Peruse the results from the first stop of the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross series and Colt Nichols' name will leap off of the page. '45' was sixth in his premier-class debut and solid on a circuit that even caught the strongest riders out. Such an impressive result was exactly what he needed – he had no momentum in his corner and had not completed a main in eighteen months. Now, he has a base that he can build off of and that will serve him well in the coming months. Nichols' enthusiasm is very clear for all to see in this exclusive Vital MX interview from Angel Stadium.
Vital MX: Sixth place at Anaheim 1 and a very solid 450SX debut. Honestly, all things considered, I feel like this is maybe as good as it could get!
Colt Nichols: Yeah, in a way. I had no idea where we would be. I am pretty ecstatic with sixth. It has been a long time since I raced and exactly a year since I even caught a gate drop. My last main event was in Salt Lake in 2021. It has been a long time. I have never raced with a lot of these guys, so I did not know where I fit in. To come through the night unscathed, with just one little get off in practice, I am pretty ecstatic.
I felt like the difference from the heat to the main was quite drastic. Was there a change to the set-up that contributed to that? Was it as simple as you finally loosening up?
I think it was that. We did not touch the bike all day. I felt comfortable on it and a sense of, like, the bike was not doing anything spooky in practice. I was just not riding it good! I knew that there was nothing that we could do with the bike. It was just about how I felt – I was riding a little stiff and timid. It was the same thing in the heat race. I was a little bit like a deer in headlights. I knew that I needed to get it together pretty quick by the time that the main event came around and the start definitely helped. I put my laps together and a lot of guys made mistakes. I don't know if I was the sixth-fastest guy, like I said, but nights are like that sometimes. This 450SX class is tough – everyone is good. I am pumped! To end up where we did, I am pretty ecstatic.
This must be a bit of a relief for you. You have not raced in so long and I would imagine that, on some of the darker days, you questioned whether you could still do this. This is verification that you are as good as you once were.
Yeah! I mean, sh*t, I was doing that earlier this morning. I was like, "I don’t know if I have got it anymore!" Practice was pretty tough. I don't know if I have ever been that great in practice, regardless. I felt very, very good on the bike at this race last year and qualified P6. Practice is just not my deal. We have got to clean that up and get better – there are a lot of areas where we can improve. Overall, I am happy. This has given me a little more validation that I can run with these guys. It is good to get the first one out of the way.
Mentally, was it hard to keep the memories of last year at bay? I would imagine that seeing the stadium again and rolling onto the floor, it was tough to not think about how it went one year ago.
It is weird. That feels like five years ago and then, in a sense, it feels like yesterday. I was sat in a hospital not even a mile from here and I was there for a week, just staring at the stadium. Coming back was a weird feeling. I was battling a few demons earlier in the day. To get through the night unscathed, I am just ecstatic. We have got something to build on and we will see next weekend.
You said that you did not touch the bike, but what is something that you have to work on? I guess that you learned something today.
Yeah, we learned a lot. There is some stuff that we can improve, suspension-wise. That is something that you are always going to chase and it is never going to be perfect. I am really happy with where it is though. We have not touched the bike in around a month, now that we have got a set-up that we like. We will do some testing this week, but it is not going to be drastic. We will try to make little improvements in some areas. I think that the track was extremely brutal tonight. I don't know if you can go off of it too much, but we can always improve. We will do some stuff on Tuesday and see if we can make it a little bit.
Everyone was chasing their tail with the suspension, huh? I guess that you have not ridden a track like this at all in the winter months. There were soft transitions and invisible walls heading into turns, where the hard dirt met the wet stuff.
Honestly, it is pretty drastic how different a test track is to this. You cannot replicate that. For us? Definitely. It was kind of eye-opening during practice. I was like, "Wow! This track is a lot rougher and more beat up than I anticipated." I thought that the track broke down well and I rode it good when I needed to. We can always improve and get a little bit better, but I am happy with where we are.
Last thing here. What was the biggest shock about racing in the 450SX class? Is there something that caught you off guard?
Honestly, just how good these guys are. I think that the thing that separates everyone each week is how the track position is on lap one. Dude, all of these guys are good. Go all of the way back to twentieth place and there are guys who have really good skill. There is no slacking. Even during that main, there were two laps left and I had [Jason] Anderson right behind me. I was like, "Jeez! There are guys everywhere." It is just how good everyone is. I have got to be good off of the start every weekend if we are going to improve.