After getting his feet wet in the GNCC series in the 2011 season with the JG Off-Road Honda team, Rory Mead has made his presence known in the XC1 Pro Class this season as a member of the WMR/KTM Team. With three podium finishes, including an overall win at the Mammoth GNCC, Mead currently sits in 4th in the XC1 Pro Class Points. Hoop caught up with Rory to talk about his season thus far, if he’s got his Visa issues sorted out, and how he’s feeling heading into Snowshoe.
It’s been a pretty crazy season for you so far, from a podium in the opening round in Florida to your first-ever GNCC win in Kentucky and then wondering if you’d even be able to get back into the country.
Everything has been going pretty good, better than I hoped for at the start of the year. I’m just super pumped that everything has gone awesome. With the win and then flying out of the country and back in and still being able to finish 7th and then getting the podium last race in West Virginia.
Is everything finally sorted out with your Visa?
I will have to leave to get my Visa—it’s a funny thing where you can only receive your Visa in your home country. It looks like I’ll have to fly home during the break and get my Visa and then come back. I’ve been accepted for it so there should be no dramas in getting it, they should just hand it over, so I’ll definitely be coming back. It works out good with going home, I get to see the family and have a bit of a break and get all refreshed for the last four rounds.
At the beginning of the season you came out in Florida and ran with the lead pack of Whibley and Mullins for a good portion of the race before ultimately finishing 3rd which definitely surprised a lot of people since you have this reputation of being a rider that excels in the gnarlier, more technical races. Did you surprise even yourself at that one or are you comfortable riding in the sand?
It did surprise me. I sort of went into the race thinking “top-ten” and I’d be happy. I think with Florida as well it’s a real fitness thing because the track is so rough. I was confident that I had put in a lot of hard work over the Summer back home. I just felt confident that I was fit enough and I just pushed hard all day. Back home we have a few sand races, nothing as fast as the River Ranch GNCC. I’m not sure how much sand riding these guys get in over here so I guess it’s a bit of a level playing field in a way.
After Florida you had some rough races there in Georgia and North Carolina. I know you switched from the 350 to the 300 2-stroke in that time as well. What was the deal with those two races?
With Georgia, I think I was still pretty worn out from Florida. I felt like I rode good that day I was just a little off the pace. When you’re tired you don’t have that aggression you really need to be up front but I was pleased with how it went. Yeah, at North Carolina I switched to the 2-stroke and we only got the bike that week and we didn’t do much testing on it. It ended up using more gas than we thought and we ran out on the 3rd lap. I was pretty bummed about that, it was a pretty big dent in the points. But we’ve sort of rebounded from that pretty good and I’ve forgotten about it.
The win at the Mammoth definitely did help with the points situation! You looked really good at that track, was it just a matter of getting the 2-stroke dialed and riding it on a track that suited you?
I don’t mind the technical stuff as much I guess, with my trials background. I don’t really like it any more–I enjoy all the tracks–but I guess I do better when it gets a little rockier. We had a good setup with the 2-stroke at that round as well. The day just couldn’t have gone any better. No one really knew what to expect with it being a new track. I guess that’s another one where it kind of levels it out—people don’t know the track and people don’t know what setups to run so everyone is in the same boat and that worked to my advantage a little bit.
The next race in Indiana was the round where you had to fly out of the country and didn’t get back until the night before. You had to have been a bit fatigued and jetlagged after all that traveling.
Yeah, I think I spoke to you guys [for RacerTV] and I told you I wasn’t feeling too bad. My body felt good I was just feeling a little slow. Off the start I felt pretty good and I moved through the pack pretty quick and I think I was up to about 3rd there on the first lap. After about one and a half laps my body just crashed and I had a pace that was basically just like trail riding around to make the finish. I came into the pit stop and I was certain I wouldn’t be able to finish, I was just so tired but I just pushed on and I really dragged ass at the end of the race but I was just glad I finished.
In West Virginia you jumped out to an early lead and pulled a massive 30-second gap on everyone just a few miles into the race.
Yeah, the start of it went really good. I picked the wrong setup with the bike for that race. I sort of ran a similar setup to what we ran in Kentucky but in Kentucky it was really dry and in West Virginia the rocks were really slippery and I just found it really hard to ride. I struggled big time and crashed a few times and broke my throttle tube. It was a tough day and I was glad I finished where I did because halfway through I was sure I wouldn’t be up there.
It’s funny you say that your setup wasn’t right because it looked in the beginning like you had it in the bag.
Yeah, I think I can find the pace early in the rocks–with the trials skills I think you can read the terrain really quickly. I’m sure the other guys were just like picking their lines and going a little slower and then on the 2nd lap they picked up the pace and caught me up pretty quick.
Last year at Snowshoe it was your first really good finish at a GNCC, are you feeling confident going into that event?
At the start of the year I was thinking if I’m going to get my best result it’s definitely going to be at Snowshoe. I have been preparing for this race for a while, just thinking about it and thinking about the setup and the fitness for it and things like that. I’m sure I’m going to do well there but I’m not going to say I’m gonna win it because everyone is riding so good. Whibley is going good in that technical stuff at the moment and even Kailub is going good, so I hope to do well in it but it’s going to be tough to win it.
Looking at the overall points it looks like you’ll be on the first row this year, does that change up your strategy any since you won’t have the adjusted time on your side?
Definitely last year starting on that 5th row was an advantage since you get to go hard and catch up and then you’re automatically in the lead. I don’t think it’s going to be a huge deal because the guys that will be running up front at the end of the race are the guys that will be starting on the same row as me. So I think [if I] just don’t do anything crazy and stay with them on the first few laps and then try and find the quicker pace near the end.
You’ve talked about your trials background a little bit, but elaborate on that for us. How hardcore of a trials guy were you?
I did about seven years of trials but I wasn’t as good as people think. People say, “Oh, he was a trials rider.” and think I was like really, really good at it and I did it overseas professionally and stuff. I just did it as a kid and I think it gave me a good base since I started learning from trials. It’s a hard one to say…
Okay, so it’s not like you were Geoff Aaron.
No, no. I did it for a long time and I did some competitions in Australia and stuff like that.
This will settle it once and for all, I think this what determines if you were a real hardcore trials guy or not… Did you wear one of those spandex suits?
I guess I was sort of serious. But, no, I wasn’t game enough to wear that. I was more casual about it. I’m sure it helps but I don’t believe in that sort of stuff!
I think we can end it on that note! Here’s the traditional end-of-interview question, who would you like to thank?
WMR/KTM, I owe them a big thanks. They gave me an opportunity at the start of the year when no one else did and I’m just pleased they had faith in me and gave me a ride and have supported me the whole way through.