The end of the 2019 season was quite successful for Star Racing Yamaha’s Matthew LeBlanc as he captured the fourth Loretta Lynn Amateur National Championship of his career, taking the win in the 450 B class. The Louisiana native was continuing to build confidence on his YZ250F, but an unfortunate string of injuries kept him out of Mini Os last year as well as the beginning of the 2019 season. LeBlanc has been focused on getting himself back to one hundred percent and has been taking his time getting into the swing of things as he’s now back on the bike training with his teammates. Other than that, he’s been filling the majority of his time with virtual bicycle races on Zwift and virtual supercross racing on MX Simulator, finding ways to still exercise his competitive muscle. We hopped on a call with Matthew between qualifying sessions in MX Sim to get the rundown on his recovery process, all of the virtual racing he’s been doing, and how he sees the rest of the year playing out.
You had a pretty gnarly crash at the beginning of the year in Supercross Futures. How has the healing process been and where are you at with it now?
Yeah, in the crash I ended up fracturing my T1, T3, and T4. It was pretty bad, so I was really just off the bike doing absolutely nothing for a couple of months but it was a lot shorter than what was planned. I got my back brace off in about half the time that I was supposed to have it on, so that was nice. I got back into the gym and just took everything really slow. I'm really good to go but with everything going on it's been hard to ride somewhere. So not too much riding, but we're doing everything we can right now. We've got progress to make, but I'm pretty much at one hundred percent.
So are you just a quick healer or does that recovery time come down to a lot of physical therapy?
Nah, I'm actually known for being a quick healer. Every injury I've had, I've pretty much split the time that I'm supposed to be off the bike in half, but when I had the injury I didn't do anything. I pretty much laid in bed or was on Xbox all day.
So you were quarantining and social distancing before it was the cool thing to do?
Yeah, before it was the cool thing I was already about nine weeks into it.
Is it difficult having to spend all that time waiting to get back to racing and now that you're back on the bike all of the racing is on pause?
Yeah, I mean the hardest thing for me right now is that every time I get to the point where I'm at my peak, an injury gets into the way. That's just kind of what I'm trying to get through, I'm trying to stay healthy 'cause every time I get to the top I kind of just overdo it. As of now, I'm just trying to take things slow so with everything going on it's kind of nice to not rush into anything and I can slowly get where I want to be before Loretta's and not rush like I would've if everything was normal. It's actually been pretty good for me in a way, but in a lot of ways it sucks, too. It has its ups and downs.
All you can do is take the positives out of it though, so that's a good mindset to have. How has this whole situation affected the program that you're on now that you're back to training and riding?
Yeah, definitely. We found an app called Zwift which is pretty much like cycling but on the computer. We've been doing a lot of that, pretty much everyday, then instead of going to the public gym we just go to our trainer's garage and workout in there. We do everything the same, but it's a little bit harder 'cause we don't have as many weights, so we just work with what we have. Gym wise everything is pretty much the same, just more indoors and more at home. It really hasn't affected too much.
How's it been in terms of riding for you?
I've been back riding for two or three weeks now, but with everything closed, I've only ridden like three or four times. They've been riding a track called MX Heaven a lot and we've been kind of forced to go there. It's definitely not a track that you want to start off on, so the first two or three days were really rough on me. I was pretty much just rolling around and getting a feel for everything. The past one or two times I've been out there, I've picked up the pace quite a bit and started hittin' jumps and stuff. We found a little corner track right by my house out in the hills and it's workin' out pretty well. There aren't many places to ride, so we have to make do with what we have. I mean, it's not the best but it works.
How did your back feel your first time out on the bike? The GoPro videos from that MX Heaven track definitely make it seem pretty gnarly.
My back is at one hundred percent like nothing even happened. I broke my ankle too, which wasn't a big deal at the time, but it didn't really get attention because my back was the priority. That got no attention and then I guess my muscles tightened up and I tore a couple of ligaments or something, so that's really what I've been struggling with. We're tryin' to get the swelling down in my ankle. It's been more than three months and it's still swollen, so we're just trying to treat it more like an injury now and get that to one hundred percent. Besides my ankle, my whole body's feelin' great.
How bad is your ankle in terms of swelling? Are you wearing two different sized boots or is it manageable at the moment?
We're making a lot of progress on it. On day one, I could pretty much barely ride and now I dab my foot and I'm fine. We put a tube in one of my boots to kind of stretch it out and that makes it easier, but we're almost up to one hundred percent.
Going back to the Zwift thing you were talking about -- how is it doing that with your whole team? It's a pretty cool way to keep you guys active and keep that competitive edge sharp as well.
It kind of just started off as something to do for one or two days and then we got into it, we really enjoyed it. So we started doing that and then we figured out that there are races and stuff on it, so we all sign up for races on Friday or Saturday. For like fifteen miles, we'll give it everything we've got and whoever gets beat gets trash-talked. We treat it pretty much like a videogame. I think it's probably more fun than actually cycling, I enjoy it quite a bit. It's fun and it makes you sweat, that's for sure.
Who's the unofficial Zwift champ on Star Yamaha so far?
I'd have to say the unofficial Zwift champ would have to be Swanny (Gareth Swanepoel) but I've been up there. I've been giving everyone a run for their money. They've all been saying I've been cheating, but I've been hammering down on Zwift and I'm gettin' up there slowly.
Do you guys come across some insanely fast professional cyclists on there?
Oh yeah, we'll have guys that will lap us like three laps into a one-mile loop. There are some gnarly guys on there, it's crazy.
Speaking of video games, you and the rest of your team have been competing in the General's Cup playing Monster Energy Supercross 3. How's that been for ya?
Yeah, I've been gamin' pretty hard lately. I got into the General's Cup and I've been having a lot of fun with that. For my birthday, I actually got a PC and I've been on the MX Simulator grind pretty hard and I've been gettin' pretty good at it.
It takes a lot of time to get good at that game for sure.
Yeah, I've definitely put the hours in.
Have you been doing any of the organized races that they stream on YouTube?
Yeah, I've raced the past few weekends. Actually right before you called me, I was in a qualifying session to try and get in for this weekend. I've been going hard.
How have you been finishing so far in those? Are you making the Mains?
It started off rough the first weekend. I somehow made it to the Main and I got like 19th out of 22nd and I'm pretty sure the last three guys left. I put some hard hours in during the week and somehow got 4th last weekend, so I made a lot of progress. I'm gettin' there.
Are you running the 250 class?
Yeah, 250 Novice. We're in Novice but we're gettin up there.
It's cool that you guys still have an outlet for your competitive nature during all of this.
Yeah, definitely. Since I got it, I've gotten (Jarrett) Frye and (Jalek) Swoll on here, so we've all been competing with each other to see who can better themselves the most by the next weekend.
What're your thoughts on what might happen with Loretta's this year?
I haven't really thought about it too much. I've kind of just been focusing on getting ready for whatever's up next. The only thing I've really heard about is the two-week deal and it didn't seem too bizarre to me. It'll definitely be different, but like I said I haven't thought too much about it.
Have you talked with the Star team about what your plans might be for the end of the year following Loretta's?
No, we haven't really discussed too much. The plan was to maybe go A class for Loretta's and then maybe race the last three, but injuries set that back so as of right now we're just focusing on the moment and getting to where I need to be and then we'll figure everything else out after that. We're not in a rush for anything and we've got plenty of time.