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Collecting Moments #6: The Road to Recovery


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Collecting Moments #6: The Road to Recovery

Posted in People, Riding

Dialing things down a notch. But only in preparation for new adventures … That’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past few months. My injury marked the beginning of a whole new chapter in my life. My main focus was no longer new adventures, but rather something much simpler, and self-explanatory: recovering!

If you’ve never had an injury or been forced to take a break before, it’s a difficult situation to come to terms with. You’re faced with a whole range of new physical challenges. Day-to-day situations like putting your pants on by yourself, fetching a glass of water from the kitchen, or going up and down stairs become real challenges. But it was not only difficult physically; it was also a huge challenge psychologically. I had never felt so restricted and helpless. It took me a while to learn how to face this situation head on and make the best of it. In a way, I was fighting against myself.


© Anna-Larissa Redinger

In the months after my injury, I of course had many tests and sessions at the physiotherapist. I was overwhelmed with advice, information, and exercises to do at home. I listened to many different opinions about the state of my knee and remained convinced that it was best not to have surgery. There were many different reactions to my decision among my friends and family. Some people could understand why, some people couldn’t. Opinions differ greatly when it comes to knee injuries.

My final decision was inspired by a member of my family. My grandfather, 75 years old, is an active participant in the senior category of the FIS Ski World Cup and always finishes in the top three. He tore both of his cruciate ligaments and nevertheless has a level of fitness other people his age can only dream of. His resilience and his successful career as a pensioner athlete inspired and, most of all, motivated me. He gave me the courage to recover my strength without an operation and a risky procedure on my knee!


© Anna-Larissa Redinger

The collateral ligament forced me to rest completely for a few weeks, but is now almost fully healed. The heavy bone bruising improved slowly but surely, the pain gradually becoming more bearable. I was very cautious to begin with at my physiotherapy sessions. It was more difficult than I thought to be able to put weight on the knee and to build up my confidence again. After the fall, my bones felt as if my upper leg was going to the right, my lower leg to the left. The pain was so terrible that still gives me goosebumps when I think about it.

Learning something new is difficult, but relearning something you already knew is even harder. How difficult can it be to just stand on your leg? It’s hard to imagine, but it took a lot of effort! When I finally managed it after a few attempts, I cried from happiness and relief. The knee held!

To begin with I found it difficult to get used to my new “sports equipment”: crutches. I found them very impractical, but had to begrudgingly admit that I was even more helpless without them. I had to get used them, whether I liked it or not. I found out quite quickly, however, that crutches in fact really are a kind of sports equipment. Anybody who has used crutches will know how demanding they can be. It’s very strenuous for your shoulders and upper arms, and trying to move a bit faster will definitely make you sweat. I had discovered a new kind of sport, or at least a new and different way to keep my body active.


© Anna-Larissa Redinger

I “walked” for miles through the forest near my home, up and down hills, over roots and stones. It felt so liberating to be outside again. Nature gave me strength and made my recovery period more bearable. One advantage of compulsory breaks is that you have time to finish the things you’ve been putting off. The 2017 season was very turbulent, so I enjoyed having time for my workshop and my bike. Taking everything apart, changing parts, servicing the bike, and putting everything back together again. It’s great to know that my rocket is ready and waiting for me as soon as I’m fit and READY TO RACE again!


© Anna-Larissa Redinger

All things considered, things are going much better for me now. I now understand the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” which never seemed particularly logical to me before. All in all, I have gained a lot from these very difficult weeks and months, both as a person, and from a sporting perspective. Never before have I been so desperate to get back on my KTM 300 EXC, press the E-starter, and go!


© Anna-Larissa Redinger

Get to know more about Larissa on the KTM BLOG – Collecting Moments #5: An enforced brake – or check out her website!

Photos: Anna-Larissa Redinger


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      “It is something very different for the family,” Frederic Vialle observes. “Last year we had a stock bike and were on a privateer team, just me and Tom. So, a factory team is very different: two mechanics, Dirk, Joel and the winter training, living in Lommel … I just keep an eye on Tom now because the organization around him is so good.”
      “Many riders have pressure but we look at it like we have a very good team and a very good motorcycle – the KTM is very fast – and with these tools if you have a good rider then he should make a good result,” he understates.
      “The family situation helps a lot,” stresses Smets. “Even in my day racing I could see how situations with parents could go very wrong and then since retiring and watching young kids then a lot more. Ok, it’s not easy to be a mum or dad of a sports guy that is at a high level but the Vialles are very stable and they know that hard work is the only way to ‘get there’. It is not flashy bikes or equipment or a Red Bull helmet that will make you win: It is the hard work that will decide if you make it or not.”
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      “He has a very nice style and is a good starter but just needs to improve his speed,” opines Vialle Senior. “The gap between EMX and GP is seen in the strength of the riders and the physical condition. The bike is very fast and he needs time to adapt. He will take so much experience in the next months. I think he has the speed over one lap and he has the technique but because everything is so new for him he needs as much racing as possible … and to avoid the crashes.”
      Tom Vialle (FRA) KTM 250 SX-F Matterley Basin (GBR) 2019 © Ray Archer
      In the first phases of MXGP in 2019 Red Bull KTM are again flying. Prado is undefeated, Cairoli holds the red plate and Vialle has, amazingly, stepped up to be their peer. It is a slightly surprising situation for the racing team and the management but not an unusual one considering the impact of their former racers. Somehow the magic keeps being mixed.
      Photos: Ray Archer | P. Haudiquert
    • De Dementor
      Getting into MotoGP™
      Posted in People, Racing Breaking into the high profile but highly-occupying MotoGPTM paddock is understandably tough (it’s the peak of motorcycle sport after all) so we decided to ask John Eyre, one of our Red Bull KTM technicians, about making it as a mechanic.
      John Eyre (GBR) KTM RC16 © Rob Gray
      One of the hallmarks of 21st century life to date has been the increased ease to self-market. Social media, networking platforms and recruitment websites mean that it is possible to make shortcuts and directly target the vocational niche of your choosing.
      While there are still no substitutes for experience, contacts and knowledge, the possibilities to break into a desired field like MotoGPTM racing can seem a little clearer. There are even specific ‘race engineering academies’ that can train an aspiring mechanic in the processes and demands of preparing competition-spec equipment. In Spain ‘schools’ like the Monlau facility in Barcelona now have an element of prestige.
      There are different ways in. Alex Merhand, part of Miguel Oliveira’s Tech3 crew, studied and qualified as a data engineer, served his ‘laptop apprenticeship’ for two years for a factory team in MXGP and then graduated to MotoGPTM. On the other side of the ‘entry coin’ is John Eyre, a Brit now three years in Red Bull KTM as a mechanic looking after one of Johann Zarco’s KTM RC16s. Almost two decades in MotoGPTM John submerged himself in the scene by working part-time for a local rider in the British Superbike series. “The best thing to do now is to get a good qualification if you want to be working with data or electronics but if you want to be a mechanic then you just have to get experience and see if you can find someone that will take you on for weekends,” he says. “Do your studies during the week and get to the track at weekends. A lot of people at BSB will do that.”
      John Eyre (GBR) & Adam Wheeler (GBR) © Rob Gray
      Eyre started his journey as an eager kid obsessed by bikes. “Everybody asks ‘how did you start?’. Well I began working at races in the British Championship for a guy in the 250 series who was from the same village as me. Instead of taking holidays I went racing on the weekends. That was between 1993 and 1998 mainly as a kid.”
      “My Dad used to race grass track, road racing and vintage bikes – I have vintage bikes at home – so it was a bit of a passion thing [inherited] from him,” he says. “I did a bit of racing but you quickly realize that it’s expensive and if you crash then you still need to go to work on a Monday morning. So, I went more into mechanic-ing and the technical side.”
      KTM RC16 © Rob Gray
      Once in the race paddock then the relationships John made, the work he performed and a particular character towards the job meant he was in a position to start moving: A role working for Paul Brown in Supersport led to a year with Steve Hislop in Superbike and then finally the opening to arrive to Grand Prix at the end of 2000. “Steve was really good and I really enjoyed working with him,” he recalls. “I always wanted to get into Grand Prix and a friend was working at the Shell Advance Team and a job came up. I was thinking about it because I was 21 and it meant moving to Spain. That was 2001 and it was with Leon Haslam in the 500s.”
      As well as a mechanical mind, concentration and diligence seem to be two essential skills. Making a mistake in race bike prep can be perilous but Eyre is quite forthright about the mentality required. “A motorcycle is only nuts and bots: You just have to put it together properly. I always double check everything and was brought up to be extra sure. Then when you are in a team you bounce off each other in terms of the jobs: When that feels easy and second nature then you know you are in a good crew.”
      John Eyre (GBR) KTM RC16 © Rob Gray
      At MotoGPTM level a stripped-down racing prototype looks like a complicated collection of exotic parts and tech. For Eyre and his peers it is all relative. “It is technical … but the bike still has two wheels, two handlebars, a seat! I have worked on a lot of bikes; 2-strokes and a lot of engine stripping. Nowadays you get an engine and you just place it in the chassis. Before you had to do all the maintenance yourself with the pistons, rings, cranks: That was almost a daily job. I miss working inside the engine: the gearbox, cylinders. We used to build everything but now it is just placement of the engine, there is even a specific guy just for the gearbox.”
      “When new stuff comes you have to have a little look and think about it … but generally if it is made right and properly then it should go together nicely,” he adds on the evolution of parts and ideas in MotoGPTM.
      John Eyre (GBR) © Rob Gray
      Eyre could be the best spannerman in the business but a crucial part of his job (and something anyone looking to reach his position should be aware of) is blending with his co-workers – around 5-6 in the immediate vicinity – and making the best team environment. “I think you have to be easy-going with everybody,” he says of the personality needed to spend so many days and hours on the road and in pitboxes. “You have to be open-minded and then you’ll warm to them and them to you. We have a new Crew Chief this year and he has been absolutely brilliant.”
      He spent more than ten years at HRC (as part of the unit around KTM’s new test rider Dani Pedrosa, “I’d worked with Mike [Leitner] for about nine years and I was looking for a different challenge”) and this was a big marker on his CV. It meant that his name and face was firmly entrenched in the MotoGPTM scene: Another boost to employment prospects. “It’s not easy,” he smiles of making contacts and the ‘networking’ element of breaking into the paddock. “I remember one guy telling me it was easier to get in the Arsenal football club first eleven than it was to get into our team in BSB!”
      Knowing the job, being good with people (thus building contacts) and having the disposition to handle a race situation: If a wannabe mechanic still believes they are suitable then the next step is persistence. “What you cannot beat is race experience,” Eyre stresses. “You can have all the qualifications under the sun but that experience counts for a lot. The group really matters as well. When you have a good group of lads then you tend to know what they want before they know themselves and vice-versa. There are a lot of shortcuts and it seems to click.”
      John Eyre (GBR) & co-workers © Rob Gray
      To achieve any goal takes sacrifice. Reaching MotoGPTM might be a promised land for many but, as with anything “you have to take the rough with the smooth,” Eyre says. Nineteen weekends of racing on five continents plus tests means a long haul of kilometers on the road and in the air, and many days away from home. Much of the work formerly done in workshops is also carried out in the pitboxes of the circuits.
      “The travelling is massive. There has to be a compromise now because if they keep putting more and more races then there won’t be an off-season. I remember when I first started Grands Prix then we didn’t begin racing until April and we’d have a test in Malaysia and Jerez and that was it. Now we start the day after the last race of the year! Testing is hard work compared to racing. The travelling can be a burden but if you want to be in the world championship then you have to deal with it. I enjoy the job when I’m here.”
      Above all – and like the riders themselves and anybody else striving for results at elite level sport – Eyre says commitment and determination is what will help you make it in the end. “If you are into it then just keep trying and don’t give up,” he insists. “You have to have a passion for it. I remember being at school and saying that I wanted to go grand prix racing. Half of the teachers said ‘you won’t do anything like that’ but if you keep your head down and carry on …”
      John Eyre (GBR) © Rob Gray
      Photos: Rob Gray