Mike LaRocco on LaRocco's Leap, Commitment at an Elite Level and the 2021 Pro Motocross Season


Monday 11th October, 2021

JC: Mike, LaRocco's Leap has been a feature of the National Pro Tour for over 30 years now, what in your opinion, makes the jump so unique?

ML: Well, for me it's unique because it's titled after me. You know the jump came about after Tim Ritchie got in touch about a new jump at RedBud, he came out to my track, I had a big jump there and Tim had decided he wanted a big jump at RedBud. So, he whipped it together and had me come out and try it. So it's kinda unique in the sense because I had something to do with the making of it, and it's named after me.

JC: We know, as you say, that LaRocco's Leap was a project that you and Tim Ritchie put together based your jump at home which you called 'Kong.' Does Kong still exist?

ML: I recently sold that property, so it is there in some form, probably under some weeds! So, yeah it's there, but not in use I'd say.

JC: There's that infamous video on YouTube of you 'uncorking' the Leap on a 125 as you line up a move on Ezra Lusk. Talk us through the technique of hitting LaRocco's Leap on a 125. There was a longer run up to the Leap back then but was techniques like seat bounce a factor, or using your forward momentum to further propel the bikes momentum. Or was there just not much thinking about it, just keeping it pinned and launching it?

ML: It's a little more simple for sure. I had the luxury when we were building it of no fences, so when I was checking it out, I remember just going for it and I was counting gears, it was 5th gear on a 125, pretty much if the rpm stayed high enough to pull it, I'd send it. If it bogged down, I would chop out of it. So I kinda new on race day if I could get that thing to pull 5th gear, I was just gonna send it, and (laughs) that's kinda how it went. I remember for the first time in a race just going up to it and kinda deciding that it sounded like a good enough rpm and then just yank (laughs). And that was it, that was the technique! 

 JC: Awesome. Were there many guys hitting the Leap when it first came to RedBud?

ML: I think you would have seen the top five 250 guys doing it and myself. As time went on and the jump sort of, you know, once everyone knows you can do it, it starts to get a little bit more doable. So it started off being just a few that could do it, and then it grew over the years. And Tim did change the track almost every year, so there was always a question going into the first practice sessions as to how it would go. It was always very..... (pause) 'iffy' if you could do it on anything but a 250, and especially when the 450s came out, it was the same question for the 250s. And even to this day, they're (the 250s) still around that borderline. I think Tim does try to reserve it, to keep it kind of elite, and some years it's easier than others.

JC: Did it ever go wrong for you, obviously you would have seen it go wrong for plenty of other riders over the years.

ML: Well, yeah I definitely saw it go wrong for people. I do remember one time in practice that I caught a flat tire at the bottom, and I was already committed and I kinda felt that drifting up the jump, so I came up short and with a flat tire it just disintegrated my rear wheel and luckily it just dropped and I rode out of it. But it's not so much a timing thing if it goes wrong, it's pretty much the guys that have the guts to try it, or are willing to just go for it - there's a good chance that if they have enough speed, they'll make it. It's the ones that don't have that speed and they bounce off that face.....that's where it gets really ugly, but luckily I didn't have any of these issues.

JC: Sounds like a good idea for a design on a shirt (laughs). LaRocco's Leap has just launched as a clothing label, and we've coined the line 'Shift Up. Throttle Open. Air It Out.' It's a line that runs true for the Leap. You have to be committed and have the speed. It can also give meaning to how we approach life's obstacles. Do you still find yourself tackling challenges outside of racing with the same approach, the same commitment you had whilst racing?

ML: Yeah I do, and I did register with your line when you showed me all that stuff, so I think for me it is one of those things where, whether I was born with it or got conditioned from racing, that I think that way. I do think that if you're gonna do something, you gotta take chances, and you gotta give it everything you have, and so I think the tag line is a really good fit.

JC: Yeah, cool. You were known as a rider that gave 110% commitment from start to finish. How much of that commitment comes from physical strength and technique over the mental strength to push at such a high level from flag to flag?

ML: If I reflect on it, I can see that a lot of my success came because I was able to get more later, and I believe that was possible because of the work I put in during the week. But all that was driven by having discipline and drive, and staying motivated and not giving up. Those things make people stand out  in anything. I'm not sure where it came from, but I'm glad I have it.

JC: After many years of racing and another 7 years at Geico Honda you've started a rider training and coaching school - fivemoto. I see that you've been working with some great young talent, kids like Keegan Rowley and Jayden Clough. What do you see are the three main attributes of young riders getting up there in amateurs and wanting to turn pro as well?

ML: It's tough, you know, yeah I have a website based training program. I think the fact that they have made an inner choice to seek it on their own. Not everyone is handed an opportunity to have a hands on coach or a former pro or whatever, and I think the thing is is that when people seek to find answers, usually that's a really good sign, and that's the start of most success. Educating yourself, and trying to find whatever you can to make yourself better.

JC: Well said. I've got a couple of questions here on the Pro Motocross season that's just been. What were your thoughts on the season? Were you surprised to see Dylan Ferrandis take out the championship in his rookie year on a 450?

ML: Surprised yes. Probably more surprised on how, well I'm not going to say it's easy, it's never easy, but he got very consistent results, and I just, I guess, I probably expected more of a title challenge for him. Yeah, I mean he earned it, but like I said, I just thought it was gonna be more difficult for him.

JC: And the Lawrence brothers, Hunter and Jett, was it more of a surprise to see Jett leading the way over Hunter. I mean we know Hunter has been plagued with a few injuries, but they both had very good seasons.

ML: I don't know them very well to be able to judge, but from what I can see, they are both very talented riders. Jett seems very charismatic. He seems very much on the side where he's just growing into it, giving it everything he has, everything is working out, confidence is high, things are going his way. Hunter seems like he's had some rough goes, and that stuff weighs on you. I see why, both obviously had great years, but I would attribute it to experience but the heavy-loaded side of it.

JC: Also on the season, were there any young, up and coming riders that caught your eye this year?

ML: I have to be honest and say that I didn't follow it deep enough in the form of scouting talent. I thought Justin Cooper had a solid year. I expected that he would, but I can't say that I saw any major surprises.

JC: For sure. Last question Mike. The 2022 Supercross season kicks off in January, there's already been a few announcements of team changes. Will it be the same guys at the front again? What are your expectations for what Tomac can do at Star Racing this year?

ML: Tomac is an extremely talented rider. He needs to be mentally comfortable with whatever is going on around him. I believe that's why his injuries are very low, he's very calculated, and so if he's comfortable I would expect to see him upfront. I don't think you're gonna see any major surprises with team changes changing the outcome. You can tell the riders that are the most motivated. It might be different sometimes when you have success, it can be much harder. It was a good season this last year, and I think it's gonna be a good one again next year.

JC: Mike, thanks for your time.

ML: Yeah, no worries.