MX2 motos and you’re out there cheering them on!
Exactly. Maybe it also has to do with the fact that I enjoy watching MX2 racing. It seems like some of the best racing of the series. They’re just going for it! They don’t care, they just pin it. Generally, some of the best racing is that MX2 class.
Some great races last year with (Shawn) Maffenbeier and Cole Thompson and Dylan Wright and my teammate last year, Marky Mark Worth was right in there a couple races. Those kids were throwing down!
So, you’re still a fan of the sport, too.
Oh, as much as I’m a racer, I’m always going to be a big fan of the sport. It’s what I’ve been doing since I was 3 years old and turned professional at 15.
It’s coming to an end here in the next couple years but I definitely enjoy racing in Canada. It’s like a second home to me and I enjoy the atmosphere, the people, the racing, the tracks, and just generally going up there and having a good time and relax in the comfortable atmosphere. That’s really what I enjoy most about it.
How old are you, Mike?
I will be 29 in May. I’ll almost be ready for the Vet class.
Let’s talk about Supercross now. I went to San Diego and A2 and those are the 2 that you’re not on the results sheets. How is Supercross going for you?
The first round started out rough when I had a mis-shift/false neutral on the face of the triple and I kind of dinged myself in with the handlebars in my chest and my ribs. It was tough. I tore a lot of fibres in between each rib on the right side. 3 ribs I tore the fibres. It was kind of a weird recovery. Not surgery needed but I needed some down time to completely rest and let those ribs heal.
Woking out or riding a bike or doing any gym work or even riding a motorcycle was pretty much out of the question. Really, the last month, I’ve only ridden 3 times.
It was kind of weird just jumping on the bike and going racing last weekend in Phoenix and I surprised myself where I finished 3rd in my semi and I got 15th in the main. I was really surprised.
I came off the track and I was not really that tired or winded or even in that much pain and going into the weekend I just wanted to try to get through it and get some points and just take each lap as it goes. Whatever you do, don’t fall or make any big mistakes and that’s what I did and came out with a top 15 in this stacked of a classic pretty respectable so I’d like to just keep building from here as I get healthier each week and get back into that race pace and intensity with the guys and I look for my results to only get better each week.
You may or may not want to answer this next question, but it’s what a lot of people want to know about. Your teammate, Vince Friese, is there something about him that we don’t know? Like, off the track, is he the nicest guy? He just always seems to be in some controversy. Is there something you can say about that or no?
I’ve been teammates with Vince since 2012 and he’s a good dude. Off the track, we go to dinners and he takes his girlfriend and I take my wife and he’s a good dude. He’s respectful and it just seems like when he puts that helmet on he’s a warrior and a fierce competitor. He’s going to do whatever it takes to beat the other guy.
You have to admire his ‘go for it’ attitude and never say die. At the same time, sometimes he does do a few moves that are questionable but at the end of the day he’s just trying to race the best he can. But off the track he’s a really cool dude and a nice guy. He’s definitely somebody I call my friend.
To put it hockey terms, a lot of players say the fighters on their teams are the nicest, most emotional guys on the team. Is that sort of the same thing with Vince? He’s just really fiery on the track and just a great guy off the track.
Ya, I just think that once you put that helmet on you just become a different person and we’re warriors on the track. We’re like gladiators on the track just fighting for survival. It’s our job and what we’re supposed to do is compete and beat the other guy. I think when people put the helmet on they just become a different person.
I don’t remember him from his amateur days. Has he always been sort of rough and tumble on the track?
Honestly, no I don’t. I didn’t even know Vince until he was my teammate in 2012. I didn’t know much about his results or who he was or where he came from. I didn’t even know he was from Missouri.
Overall, he’s a good dude. He’s a nice person, respectful and helpful for the team. Like I said, when you put the helmet on it’s time to be a gladiator/warrior and do your job.
So, if you’re out there in 8th place and he’s behind you in 9th, are you looking over your shoulder?
(Laughs) I would hope not but it’s racing and you’ve got to do whatever it takes but I would hope I have a better relationship to do something like where we take each other out for 9th place.
You mentioned you’re 29. How many more years do you see yourself doing this full-time?
I’d like to keep racing for at least 2 more years and then close that book and start a new chapter in my life and start a family and just enjoy life for a little bit. See what the next chapter of life brings me.
What is life after moto for you? For work, I mean.
As of right now, I’m just still focused on doing the best that I can and be top 10 in Supercross and try to win a Canadian championship in the summertime. That’s probably my #1 goal and trace in 2017, 2018 and then that will pretty much be it for me.
So, are you trying to make and keep contacts within the industry? Would you leave it all behind?
When that bridge comes I’ll try to cross it. At the moment, I’m not looking too far ahead to the future, but anything is possible. I definitely love racing and being a part of it. It’s in my blood. It’s what I’ve done since I was 3 years old and it’s part of my life…it’s who I am and what I’ve become — a holeshot master.
Well, thank you very much for chatting with us today. Who would you like to thank?
I just want to thank all the sponsors who’ve supported me my whole career and have been there for me. Like I said, as of now I’m not sure what the summertime is going to hold for me but I would definitely say within the next couple months that it will be ironed out and there’s always a good chance that I will be in Canada racing for the summertime. I enjoy my time hanging out with the fans and I appreciate it.
OK, thanks Mike, and good luck with the rest of the season.
Thanks, I appreciate it.