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Anaheim I: Powersport Honda preview

GEICO Powersports Honda team to lean on championship-caliber leadership in 2010 ANAHEIM, Calif. (Jan. 6) -- When the 2010 Supercross season begins this Saturday at Angel Stadium in Southern California the already formidable GEICO Powersports...

GEICO Powersports Honda team to lean on championship-caliber leadership in 2010

ANAHEIM, Calif. (Jan. 6) -- When the 2010 Supercross season begins this Saturday at Angel Stadium in Southern California the already formidable GEICO Powersports Honda race team will be packing even more experience in its corner as multi-time champion and Supercross legend Mike LaRocco begins his career as team manager.

Coaxed out of a self-imposed two-and-a-half year exile from the sport after his retirement in 2006, LaRocco will helm a star-studded team led by veteran title contenders Kevin Windham and Trey Canard as well as rising stars Blake Wharton, Justin Barcia, Brett Metcalfe, and Vicki Golden.

"I kind of hid out for a few years, got away from traveling every weekend, and spent some time with my family," LaRocco said. "It really allowed me to recharge. Eventually I reached a point where I was cool with not competing any more but at the same time I started missing the sport. It's been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

"Last year when the tour transitioned to the summer schedule Rick Zielfelder called and asked if I could come out and help his team find some consistency. They were showing well at times but their performance was a little up and down. I came out to watch what they were doing and offer some insight. It just kind of grew from there."

When the '09 season ended, Zielfelder and co-team owner Jeff Majkrzak offered LaRocco the position of team manager and it didn't take him long to embrace the role.

"I look at this team and I know they can win," LaRocco said. "All the pieces are here, especially with GEICO Powersports onboard, they just need to be put together properly.

"I feel like my biggest strength is that I can bring a rider's perspective to the job. I know what it takes to be successful. I know how riders think and what they need to be at their best. My job now is to put a system in place to deliver that for them."

One of the first things LaRocco did was gather his riders together and let them know they would be held accountable for their individual career paths within the structure of the GEICO Powersports Honda team.

"I implemented a pretty strict training program to make sure they were fit," LaRocco said. "I forced them to analyze their performances on the racetrack and taught them how to find ways to make themselves better and more efficient. We held some training camps and I was pretty hard on them. It was definitely a love/hate relationship early on but I think they realized pretty quick that it was going to make them better."

With the veteran leadership of Windham and Canard behind him, LaRocco concentrated his efforts on the younger riders.

"Kevin and Trey are professionals in every sense," LaRocco said. "They know what it takes to succeed at this level. The younger kids -- and they are kids, literally 16, 17, 18 years old, teenagers -- they don't know the path. They get to this level and they think they've made it. What they don't get is that the journey has just begun.

"You put these kids in a race and for the first time in their lives they aren't the quickest and fastest person on the track. It can crush them emotionally if they don't know how to deal with it. I try to turn each race into a learning experience and let them know they should treat it like they're going to school each time they're on their bikes.

"Fortunately, we've got a great group of riders here. I don't have time for rock stars and punks that think they know everything. Those guys never hang around for very long any way. I want professional riders and we've got them here."

This weekend in Anaheim, Windham will compete in the 450cc class, while Canard and Wharton will vie for the 250cc crown. The others will join the team later.

"Kevin and Trey will be contenders at every race and we expect them to run for the championship," LaRocco said. "We moved Blake to the west coast when Brett Metcalfe hurt his ankle during preseason testing. He was going to start when we got to the east coast but we needed to bring him out here a few weeks early and turn him loose. He had a very promising rookie season and we're expecting lots of growth in his sophomore campaign.

"We are trying a different approach with the setups on the bikes. We wanted them to be more versatile so we wouldn't be affected as much when the conditions deteriorate. When tracks are fresh and perfect you feel like you can do anything, and you usually can. The trick is to stay out front when they start to go away. The new setup we're trying should be much ore forgiving and allow our riders to get after it.

"We're all very excited about the season. I'm anxious to see how the guys do at this race and I'm ready to settle into my new job and make us all better. It should be a great year."

-source: powersports honda

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About this article
Series AMA
Drivers Kevin Windham , Justin Barcia , Trey Canard , Mike LaRocco