It takes a lot to be a competitive motocross racer. A high level of physical conditioning is absolutely necessary, as is the skill to toss a 200-plus-pound machine through chopped-up turns and over jumps smoothly, consistently and with speed. Riders also need to effectively rebound after injuries, which are inevitable and often quite severe. The rarefied determination necessary to entertain serious thought of a pro career culls the field to just a handful of riders each year, and those that can have without question earned the distinction of “elite athlete.” Amateur motocrosser Stone Edler is one of these riders.
As with any sport, physical skill and conditioning are only part of the puzzle. Mental toughness and focus, support from family, colleagues or sponsors, sufficient means to train and practice – these elements are all required to bolster a budding motocross racer’s rise up the amateur ranks to have a shot at the pros. Edler, now 18, has been at it for more than 10 years and in that time has shown extraordinary levels of physical and mental resolve in pursuit of his dream.
At seven years old, Edler sustained a compound fracture of the femur. Following his recovery Edler continued to train and at age 10 got a ride with Kawasaki’s Team Green after scoring a 10th overall result at Loretta Lynn’s. The following year, 2007, saw the start of a six-year span of injuries which included three broken collarbones, a broken leg, three broken lower arms, three crushed vertebrae, three teeth knocked out and a broken thumb.
It wasn’t all bad news during those years as Edler notched amateur titles in Ponca, Daytona and two in Vegas. The frequency of injury coupled with a declining economy proved too perfect a storm and Edler eventually lost his Team Green backing. Those set-backs paled in comparison to the news received in 2012 when the then 16-year-old rider was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
X-rays revealing Edler's Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
Edler had crashed in training for Loretta’s and was suffering from internal bleeding and damage to the floor of his eye socket when doctors discovered his condition. He was taken in for an MRI and it revealed that Edler had an 11.5-centimeter tumor taking over his right lung and pressing against his windpipe. Edler faced it as he had all his previous injuries though, as just one more obstacle to overcome in order to get back on the bike.
“It was a bit of a shock at first,” explains Edler, “but then we just tried to get through it and get back to riding.”
Edler’s father Lance elaborated on what it was like for the family after doctors made the diagnosis.
“Receiving the news was devastating. We’ve never had any family members with cancer so we didn’t know what to do. The one good thing was that doctors reassured us that things were on the better side of what they could have been.
“A lot of what helped us all get through it was that Stone was just so positive throughout the whole thing. I never once saw him shed a tear. He never questioned it, he just told us he’s got to do what he’s got to do to get back on the bike. It didn’t matter to him. And I told him that that helps me a lot, but I mean if you’ve got to break down, break down, it’s totally normal, but he never did to me.”
Edler maintained that outlook throughout treatment, which lasted for nearly a year. When signs of a positive end to the battle began to emerge, Edler eased his way back onto the bike.
“We’ve got a little area that’s flat, no jumps or anything like that, and Stone would just take the bike out to go ride sometimes,” said Lance. “He stayed off the bike when he was supposed to. No motocross for sure, but that’s all he knows and all he wanted to know.”
When doctors finally released Edler to start training again, he immediately hit the gym. As soon his condition was deemed to be in remission and he was okayed to start riding full-time, he packed up his bags and headed to the Millsaps Training Facility (MTF) in Georgia.
Edler celebrates a number one finish at Loretta Lynn's in the College
B/C (16-24) class in 2014.
“MTF played a key part in getting him back to health from his cancer and everything else, he couldn’t just go back into a full-blown workout so they eased him back in and really helped out a lot with that,” explained Lance.
The training is rigorous at MTF, with full time riders often living out of a motorhome on site and dedicating their full attention to conditioning and on-bike skills improvement.
“It’s pretty much a full-blown job,” said Edler. “We usually wake up pretty early and then we’re into the gym to warm up and stretch and then we usually ride for four to five hours each day and then back in the gym to work out and stretch and stuff like that. That’s Monday through Thursday and then Friday we usually have a big workout and we get the weekends off. So it’s pretty much like having a full-time job. Plus, moving there you leave behind your mom cutting your waffles and doing your laundry and stuff like that, I had to start doing all that too so it was a big change.”
The dedication paid-off in 2014 as Edler made it to Loretta’s and then took the title in the College B/C (16-24) class. The support of his family, of MTF, and long-time sponsors that stuck with him throughout his injuries and cancer treatment like Bell Helmets
and Smith Optics, all made it possible for Edler to achieve the top-step. When asked what it felt like to take the Number 1 plate, Edler says “it felt like a dream come true.”
Currently the future is coming one race at a time for Edler and his family. Up until recently, Edler has done the majority of the wrenching on his bikes, but his father has now hired a mechanic to help ease the workload. Edler is headed out to California with Bell to get a head scan for a custom-fit helmet and then he’s off to the Baja Brawl. Training will continue at MTF after that, to prepare for the Mini O’s in November.
“Motocross doesn’t mean anything to me, it means everything to him,” said Lance. “I just want the best for him and want him to live out his dreams. I do what I’ve got to do to keep him going and he does what he’s got to do to keep on going. The win at Loretta’s is an awesome feat, considering where we were at a few years ago with cancer and everything, to come back and pull it off and not to mention that we raced a 250 against 450s in that class, it just showed me and everyone else just how bad he wants it.”
Bad enough to put the beat-down on cancer in the pursuit of his dreams.