Updated: May 2, 2018
Today we sit down with Connor Mullowney and talk about his transition to earning his Pro Card. At 19 years old, he is really ripping on the ol' trusty 2 stroke! He even gives a few pointers for us Vet guys that just want to get a little faster on the bike too!
Last year was your first-year riding A class. What type of learning curve was there to compete at that level?
The biggest learning curve in the transition from the B to A class would definitely be the intensity and length of the races. In the A class nobody is slow. Everyone is decent at starts and has much better race craft than many B riders. A riders choose lines wisely and have a strategy for every section of the track. The Pro-Am races that I competed at were certainly much longer than any other B races, as well. Learning to adjust for the races that were 10 laps as opposed to 5 was something I really struggled with at the start. I never thought the length would be much of an issue because of the long practice sessions I had already been used to. Since moving to A, I’ve learned 10 laps in a race environment is something far more difficult because you are full intensity for the entire duration.
You have been quite successful racing at Red Bud. Is that your favorite track to race? What makes it so great?
Red Bud is for sure my favorite track to race! I have had some of my better races at Red Bud in the B class, and I truly enjoy the atmosphere on the national weekend in July. What sets Red Bud apart from other facilities, in my opinion, is the conditions of the track. On race weekends, and even heavily populated practice days, riders should expect to see breaking bumps and ruts far bigger and deeper than most other tracks. This is an iconic feature to the facility in addition to the perfect loam that is found at the track, as well. It’s called America’s Motocross Track for a reason! (‘merica!!)
You raced a few Pro-Am races last year. What did you learn from lining up and racing against Chase Sexton?
After lining up against some top pros, such as Chase, it really does a lot for mental toughness, in my opinion. When the gate drops, many people are intimidated going into the first turn when there is a heavily stacked class. Getting more experience racing against these top guys has worked significantly towards building my confidence. As a result, I've learned to overcome the feeling of intimidation by setting aside the fear factor that is often times associated with racing guys that are super fast. Racing with someone of the caliber of Chase Sexton has also made me want to push harder. If I were lining up in the B class against riders that I knew I was capable of winning against, the drive for speed and improvement would not be the same.
You are half way to getting your pro card, correct? Is that your biggest goal for this upcoming season?
Yes. Getting my professional license is something I’ve had my eyes on for quite some time. Going into 2018, that is my main goal. At one time, it was something I never thought was possible, although by my last year in the B class, I knew I would be on the right path if I continued to put in all the work necessary.
With lofty goals, you have to have your mind and your body ready to compete at a high level, what have you been doing for off-season training? Are you working with a trainer or doing YouTube exercises?
This offseason has actually really been structured in a way to best suite my motocross season more so than ever before. I’ve amped up my workouts a lot by training with personal trainer, Kyle Zelazny, owner of Chicago Family Fit. During the winter months, we focused on getting my strength up with less cardio. Recently, Kyle has implemented more cardio circuit workouts to prepare myself for the long races, while still hitting strength exercises, as well. With the program now, we max it out two days a week, in addition to at least two days of some light exercises, cardio, and stretching. This leaves time for recovery, which is imperative while accounting for time on the bike. Structuring the different types of workouts at contrasting stages of the offseason, I believe, has prevented me from getting burned out thus far, and has ensured that I am in top condition for the season.
How has working with a trainer helped with your riding? Does lifting weights help you ride better?
Absolutely! Getting my strength up has been immediately noticeable on the bike for sure. Controlling the motorcycle is a huge part of motocross, and you certainly do not want it to go the other way around, where the bike is controlling you. That is a dangerous situation. Riders often think they should not lift weights for motocross because of arm pump, although they are wrong. With the correct exercises geared towards building strength for muscles needed on the bike, immediate benefits are visible. Besides strength, working with a trainer has helped most with my endurance on the track. This is due to the high intensity circuits that we do in repetition to simulate a long race with no rest, and/or having motos back to back.
One of many things that stands out to me is that you line up against the 450's on a YZ250 2 stroke. What's that like? Besides sounding way cooler, do you have any advantages on the 2 stroke?
When comparing the two bikes, the YZ250 is obviously at a power deficit compared to the 450. Although, I’ve grown to like the 2 stroke simply because it just keeps things fun! There's nothing like the sound of a 2 stroke, especially in the A class where the bike is far less popular nowadays than 450’s and 250f’s. The advantage of the YZ250 is obviously the cost factor, too. Compared to a 450 and a modded 250f, the two stroke costs significantly less, which has been a big part of that decision. My plan as of now is to get the rest of my Pro-Am points on the 2 stroke and then move on to a 450 later down the line.
It’s a no brainer that a good start is essential in a race. What's the trick to pulling holeshots against the 450's?
Technique. Everything from the way I launch the bike to the way my dad packs the gate. I credit myself obviously for the good starts but my dad is a big part of that, too. Every time on the starting gate, it seems I am always the last rider to pull into the starting pad. My dad usually takes full advantage of the time allowed to pack the launch area, which is usually why I am last to pull in the gate. He packs it uniquely by ramping the back wheel and makes adjustments based on track conditions. Body positioning, reaction time, throttle control, and managing traction after the launch are also major keys.
What are you thinking when you are in the lead? How do you keep your cool and stay focused through the checkered flag?
When I am leading the race, I try to control the situation as best as I can. There is a fine line between pushing yourself beyond your boundary, and not holding back because of a sizable gap. If I’m in a position where I have a large lead, I continue to push through my laps. Overthinking things and trying to be cautious usually results in mistakes, which is what I try to avoid.
If I am in a situation where I am pressured closely by the rider behind, it’s all about focus and smart riding. This includes guarding the inside lines and not making mistakes under pressure. Leading can be more difficult, in my opinion, than riding behind. Following a guy will tell you a lot about his line choices and where his strong and weak points are on the track. When you are leading, it is like walking with a blindfold. The course changes every lap and there is no rider in front of you to judge track conditions.
What are some of the biggest differences you see from the C riders and the A riders? What is the best piece of advice that you could give to help them ride better and safer?
The biggest difference that I notice between “C” riders and “A” riders is body position. Positioning on the bike is everything in motocross and has direct impact on how the bike reacts in different conditions. When observing a pro rider, you will notice the “attack position” that is constantly upheld while riding. This includes standing more often than sitting, having your elbows up, hips central, head forward, and toes tucked in. If I were to give one piece of advice, it would be to practice this kind of riding technique at a slow pace before trying to go fast. If the correct positioning is learned, initially, the speed and confidence will naturally follow.