Catching Up with…Shane Cuthbertson
By Billy Rainford
With the Red Bull Rocks and Logs heading to Wild Rose MX Park in Calgary for its 5th time this weekend, we wanted to see what Race Director and marauding off-road legend, Shane Cuthbertson, has in store for the competitors. Here is our conversation from Thursday afternoon:
Direct Motocross: Hello, Shane. Perhaps to get started you could give us a little bit of your background. How and when did you get into off-road and motocross?
Shane Cuthbertson: Originally, I used to be a BMX racer when I was younger, and I kind of got burnt out on that when I was about 13 years old. Eventually, I thought I needed to get back on two wheels again so I decided I needed a motor and I’ve been racing dirt bikes ever since.
I got into off-roading by just going camping with my family in the mountains and doing all that kind of stuff. I progressed through the ranks pretty quickly. I was a Pro when I was 17 and been racing ever since. I’m 41 years old, so this year I just started laying back a little bit from racing Pro. It was getting a little harder in the off-road world as the younger guys got a lot more serious about their training. I find it a little more difficult to find the time and the commitment to do that. I’m just kind of hanging back now and having some fun.
Over the years, I’ve raced a lot in Canada, obviously, a lot regionally, and then I’ve done a bunch of international competition, like the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) three times, and I’ve done a lot of hard enduros. I’ve done Red Bull Romaniacs, Erzberg, Last Man Standing, I’ve dabbled in a little bit of Endurocross in the US, which is closely related to this Red Bull Rocks and Logs, so I’ve had a pretty good run.
Comparing motocross to off-road, was there a time when you did both? How did you make the decision to specialize in off-road?
I was full-on off-road guy. When I went to my first ISDE, I came home and realized I needed another skill set, which was motocross. I delved heavily into motocross and actually to this day, that’s what I use mainly for training and just for riding. I really enjoy it so I have the best of both worlds now, I’ve been riding a lot of motocross and a lot of off-road now.
You mentioned some of the other events you’ve done. What has been the toughest event you’ve done? We all think of Erzberg as the pinnacle.
Erzberg was an experience for me. I’ve been there a couple times. I’ve raced it twice. I had a mechanical issue the one year when I think I was probably the best prepared and I wasn’t able to finish. And then the last time I went was in 2014. It’s a tough event. I wasn’t able to qualify on the very front row so I ended up in the second row and I had a few crashes at the start. At that point, you’re kind of ten grand down because you’ve had a rough 5 minutes to the start and there are just so many riders there. They pack in about 500 riders and there’s only one line up a lot of stuff so you end up with a lot of bottlenecks. You just eventually time out. It’s probably one of the hardest single-day enduros.
The one that stands out the most for me is Red Bull Romaniacs. I raced Pro in that event and finished 9th there twice, in 2008 and 2009. I really had to dig pretty deep within myself to be able to finish those. It was 4 really grueling days. Especially the first one, it was raining the entire time we were there. The tracks were way beyond my skill level…and I think most guys (Laughs)!
I teamed up with another gentleman form Croatia – we were both about the same skill set – and we never left each other’s side for about 4 days (Laughs). Mentally and physically, I’m very proud of that accomplishment.
Being 41, I’m sure there are a lot of events to choose from, but if you had to pick a highlight what would you pick, or is that it?
That’s definitely a highlight, for sure, and then in 2013 I did the ISDE in Italy and I won a gold medal there, which was a goal of mine ever since I started off-road racing. I’d been twice prior and I got silver medals, but this time I finally reached the pinnacle of achieving the gold medal, so I’m pretty proud of that.
OK, so Red Bull Rocks and Logs is coming back to Calgary this weekend. How did you get involved with this event?
It was kind of by fluke, actually. I got permission from Wild Rose MX Association to build a practice facility down where the track is now. It used to be sort of beat up kind of dump, so I asked if I could clean it up and put some obstacles down there and they agreed to do it. I got a whole bunch of volunteers together and built this little practice track down there.
One day, Red Bull was down there for a KTM demo or something like that and they saw the track and then they saw the Calgary skyline in the background and they said it looked like an awesome thing. They contacted me and asked if I’d be interesting in doing an event for them and it just snowballed from there.
What year would that have been? I saw Lexi (Pechout) on Global News this morning and she said it was 6 years ago?
Well, this year is going to be the 5th edition so I think the very first one was 2013.
Is this part of a series or is it one-off event?
It’s a one-off event. It’s the only motorsports event, that I’m aware of, that Red Bull sponsors in Canada.
Are you competing this year?
No, I’m not. I tried that the very first year and I found out that I needed to focus on one thing at a time. I decided I needed to focus on being the race director, which is what I need to do, especially as the event grows.
So, you’ve designed to course. Now what have you done to it this year? How tough are you trying to make this?
As far as Endurocross goes, there is a series in the US. Their tracks are all inside stadiums and they’re pretty standard. It’s kind of like Supercross where if you have a triple you know it’s a certain length and it’s a pretty standard design. Our track is obviously outdoors so we don’t have control over the elements. Wind, rain, sun, you kind of get it all, especially here in Calgary, so that’s a different thing.
As far as the elements, we make it just a little bit more difficult. I don’t want to kill anybody or injure anybody. I actually want people to enjoy it while they’re there, so we try to find the right balance between challenging the amateurs and challenging the Pros enough where they’re getting a challenge also. That’s my main challenge, for sure, is to make the track rideable for everyone.
I’ve done a few enduros/hare scrambles in my time, and I have to ask, do you find it fun trying to get over wet rocks and logs or is it more of an accomplishment to say you finished?
Ya, I think it is more of an accomplishment thing. We had another interview today with Breakfast Television and Melissa Harten is another lady that does a lot of racing and off-road riding and she said that was really the whole idea of what drew her to that form of racing is the accomplishment. You fail at it first but wanting to go back and figuring out how to properly do it and getting that skill set where you can do it. And finally doing it is an accomplishment for most people.
Now, I see names like Colton Haaker are coming. Who else is coming?
Ya, Colton Haaker’s coming, Kyle Redman is coming down, we have Tara Geiger also attending, a gentleman named Mike Aranda is coming from the US and he’s riding the Alta Motors electric bike in the Pro class. That should be pretty interesting.
We have Tristan Heart and Wyatt Heart, Bobby Prochnau, Philippe Chaine from Quebec, a whole slew of local Alberta Pros, and then everybody from your beginners to vet riders. I think we’ve got just about 200 riders this year.
Let’s not forget to mention our #1 and #2 ranked West MX National riders, Shelby Turner and Lexi Pechout!
Yes, of course. Shelby Turner, Lexi Pechout, Tara Geiger, and Melissa Harten. She’s just recently been selected to the ISDE team in France this year, so she’s also a heavy-hitter. I think we have 12 or 13 ladies signed up this year. It’s going to be a really good show.
I know you’re the race director and maybe you shouldn’t do this, but who’s your money on this weekend?
I’d love to see someone from Canada win, I think Tristan or Wyatt would probably have the best chance as far as Canadians go, but it’s hard to beat Colton Haaker. I know Kyle Redman is coming and he won the event in 2014, and he’s riding really well this year. It should be pretty exciting to see who comes out on top.
What would you say is the most interesting obstacle waiting for the riders?
I would say…we’ve created sort of a hybrid waterfall feature. It’s kind of our feature obstacle that we have. It looks like rock ledge steps coming up and there’s a 20-foot pool of water which then spills out over top of the steep stepdown over the waterfall-type feature. That’s going to be really cool. We have the beer gardens that are right there at that area and then a fairly interesting obstacle after that is just a myriad of rocks and logs and sand and stuff, so it should be a pretty exciting area to be.
And it’s all free to watch, too, right?
Ya! Ya, I think that’s a Red Bull thing. All their events are free admission, so it should be great event for families. The weather is looking great so I think we’re going to have a really good weekend.
After this is all done, what will you do next?
I have two sons and they’re busy doing dirt bikes and racing, so we’ll just finish up the season, and just come up with the next best event. I love doing the off-road unique one-off events. We’ll be planning for Red Bull Rocks and Logs, if it comes back, and planning for a few other events. We’re kicking around a few other ideas, so hopefully we’ll be able to bring another world class event to Canada.
What’s your 9-5?
I’m a welding inspector. I do a lot of contract work for the oil and gas industry which is a pretty big industry here in Calgary. I do a lot of quality control type stuff for end users on oil and gas equipment.
Well, thanks for taking the time to chat with us today. Good luck with your event this weekend. Would you like to thank anyone, before we go?
I’ve been a Husqvarna rider for quite some time now, and most of my support is provided through A & E Racing Team in Brooks, Alberta. I’ve been using Riders’ Edge Suspension for quite a long time also.
Check out their webpage at: https://www.redbull.com/ca-en/rocks-logs-2017
The event went live in 2016, so if you’re wondering what it’s all about, here’s a little 4+-hour long video to get you acquainted…