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Longname – There’s been a lot of buzz about you during your amateur days. Now the buzz is about you turning pro, does that add a lot of pressure on you?
Ward – No, with all the hype that’s been around me and especially in the last two weeks honestly I thought there was going to be more pressure. I was pretty nervous coming into the race, but for some reason when I got there I felt confident and comfortable so I didn’t get nervous. I didn’t have much pressure on me from the main people at KTM who I thought might be pressuring me more, so knowing that they weren’t putting too much pressure on me this year I could put it off to the side and not worry about it. I figured you only turn pro once, I just got to make the best of it, and I felt like I did that.
Longname – That’s great that you’re not feeling the pressure because we’ve seen in the past with amateur guys who seem to crack under the pressure when turning pro.
Ward – Yeah next year is going to be a different ball game. Even this weekend might be a different ball game now considering people know I can be a top-five guy. And If I go out there and get 15th no one is going to be like “oh he’s cracking under pressure” I think. I’m still an intermediate and I’m still learning. I’m just having fun with it. Sunday night I was like “hey I’m ready to go to Quebec, let’s go race again now!” I was pumped.
Longname – So I heard that you changed from Frankfit to AlphaMx for training, why the change? And how has it been?
Ward – (laughs) Yeah I figured this question was going to come sooner or later. I mean it’s just the way the cards played out. Nothing against Frankfit, they have supported me so much; I could never thank them enough. I kind of hope they see this and I just really want to thank all of them and the whole Thompson family and everyone who helped me there, they all helped me out a lot and got me to where I am today. But you know, I just feel like I needed a change. Just this year was different, and the summer was going to be different, so I just felt like I needed to change things. I talked to Kyle Keast a lot in the spring. It’s just the way it worked out and I just ended up at AlphaMx. Yeah, it was a really hard decision, it was actually one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. Especially because I’ve come so close with the Thompson family and I really don’t want them to think I just use them and what not. I saw them this weekend it was actually really nice to see them, but I couldn’t be more thankful to them. I’m at AlphaMx now though and I’m really happy how that’s been going. You know Kyle he has been where I want to be. He actually helped me out a lot this weekend. He helped me out with the pressure. Especially after that first Moto, I don’t know if I would have been able to go back out if it was just me, but he told me what to do, what to drink and what to eat, so I was good to go. I’m thankful for them and to be at AlphaMx
Longname – I mean yeah it certainly doesn’t sound like it was a personal thing and hopefully, they understand that.
Ward – Yeah I hope they didn’t take it personally I didn’t get a chance to talk to them much before this weekend so I do hope they understand. Change is sometimes needed.
Longname – So what was the final decision like to race CMRC Nationals instead of going to Loretta Lynn’s? They made that kind of dumb rule where you can’t ride both.
Ward – My dad and I were talking about it in January when we were down south and saying what are we training for, are we training for Loretta’s or are we going to go for the Nationals? It might have actually been near the end of last year we were saying that I’m kind of over the amateur scene; I’m still in it, but just kind of getting over it. So we just decided would be better for me to do the Pro stuff. I’ve been to Loretta’s before, I’ve done it, and I’ve dealt with it. I just don’t like how you show up to Loretta’s, and no offense to them, but it’s not what you would expect, it’s not a national caliber track. I feel like I put more pressure on myself in that one week, whereas here I have five rounds to redeem myself if something goes wrong, and no pressure this year. For example this weekend I wasn’t even sure if I was going to qualify, I just went out. I actually couldn’t put a good lap down; I was sitting in 20th for a while. I just couldn’t get a good lap. I was kind of waiting for a fast guy to come and just try to hook in behind them. But luckily I finally put one good lap down, then right after that I seen the checkered flag and I was like well good thing I put that fast lap down now. So that’s mostly why I want to race pro, to learn and to prove that I can ride with these guys. The fact that I can ride amateur day and pro day, you don’t get a have that anywhere else, so that’s nice. I figured that it would be the best choice and I’m really happy that we did that. I know some people were second-guessing it, they were being supportive, but still, I know they were second-guessing it. So I was so happy to go out there and show my performance and ride like myself. I guess we didn’t get the finish that I wanted. But I definitely show some speed and that I deserve to be out there.
Longname – So talking about this weekend a lot of people said that the track was super brutal, even more than in the past. What did you think?
Ward – Yeah it was gnarly. It sucked; they didn’t groom two sections from last year. They added these rollers coming into them and they are in a turn. I rode there the week before and I was hitting that section and it was really rough. Just the way they added the rollers, I personally didn’t like it. I think it made it a lot harder trying to turn while going through the rollers. The track was crazy. I liked it corner wise compared to other amateur days because there were actual lines that stayed. But about 15 minutes into the race I really didn’t like the track. It makes you look more forward to this weekend, not saying this weekend’s going to be easy but in comparison to how the track was that Gopher, it’s going to feel a bit easier. Maybe I’ll be able to last the whole 25 minutes in the first moto.
Longname – What would you say you’ve learned most from this race?
Ward – I learned a lot. Just in the starting of the day in the first practice, I know it might be different at other races I haven’t been to before, but in the first practice at Gophers I already knew the track. I learned that I don’t need to go out there in first practice and kill it. I got to go in it and warm up and save my energy, it’s a long day. They are definitely not 5 lap motos like I have been doing in the amateurs. So I just need to go over there and first practice and save my energy. Same goes for time qualifying; I just need one good lap. I’m still learning stuff and I’m sure I’ll learn more this weekend too. Even when it comes to the moto’s, I know in the first moto when I saw that halfway bored if I would have chilled out, I might have lost a few spots but I would have been able to finish it instead of crashing out. I mean I had a big gap from 4th and 6th so I should have chilled out.
Longname – Well talking about your crash and Moto one did you see the video of it?
Ward – Yeah I actually watched it a lot to see what I did wrong. I watched it a lot on Monday… I just kind of lost my focus and I try to get out of the beaten path. Just this year was different, and the summer was going to be different, so I just felt like I needed to change things. I talked to Kyle Keast a lot in the spring. It’s just the way it worked out and I just ended up at AlphaMx.
Longname – Is everything okay with the body after that crash? Anything to worry about?
Ward – I’m still feeling it to be honest. But nothing to worry about. At first, I was worried about my hand, but no I’m fine. I’m just generally sore from the race, which I think everybody is. It’s Thursday now and I’m actually on my way to the track to see how I feel for this weekend. I’m going to do a few motos today to loosen up. Yesterday was actually the first day I did something, I went swimming and that helped a lot. I’m going to ride today but I’m not going to go there and kill it there’s no need to. I’m really excited for this weekend it’s a new track that no one’s been to. I saw some videos of the track and it seemed Supercrossie, which I’m a big fan of because I don’t really like hanging it out, I like technical stuff. I think it can play into my favor this weekend, but we never know until we get there, race day is whole different story.
Longname – How much of an advantage do you think it gives you racing amateur day?
Ward – It helps me learn the track, I mean it does give me an advantage that’s why we’re doing it. It’s just learning the track is one less thing I have to deal with on Sunday morning. And it helps with setting up my bike. That was a big thing just this past weekend is we played with my bike on amateur day and got it dialed in for race day. It just opens up my plate a little more for Sunday and not have to worry about as many things.
Longname – So what’s going to put a smile on your face at the end of the season? Finishing in the top 10s, top 5s, a podium each race?
Ward – I mean I just want to keep doing what I’m doing and learn. If I end this season knowing that I learned a lot and I’m so healthy, I’ll be happy. And If I get top fives, that’s just a bonus. I surprised myself when I ran fifth that whole moto. I’m not going to expect that for myself and be pissed off if I don’t do it again. I just want to be healthy. You see a lot of amateurs, especially in the states, when they go pro they struggled to stay healthy their first season, so that’s my main thing right now. I mean I got lucky not getting injured this past weekend. So I just want to stay healthy and have some fun. I can’t complain really, I’m racing my dirt bike and racing pro. It kind of kicked in on Sunday and I was like “man I grew up coming here to Gopher Dunes every year to watch these guys race and now I’m out there with them”. I know I can be a top 10 rider and I’m definitely my biggest competitor. Especially in amateur races, I get so mad at myself a lot. I’m trying not putting any pressure on myself, which actually helped me a lot of Gopher Dunes I think. For once finally, I told myself “it doesn’t matter how I do, just have fun”. I’m usually not like that, I normally like I got to win. Yeah, so I just want to have fun this year, like I said before you only turn pro once. I’m pumped just to be racing every weekend and being part of a real series which I’ve never really been part of before. It was more like go to this race; go to this big race here and there. But now it’s like I got next weekend the rebound and the weekend after that to improve. So it’s pretty cool and I’m excited.
Longname – So do you find there is a bit of a target on you with the intermediate plates for the pros to be more aggressive with you and kind of welcome you to the pro class?
Ward – It seems like they’re all pretty good with it except for in practice. I got pushed off the track by Dylan Wright. I don’t know if that was because of the yellow plates or what it was. I mean I know he was going for a fast lap and I might have been in his way a bit, so he kind of let me know by putting me off the track (laughs). But besides that everyone was pretty good. I know a few people were looking at me like why I was in the practice with yellow plates but I’m happy I prove those guys wrong.
Longname – Obviously some of the pros are not going to be to pump that an intermediate is beating them, but hey you showed that you belong there with them.
Ward – I feel like it’s going to be the same in a few years. I’m going to be the same way because there’s a lot of fast kids coming up and I’m just going to be like this kid got to get out of here (laughs). It’s going to be the same thing I’m going to be in their shoes in a few years watching the fast amateurs coming up, and I’m probably not going to like it.
Longname – So I am going to leave off with asking you if you have any good classic goon stories?
Ward – (laughs) I don’t really have any stories but I definitely see it all the time. But I don’t know, I see it a lot especially where I’m from when you go to like the local track. It’s pretty much a shit show (laughs). I almost feel like I belong in that category because last weekend I looped out on the first lap.