The year was 2006, I was working closely with KTM team manager Kurt Nichol and helping the amateur KTM motocross team that consisted of Blake & Tyler Wharton, Jason Anderson, Michael Hall, Derek Rogers, Max Anastie, Jacob Hayes and many others. I was constantly quantifying training data, performing VO2 max tests, and helping the kids training programs.
(A funny aside is when I took the KTM amateur team out for bike ride, Kurt told them that “if you don’t beat the doc on the bike ride, you will lose your ride!” I wondered why the kids were trying so hard on the ride that day, and I remember dropping everyone one of them on the final climb. Kurt in his British sense of humor neglected to tell them that I was a category 1 cyclist.)
I clearly remember getting the call from Kurt. He explained that he had a young professional rider needing a medical evaluation. He had recently moved up from the amateur ranks and was now racing Pro and his name was Zach Osborne. Kurt basically tasked me to see if he was fit enough for professional motocross. At first I thought this kind of odd. Kurt further explained that he had some up and down results. One stand out example was that he had nearly won the 2006 Budd’s Creek AMA national, leading by a huge margin, and then losing due to not having the stamina to finish the
I didn’t think much more of it at the time other than I was going to do the job KTM asked me to do. The next thing I know I get a call from Zach’s mom, Kim Osborne. She was very nice and real straightforward. She explained that KTM wanted them to come to Las Vegas and have testing done. I first met Zach at the cardiologist’s office where we performed a proper medical cardiac stress test along with an electrocardiogram, and several blood tests. I recall at the time that Zach was a little overweight for a professional motocross athlete. His only complaint to me was that he didn’t have the energy after 20 minutes.
Zach’s problem was not uncommon in motocross. Riders often complain of weakness and fatigue and often for no apparent reason. Most don’t realize that motocross is a very high intensity sport. Heart rates are near max just on the starting line! Viral infections such as mononucleosis and Epstein Barr virus infections are common and unexpectedly rob the rider of their energy and sometimes their careers.
When all the tests came back, I was not surprised that he could not hold a high intensity for any length of time on the cardiac stress test. And it was evident that Zach and his family had been doing just what they were told to do all these years. “As long as” he was getting the racing results everything was good. Basically, Zach had Epstein Barr virus overload and was pretty much pre-diabetic, and overweight, which is very common in motocross athletes nowadays.
It was there our journey started together. After going through the results and recommendations with Zach and his mom, I figured that I would never see them again. So I was surprised when Zach asked me to be his trainer and performance engineer / nutritionist. I liked that Zach was from the same area where my family originated in Tennessee / Virginia. I agreed to help him with his training and nutrition but told him the road is long and it would not be easy.
The first thing I had Zach do was come to a bicycle race with me in Utah. It was called the High Uinta’s stage race. I remember he rode it with his late friend Horst from Austria. The race that consisted of 3 stages: a time trial, an 80-mile road race that consisted of over 10,000 feet of climbing at altitude, and then the next day was a criterium (small circuit race). I really thought this would break Zach, but he finished. It was after this that I knew Zach was willing to endure anything to get where he needed to go, no matter how long the road. We incorporated a lot of bicycle training into Zach’s training, since he was really into cycling.
I remember the next year Zach raced for the Boost Yamaha team after he and KTM ended their deal. This was a stressful time, as Zach had been sponsored by KTM since he was 12 years old. Zach had some up-and-down results on the Yamaha team, and they never gave him any real guidance. I traveled with Zach to many Supercross and national races, trying to support him at each one. Just as Zach seemed to be improving, something would happen and he would get injured. I remember one year at Glen Helen, he was running in the top 10 in the 250 class and he fell on a simple left-hander and broke his wrist. His season was pretty much done after that as well as the chance of him getting another ride in the US.
Going to Europe …