Monster Energy Kawasaki’s newest off-road team member Taylor “The Threat” Robert comes to the team with an impressive resume that includes a WORCS Pro 2 championship and two Pro wins. After sitting out most of the 2010 season with a torn ACL, Robert returns with a hunger to add more wins to his resume. We caught up with him at the first WORCS race of the 2011 season in Taft, Calif.
Monster Energy Kawasaki: So how long have you been riding?
I’ve been riding since I was 4 years old, and I actually competed in my first race at 4 years old too. I have been riding pretty much most of my life, about 16 years now. Growing up riding bikes I always thought it would be cool to be a professional rider. I actually started racing competitively when I was 10 years old. I started competing in the amateur nationals, went from there to Team Green, and then started on the WORCS series. I’ve always looked up to off-road riders like Destry Abbott and my trainer Steve Hatch. Now I’m with riding for Monster Energy Kawasaki and making my living riding motorcycles, it’s pretty awesome.
MEK: Do you think growing up in Arizona has helped your career?
Definitely, where I live in Arizona is really cool. I can ride right from my garage into two million acres of BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land packed with trails and secret trails. I know a bunch of secret quarter tracks. A lot of the tracks are hidden so well even most of my buddies who grew up there can’t find them. Also, across the street directly in front of my house is a sweet mountain bike track. I think that having access to those places has really contributed a lot to my success as a professional rider. I spent a lot of time riding off-road more than anything else just because it was so easy to access from my house. I don’t have to go too far to go train, its all literally right in my back yard.
MEK: It takes serious commitment to compete in both the WORCS and EnduroCross in the same season. What have you sacrificed to get this far? Has your family made any sacrifices?
I’ve actually sacrificed quite a bit to get to the level am at. Growing up working towards a professional career, from a young age you sacrifice hanging out with your friends, being a kid, or getting to do whatever you want. You really have to commit a lot of time to training. Being a professional athlete is a pretty serious job, you really have to dedicate your life to racing. You can’t just go out and have reckless fun because if you get hurt if affects your job, that’s always in the back of your mind. My family has also sacrificed a lot. They have always supported me by taking me to races, buying me bikes, safety equipment, and stuff like that. My mom and dad have been huge supporters and the key to my success. I couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without them.
MEK: So what is it like being part of the 2011 Monster Energy Kawasaki off-road racing team? Does it add any additional pressure to you as a racer?
It feels pretty amazing really. This has always been my dream to be part of the factory team. It doesn’t really add too much pressure to me as a racer. In the past I have always put pressure on myself to win anyway, I always want to win, that’s the point of racing you know. This is such a great opportunity and I am really excited to part of the team this year.
MEK: Destry Abbott has been with Kawasaki for 14 years. Has working with him helped you out with your career?
I’ve actually known Destry since I was 8 years old. We rode together on Team Green and I’ve always looked up to him. Since we both live in Arizona we ride together a lot, especially more recently. He has helped me in so many different ways. From career decisions, training, riding techniques, and competing. He is always there to help out and you couldn’t ask a better guy really.
MEK: Coming into this season you’ve already seen success in the WORCS series. You won a 2008 Pro 2 championship and really came out swinging in 2010 by winning the season opener in your home state of Arizona, despite tearing your ACL during the race. How did tearing your ACL and having down-time effect your outlook on racing?
Getting injured actually made me hungrier to come back and win. The entire time I sat out the only thing I could think of was coming back. Since the first race was in my hometown I wanted to come back to the WORCS series and prove that I could win on other tracks too, not just my hometown. When I came back I raced at Glen Helen and got the holeshot and was leading but my bike broke. I felt like I really had it in me to win more last year, I just ran into some bad luck. Now we’re in a new year, and I feel healthy, I am extra motivated and ready to show the team I can be a championship contender.
MEK: What do you think about the new WORCS format?
I think the new format plays to my advantage because I am more of a sprinter. I have always been pretty good at starts and I don’t really get arm pump. I was good at charging hard for two hours, but I feel I will be even better at charging hard for one hour. I think the key to my success will be just riding smooth and consistent. This season’s new format is going to make everyone have to race even faster than before.
MEK: What are your goals for 2011?
My primary goal is to win the WORCS championship. I know there are some good riders out there, but I’m confident I can do it. In EnduroCross I want to use this year as a building year. Justin Soule did amazing last year. Being just his first year, he was a serious podium contender. I am trying to learn from Justin, and want to be able to finish consistently on the podium.
MEK: Do you have any pre-race rituals?
I like to get pumped up listening to heavy metal music before the race. I try to visualize the start or difficult sections of track. Especially now with the new format the start is really important.
MEK: So what do you do for fun during the off-season?
Since my time off is usually during the winter, around the months of December and January, I like to go snowboarding. It’s like another form of cross-training. This winter I went to Brian Head, Utah and Wolf Creek, Colo. for a week and just went out and had fun. I lucked out and found a little fresh powder in some cool tree runs too. There weren’t too many people at Wolf Creek, so we never had to wait in lift lines. It’s one of my favorite places to go. I want to hit up Salt Lake City, Utah because I’ve heard the powder there is the best. I like doing most outdoor sports with my friends. During the race season I like to relax and hang out with my friends at home. I also like to go to the lake and do summer activities like wakeboarding and other sports besides racing. Since I have to think about racing so much, I like to kind of get away every now and then so I don’t get burned out.
MEK: Which race are you looking forward to the most this season?
Well first of all, the race in Argentina. I’ve never been to South America so that will be a pretty cool experience. It’s a beach race and sand is my specialty. I’m also really looking forward to racing the WORCS series in Lake Havasu, Ariz.
MEK: What’s your favorite music?
Well my top three heavy metal bands before the race are Atreyu, Avenged Sevenfold, and Rise Against. After the race or just chilling out I like the Dirty Heads and Natural Incense, and other reggae bands. Right before I get to the line I like to listen to one chill song to just kind of relax my mind and chill out right before the start.
MEK: If you couldn’t be a professional motorcycle rider what would be your dream job?
If I couldn’t race motorcycles then I would probably have to do some other outdoor action sport. I love to compete so I would have to be an athlete in mountain biking, snowboarding, or wakeboarding. Any of the outdoor extreme sports would be really cool. Honestly, this is the greatest job in the world. I want to thank Monster Energy Kawasaki for giving me the opportunity this year.