SUPERCROSS: Bar to Bar column 2003-02-19

Art Eckman's Bar to Bar How important can one lone victory be? It's pretty difficult to measure unless that one victory wins a championship or changes the momentum of a season. But I can't remember an opening season 125 supercross win ...

Art Eckman's Bar to Bar

How important can one lone victory be? It's pretty difficult to measure unless that one victory wins a championship or changes the momentum of a season. But I can't remember an opening season 125 supercross win that spread cheer quite so thoroughly as Brandon Jesseman's manifestation of brilliance in the 125 East curtain raiser.

Roger DeCoster's Sobe Suzuki Team has had so much bad luck over the last two years that to find him in the packed pits you didn't have to look for the yellow semi -- just peer to the heavens and find the dark cloud. This year's Suzuki 250 team disintegrated right before our eyes and we're not even to the half way point of their season.

First, the biggest disappointment came from the one who gave the team its highest expectations, Travis Pastrana. Suzuki's savior, the young man with a zeal for jumping canyons and back flips, crashed his way to a 19th and 12th place finish before injuring his shoulder in a swimming pool.

Then Sebastien Tortelli starts giving off hope dust with Suzuki's first hole shot and podium of the season, only to later crash so hard the impact breaks his knee brace. Need I repeat what his knee looked like? Finally Stephane Roncada is getting stronger from a virus when in Minneapolis he breaks a fib and tib (leg) and his ankle. He was operated on Monday.

Last Saturday night 20-year-old Brandon Jesseman, with one win, is helping to restore the pride and morale of an entire team. I turned around to ask DeCoster a question and here was the cool hand Luke of motocross, who hardly ever shows his emotions, already up on the podium congratulating his victorious rider. He later told me, " I look at this win hopefully as the beginning of a turn around for this entire team." Jesseman added, " Roger was so happy. I'm excited for the whole team. My mechanic, Jamie Coy and the guys back at the shop have put so much effort into these bikes. We've done so much testing. The hours they've spent and the disappointments they've work through."

Despite Jesseman's very first supercross win last year that ruined Chad Reed's chances at a perfect season, he calls this year's win the highlight of his career. He told me, "This one felt better. I rode well in practice, in qualifying, and in the main. It was proof my program is working. I've always improved as the season goes along but I felt so good. I wasn't nervous. I was calm and relaxed. Along with my physical conditioning I read every day, working mental exercises. It clears my mind and keeps me focused."

DeCoster first noticed a big difference in Brandon this last fall and winter. A quiet and shy youngster was becoming his own person. "You could tell at the end of last years supercross season and during the Nationals, then while testing." Roger said. "He caught my eye three or four years ago at High Point. He had so much speed in the corners in a wet race. Now he is more disciplined. He's a dedicated trainer and is learning about his body.

Brandon showed Roger and the entire sport last year his true grit in the last race of the motocross Nationals at Steel City. After a season that saw him stand on seven podiums including five-second place finishes he was feeling good at his home track. His practice times were better than the champion James Stewart's. Then, before the end of practice he caught a foot and heard a pop. He had completely torn the ACL (ligament) and the Meniscus (cartilage) was flipped under the kneecap. He was in so much pain he couldn't see for the tears. Unable to straighten it out he couldn't walk. Brandon had it taped tight and went out to the gate only to get a last place start in the opening moto.

Instead of quitting he gutted it out passing 10 riders for a 12th place finish. In the second moto he took a better start to a remarkable fourth place finish. Jesseman had edged Chad Reed out of second place in the final standings by one point riding on one leg.

Brandon Jesseman hails from 28 miles northwest of Pittsburgh P.A. His mom, Marcy, says, " He always acted older than his age. I never had to scold him. At four years old he said he wanted a bike, and I said, 'Oh Oh.' But we got him a JR50 and he started running around the yard chasing the dog."

When Brandon was six or seven he wanted competition. He entered a flat track race and showed up on a dirt bike with the wrong gearing and knobbies. Didn't matter much though, he won his very first race. He found the second race to be rather boring. That's when he picked up a flier he'd brought home from the track advertising motocross. He's been hooked ever since.

Brandon is working with the trainers and medical teams at the University of Pittsburgh system for some time now to solve another problem. He sweats too much. With the climate control and shorter distances in supercross he still has to drink from 28 to 30 oz's of liquid every hour before a race. Working cardiovascular at 80% he can sweat a gallon of liquid an hour.

In motocross he can lose 6% of his body weight in the first moto. Heat cramps--painful stomach muscle spasms caused by excessive body heat and lack of fluids can double him up into a painful ball. I've always felt it's too bad that the AMA doesn't allow IV's to be used if medically prescribed. Other professional sports use them to replenish liquids at half time. Why not the most grueling sport there is under the summer sun and sometimes record high humidity?

Brandon was back in the gym the Monday after the greatest feeling he's ever experienced. There's not much time to enjoy the fruits of victory in this sport. The fact that the winner of the first round of this series has won the championship 15 times in 18 years is insignificant. That's looking too far ahead for a team that's had so many disappointments.

About round two of the 125 East , Jesseman says he's going to have a target on his back. "At the first round (Minneapolis) everyone was careful. They were nervous. First race and all. Next time out they are going to be balls out. Ready. They're not going to give me an inch. I believe I've got more speed than I showed. It's up to me to keep improving. I usually get stronger as the season goes along."

Jesseman's win gave this writer the chance to know a super young man a little bit better. It also gives all of us a chance at seeing a great 125 East battle for the title.


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About this article
Series AMA , Other bike
Drivers Travis Pastrana , Sebastien Tortelli , Chad Reed , Stephane Roncada , James Stewart