33-year-old Tim Ferry is not the oldest rider ever selected for a Motocross of Nations team (Stephan Everts was 33 when he rode his last event in 2006. He won both his motos although Belgium finished 2nd.) I’m sure he’s not even the oldest to be on a winning team — the average age of riders was a lot older in the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s. But he may well be the oldest member of a winning team in the modern era.
Just before his trip to England for the 2008 MXoN (which Team USA won, again) the Factory Kawasaki rider and two-time MXoN winner was interviewed by Tim Cryster of RacerX Virtual Trainer. Ferry talks about his training regimen, how things have changed in the sport since he began his professional career in 1991, and what the future holds.
One of the most interesting exchanges in the interview was the following:
Cryster:Let’s talk about how you, as such an old man, are so successful at motocross (laughs). I sometimes think people or journalist like to focus on a guys age because they aren’t smart enough to talk about anything else. 33 is not old in any sport in my opinion. Look at Dara Torres in the Olympics this year. She is 41 and was just as strong now as she was when she was 18. Lance Armstrong, Mike LaRocco, John Dowd…..the list of “older” athletes goes on. What do you think it is about motocross that seems to prevent more guys like yourself to move into their 30’s and still be competitive?
Ferry:Not to take anything away from racers back when, but I think a lot of it has to do with eliminating old influences that have been a part of the sport since the 70’s. Like smarter training and moving away from the idea that you have to train as hard as you can all the time and the notion that you are done by the time you are 25. I think we are weeding out those people and influences and bringing in people who are more educated on fitness. I think we are learning how to train smarter not harder which is what the Carmichael Training System is all about.
Later, Ferry addressed his own future:
I am going to ride until my body won’t let me anymore. I am going to do it as long as I am competitive. I feel that I have my best years racing in front of me. With training the right way and being smart about it I don’t see any reason why I don’t have 5 more years in me. Plus I love to ride. Even after I retire I will get up and ride every day.
I’m a big Tim Ferry fan, partly because of his durability in a sport that doesn’t really value it, and partly because of his continued enthusiasm after so many years of racing. I sincerely hope that Ferry, and others like him in the sport, have a strong voice in the plans being made to move our sport forward.
Motocross has evolved an unhealthy emphasis on youth. Perhaps this is just Americanization, with our inherent focus on youthful everything. But the absurdity of having any professional sport that considers athletes over the hill at 25 is not lost on those of us who have watched it for several decades. It is, in fact, often the very recklessness of youth that leads to such short careers.
Yet it’s not just the riders who are affected by this — it’s the audience as a whole. There’s great emphasis today on finding ways to grow the audience for motocross. I fear we’re trying to “mainstream” a niche sport while overlooking the fact that the core audience also moves away as they age. Not too many 40-year-olds get enthusiastic about watching a bunch of fuzzy-chinned teenagers. It just doesn’t work.
Considered changes to the rules and structure of the sport will help this but it will mostly require, as Ferry says, changes in the attitudes of the principals. Here’s to hoping that as newer folks take over roles in positions of power that they make the right choices for the riders, the fans, and the long-term health of the sport.