On the Radar | Connor Stevenson | Yamaha Motor Canada
By Billy Rainford
You may or may not have heard of this young Canadian motocross ripper, but Connor Stevenson is really coming into his own at a very young age. In fact, the 13-year-old has been burning up the Colorado motocross classes against riders older than him. We got in touch with Connor at his transplanted home in Denver to find out more about what he’s got going on and where he wants this sport to take him.
Direct Motocross: Hello, Connor. You’re a Canadian living in Colorado. Can you take us back and tell us where you’re from?
Connor Stevenson: I was born in Milton, Ontario on August 23, 2004. My hometown Milton is where my interest in motocross all started.
How did you get into the sport of Motocross?
I first got into dirt bikes at our friends’ cottage in Muskoka. I was three years old. As soon as I sat on one, I was hooked. But it was my dad who introduced me to the sport of motocross. I started riding in the back woods at my dad’s friend’s track. My dad would take me there every so often to learn and start to get faster. Before I had the ability to go over the jumps, I would hop on my dad’s bike with him and we would clear the jumps together. When we went out to the track on my CRF50 for the first time, I knew that this was going to be my passion. This passion has stuck with me ever since – and I still love doing it.
How did you choose your first racing number?
I chose my first number “10” when I started racing. I picked this number because when I was signing up for my first race, they wanted to know what number I was, but I didn’t have one on my bike yet. So my dad was like, “Well, ten it is.” He said this because number “10” was the easiest number to put on my front plate with black tape that wasn’t just a “1” or “11.” Those numbers were already taken, so we couldn’t use them. Number “10” is easy to make using tape with a vertical line and a nice small square.
You’re still very young, but what do you remember as your best race here in Canada when you were younger?
My favorite and best race when I was still living in Canada was the M.M.R.S National. I was riding a Cobra 50cc, a Cobra 65cc, and a Yamaha YZ 85cc. I won the National in the 50cc class and the 65cc class. I also placed top five in the 85cc class all in the same weekend. This race was also the best race because I won the last motos on my birthday to claim the titles.
When did you move out to Colorado? Why did you guys move out there?
We moved to the United States in October of 2014 because my dad got a job offer in Denver, Colorado. My parents thought it would be a great experience for the family. This job that my dad was offered was a good opportunity to see what the U.S. is like compared to Canada. I guess we thought we’d check it out – and I’m so glad we did.
Did you know much about the moto scene out there before you got there?
No, I didn’t know much about the moto scene, but the one thing I did know is that the competition would be at a very high level at the races. Since living in the U.S. for a few years now, I can tell the difference in the determination level and the competition level. There’s just more opportunity to train and race where we are.
Did you like it there right away?
Coming to Colorado was kind of scary at first. I thought it was going to be hard trying to fit in, but the first week, I met friends at my new school and found out that the Pro National Track, THUNDER VALLEY, was literally in my backyard. Knowing that I would be able to train there, and it would be my home track, was something that I was definitely going to take advantage of. So I was excited. Getting to practice on this awesome track every week is improving my speed and makes me want to keep achieving my dreams of becoming a Pro one day.
What’s the main difference you notice about living there versus living in Canada?
The main difference between the U.S and Canada is that you get to ride more. The winters are way warmer in Colorado so you can ride outdoors year around to get ready for the next season. Even though there is also an indoor series called Kicker Arenacross, which I also race in, on the days where there isn’t a race, everyone is out at the tracks getting prepared for the upcoming events.
Also, things like school are pretty similar, but I’m in a program called STEM – which stands for “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math” with focus in these subjects. I had to apply to get in for grades 7 and 8 and I got in. I don’t think they have that kind of program back home in Canada.
What classes were you racing when you got there?
When I moved to Colorado, I raced 65cc (10-11), 65cc Open (7-11), 85cc (9-11), and 85cc Open Mini (9-11). I was 10 years old at the time, so I could race all these classes in the Winter Combat series, Kicker Arenacross series, RMXA (Rocky Mountain Motocross Association) series, and SRAC (Sports Riders Association of Colorado) series.
What was your first race there?
My first race here was in Colorado Springs at the Winter Combat series. I won both the 85cc classes and the 65cc classes all in that same year as a 10-year-old in 2014.
You’ve been really improving quickly. You just had a very successful season. Can you take us through some of your accomplishments?
This year I won 8 state championships. These championships were in the classes of Schoolboy 1 (12-16), 250 C, and 125 12+ B/C as an AMA 12-year-old on a 125cc. Two were indoors for Arenacross, and the rest were outdoor championships. Last year we ran the Mesquite Winter National in Nevada and they said I was the youngest racer to ever win an adult class there as an AMA 11-year-old.
How late does the season go out there? Are you still riding/racing?
The season really goes on all year. The main outdoor season ends in October, but right after that the Winter Combat and the Kicker Arenacross series start up so technically it never ends. In Colorado you can ride all year long outdoors at pretty much any track unless they close for a certain reason.
What’s your next event you guys are hitting?
We’re headed to the Arizona Open at the end of November. It’s a full AMA National and I’ll for sure get to go against the fastest riders. I’m just 13, so any major experience I can get and learn from will be awesome.
You’re only 13. What will you do over the winter for racing/training?
I am an AMA 12-year-old, but I turned 13 at the end of August. This summer I spent three weeks at the Reynard Training Complex in Oklahoma and I go to train and become friends with Austin Forkner, Benny Bloss, Trey Canard, Lance Kobusch and Jesse Flock. The whole group there taught me how to really compete. I also do some work from time to time with Donnie Hansen (sometimes some winter training). We may head down to Texas over Christmas to train at Masterpool’s in Texas if everything goes well.
For racing, it will be the Arizona Open, Kicker Arenacross and then the JS7 National. I’m focusing on my training right now, so our plans are to get out to the bigger Nationals so I can see what I have to work on.
What are your plans for the 2018 season?
For the 2018 season, I have two goals: 1) Make it to Loretta’s and finish in the Top 10 and, 2) I want to race for Canada so bad that I’m going to do everything I can to make Team Canada for the MXON Amateur team that will race at Red Bud.
I know you’re very interested in the Team Canada MXON development program. What would you like to say to Kourtney Lloyd in hopes of getting the chance to head to Red Bud next summer?
I tried really hard to be picked for the team this year, but I think because I’m racing in the U.S., I might not have been top of mind. I’m going to work my butt off to make the team this year. I love Canada and where I come from! I just happen to live and ride in the U.S. So I’m simply going to “SEND IT” every chance I get – and I’ll probably send Kourtney Lloyd daily emails and post a lot on social media so she never forgets me. I want this soooo bad. I know that I will be ready to battle come Red Bud!
Is competing for Canada high on your list of moto dreams?
YES! We love Canada, and it is my roots of how I started racing. I grew up racing Walton, Gopher Dunes, RJ’s, Sand Del Lee, Rat Track, Muttco, Thunder Mud, and the list goes on. I want to come back some time to race and see all of my friends, too. Maybe I can get up and race once or twice before the MXON. I’d love to grab a couple training sessions with Jay Thompson again, too – he’s an awesome coach.
Who are you battling with the most out there in Colorado?
There are a lot of fast kids, but I mostly battle with Bronson McClure who just finished 2nd at Loretta’s this year and a couple other fast guys like Mason Clarke, Tyler Long, and a few others. It’s fun, they are a bit older than me, but they push me like crazy on the track. I had to skip four years of 85’s and all of Supermini classes because of my size (I’m 5’10 1/2″ with a size 13 foot) and everyone thinks I’m 16. Racing the big bikes suits me better anyway as I can do way more on them.
Well, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. We need to keep our eyes on you out there. Good luck and lastly, who would you like to thank?
It’s amazing the people you meet and those who help you along the way. Most of you may not recognize some of these names, but they are awesome to me and have helped me a lot. My mom and dad for sure who gave me the opportunity race and become better every day. Yamaha has supported me from the day I got down here through Vickery Motorsports. DEFY Graphics has helped me with everything I have needed for my graphics. Atlas Brace (the Newf) has supported me even back in Canada and I hope I can do more with them this upcoming year. Robbie Reynard for welcoming me into his facility and pushing me to another level. Donnie Hansen for giving me his insight from being the best in the world. A cool guy named Matt Ogden for getting me to the races when my dad just couldn’t make it (it was a super fun summer). ACTIONETIX for paying for most of this – and your supplements are the best!
I also want to thank you, Billy, for stopping in last January to watch me race indoors, and for everything you do with the sport of motocross. My dad and I are always on the site catching up on everything that is happening up there in Canada. I just want people to remember that even though we love Colorado and the U.S., Canada will always be home for us. Thanks for the opportunity!