Mechanics of MXdN | Interview 6

We speak to Travis Soules, Jade Dungey, Jordan Troxell, and Eric 'Big Mac' Gregg about their experience at the Motocross of Nations in Ernee, France.

With Motocross of Nations a couple of weeks behind us, much has been discussed from the event. Rider's performances and results have been analyzed, and the track conditions dissected. Something that hasn't been discussed is the team members that travel to the event and must perform behind the scenes to ensure the riders have what they need. It takes a team of individuals, but we will focus on some American mechanics who made the trip to support their riders. 

We reached out to Travis Soules (Ken Roczen/Team Germany), Jade Dungey (Aaron Plessinger/Team USA), Jordan Troxell (Hunter Lawrence/Team Australia), and Eric' Big Mac' Gregg (Ken Roczen/Team Germany) to hear about their experiences with traveling to Ernee, France for such a memorable race. 

Surprisingly, the 2023 MXdN was a first in one way or another for all of these guys. Travis Soules and Big Mac have never worked an MXdN in their career. Jordan 'Rooster' Troxell had worked last year at Red Bud, but this was his first outside of the US, and Jade Dungey has never worked for Team USA. He has done two with Marvin Musquin for Team France, though.

With that in mind, we wanted to hear what stood out the most this year for each of them. 

Soules: The fans are the one thing everybody said would blow my mind. It was unbelievable. After the third moto, they put this fence up by the podium, and it looked like a zombie apocalypse the way people came running up to that fence. It was insane.

Jade: The last time I was at Ernee was in 2015, and for me, that was the coolest race I'd ever seen, fan-wise. This one was on a whole different level. It almost seemed to be double the amount of fans. People were saying over 100,000 people, and I believe it. You couldn't even hear yourself talk. It was just horns and screaming fans. It was unreal.

Big Mac: The biggest thing that stood out to me is how wild the fans are over there. We came in Friday and Saturday at 7:30 a.m., and those guys were still up partying. We get wild at Red Bud, but man, those guys, they're different over there. It's a different 'get after it.'

Rooster: I think it's the energy that the hillside brings. Something about the fans in Europe seems special for Motocross of Nations. They're so crazy with the horns, banners, flags, and the chainsaws. I remember during the qualifying race on Saturday, I was back in the pit. Gariboldi (Honda) has a glass pit trailer. I remember just looking out; all the fans had left the pit, and they were all on the track, and a race was going on. It was a really weird moment where I was alone in this trailer, but I could feel the noise on the other side of the facility from all the fans screaming because the race was going on. It was just a cool feeling inside that trailer.

J.P. Acevedo

The bike is one of the bigger difficulties with doing a single race in a different country. Some teams ship entire bikes; others get bikes from there and bring the parts they want. 

Jade: After Ironman, I built a brand-new bike and didn't put fuel or cooling in it. So, I built a complete bike. It was ready to rock. Then I took three frame boxes that fit frames and miscellaneous stuff, took the bike apart, and spread it between those boxes. Then I brought three sets of wheels, and he was on his full American setup.

Soules: We brought the bike in bags, so I was on high alert until I finally had a bike completely built. If one bag didn't make it, we would have had to jump through hoops. We basically brought everything. Johansen Bikes brought us two brand-new stock bikes, which was basically all our backup stuff. I brought a broke-in frame because he's really weird about a new frame. He says it's too stiff. So, we had a frame with about three hours on it, and we brought suspension, footpegs, and brakes. He runs a steel braided front and rear brake line. We had to bleed those there. We brought seats, seat foam, seat covers, handlebars, triple clamps. He runs a 250 triple clamp instead of a 450 one. Grips and levers. We brought two of everything and put them strategically in different bags in case one bag got flagged. Their spec fuel gave us a little trouble with the mapping the first day we were there, but we got that all figured out. 

J.P. Acevedo

An interesting aspect of this event is that some American mechanics work with foreign riders. What is it like to want your home country to do well but also want your rider to succeed for his country? 

Rooster: It's funny. People ask that all the time. I'm American. I bleed red, white and blue. Going to Red Bud last year with our team and winning the way we did is so hard to top. I wanted those boys to win so badly last year, and they pulled it off. At the same time, I go over there this year, and Team Australia is paying me to be there. I'm working for the Australian riders who have been my boys all summer. So, I want those guys to go kick ass and win. In a perfect world, if you go and work for another country, maybe you want your riders to win their respective classes, and maybe you might squeak a win in. At the same time, I want Jett and Hunter to go out and dominate and win everything they can.

Soules: I was there for Kenny and Team Germany. They were super accommodating. They were just awesome. Their mechanics were super cool. They fed us breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and they were pretty pumped to be around Kenny as well. All of us had one goal, which was pretty cool. It kind of stinks that we didn't get the podium as a team, but to get the win for Ken in the MXGP class was pretty big.

We asked how the riders were dealing with all the extravagance and pressure of the weekend and how they felt once it was over. We also asked how the Ernee fans acted towards the American series riders.

Jade Dungey: Aaron is such a likable person, but I've never been on the American side. So, I didn't know how the fans would be, especially in Europe. They went out on Friday for the parade in the back of the pickup trucks, and as soon as they went out, they got the second most cheers from the fans. Second to the French riders. The fans went crazy, and AP thrived off it. 

Rooster: That was Australia's best-ever Motocross of Nations showing. I think they're proud of that. We looked like we had a decent shot at winning for Australia, and I was hoping for that. The MX2 class was tough for Hunter, coming off his injury at LA. He only had two weeks to allow that thing to calm down. I think it was in the back of his head all day. I still think they did the best they absolutely could. 

J.P. Acevedo

Other factors had to be dealt with besides race day issues. Traveling halfway around the world can create several scenarios to deal with.

Big Mac: Mentally, the hardest part is the travel time. We had a group text for two weeks saying, "Hey, if you think of something, throw it in this text message, and then we'll make sure one of us has it." It was two weeks of all of us saying, "We need this, this, and this." Someone would say, "All right, we've got everything." Then a couple of hours later or a day later, "Oh, shit, we forgot this. We need a clutch holder" because we didn't know what they would have there for us.

Soules: We stayed in a house about 45 minutes away. Honestly, that was probably the coolest thing other than the races because it was a super old house out in the hills of France and kind of a creepy house. I was like, "This is kind of scary. There's no way in hell I stayed in there alone." It looked like it came out of a horror movie. There were still cobwebs and dead flies. There probably hadn't been anybody in there since the last people rented it. Hell, they might still be hanging in the garage. I don't know. 

We all know mechanics are the unsung heroes putting in endless hours and dedication to ensure their rider has the best opportunity possible to be successful. It's not all fun and games and champagne showers, and we love hearing their stories. Motocross of Nations is an especially trying event and all the guys did a great job. We appreciate their time and efforts.



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