ON THE GRIND:
Gage Linville has been tearing up the 125cc classes for the past few seasons, finally culminating in the 125 (12-17) B/C Championship at the Loretta Lynn Amateur National Motocross Championship last August. It came nine years after Linville had won his first title at the Ranch, in the 51cc (4-6) AMA 1 Stock division aboard a Cobra back in 2010. The Georgia native decided to stick with his KTM 125 for another year and has recently been pushing the bike to the limit, continuing his winning ways in late 2019 with multiple wins and a pair of titles at Mini Os in addition to a title at the 2020 Daytona RCSX. The rider out of Millsaps Training Facility is determined to keep his fitness and riding sharp throughout the hiatus, training on the daily with professional-caliber riders such as Martin Davalos and Dakota Alix. Linville was shaping up to dominate the podium of the 125cc classes wherever he showed up this season and he was doing exactly that at the Supercross Futures rounds he attended early in the year. No matter when Loretta’s ends up happening this year, the seventeen-year-old wants to put himself back on the top step of the box and carry some confidence forward as he’s set to transition into the B class. We caught up with Gage to see what it was like winning the 125 Dream Race at WW last year, how he’s been occupying his free time, and get his perspective on an epic three moto battle for the title at Loretta’s last year.
How has the whole coronavirus quarantine affected your day-to-day life?
Yeah, of course the quarantine has messed up racing and stuff, but MTF has been fortunate enough where we haven't had anything canceled. So my days have been pretty much the same besides the weekends where I'd be racing, but other than that I continue to go to MTF every day and do what we do there.
How has this affected the way you guys operate at the training facility?
Yeah, they split us up a lot so there are way more groups of us now. They'll put some of us in the morning and some of us in the evening riding wise. There's no more than five or six of us in there working out at a time and every time we touch the equipment we have to wipe it down. They take our temperature when we walk in and make sure -- we have moved a lot of stuff outside, but there is stuff that we can't move,so we have to make sure we take precautions with it.
Do you live on the compound at MTF or do you have a house nearby?
I live a little over an hour away and so I just drive that twice every day.
How old are you? Are you able to make that drive on your own now?
Yes, I just turned 17 in March so the old man ain't gotta drive me no more.
Well, that's good you can listen to whatever music you want to on the way down there.
Yeah, for real. Instead of his old country music...
What have you been doing with the extra free time that you've had on the weekends?
Yeah, we live on a lake so I've just been hanging out with some buddies, still social distancing, but we've just been going out on the lake and havin' a good time. Enjoying the free time.
So you're more of an outdoor guy?
Yeah, I mean...I'm not gonna say I don't play Fortnite or anything like that but I go through spurts. I may play it for one month and then I don’t touch it for two months, but I like being outdoors way better.
Who have you been riding with down there at MTF recently?
Well, Martin Davalos has been down there a couple of days during the week. Dakota Alix, Mason Gonzales, Luca Marsalisi, Marcus Phelps. There have been lots of fast riders there, so it's good. Davalos has been in the sport a while so it's good to watch some of his lines.
How was the racing going for you at the beginning of the season before we went on hiatus?
It was actually goin' good. I can't say anything bad about Daytona, I couldn't ask for a much better weekend. I had a fall in one of the Mains but I came out with the win in the other one and I won both of my heats. I skipped Spring A Ding Ding and we went to Freestone and then of course, I only got to do one practice. It was our first practice but lap time wise I was the fastest in my practice, so I felt good about that, but unfortunately it was canceled.
Did you do any Supercross Futures at the beginning of the year and were you able to get any qualifiers in?
Yeah. I did two of the Futures, I did St. Louis and Tampa and I won Schoolboy 1, Schoolboy 2, and 125 B/C in St. Louis and in Tampa I won both 125 classes and I got 2nd in Schoolboy 2. I was able to do the Gatorback round so I got the southeast region done, but then of course all this stuff happened.
How was the experience racing those Supercross Futures races for you?
I mean, it's a fun race for me and it's cool to wake up after I watch the pros and go race in that same stadium. I mean, actually I was surprised with some of the tracks -- they left some whoops and some rhythms. There were rhythms that people could double, triple, and some even quad, so it was definitely a cool experience. I look forward to more of 'em!
As far as racing the 125 in the Schoolboy 2 class, what's that challenge like for you?
Oh yeah, I mean it's definitely fun. In supercross, because the four-stroke has so much bottom end we can kind of gear our bikes that way. I'm not going to say it's easy by no means, it's definitely hard, but it also makes it fun. It makes you push, makes you want to do better and it makes you want to beat that guy who beats you.
You raced the 125 Dream Race last year at WW and ended up coming away with the win there. What was that like?
Yeah, that was a really cool experience and WW's really close to me, it's only an hour and a half away. The track was amazing and the fans were crazy, I definitely wasn't expecting that for just the 125 class. I was able to win that one which was good, I holeshotted and led. The fans were cheering me on every lap, every time no matter what, so it was definitely a cool experience.
There was a lot of press from the pro side of things there last year about the heat. Obviously you guys aren't doing nearly the same amount of laps, but what was that like?
Yeah, it was unreal hot there. MTF gets hot, but that was a different type of heat. I think we did four or five laps and the pros did thirteen or fourteen laps and they had motos back to back. That's just stuff that in my opinion, you can't really prepare for. You can do motos, motos, and motos but the heat will get anybody no matter how much you're in shape. That was unreal heat, I was surprised.
The 125 B/C title came down to the wire last year at Loretta's and you ended up coming away with the number one plate. How was that battle from your perspective?
Yeah, it was a crazy week. I won 125 B/C and I got 1st in the first moto, 2nd in the second moto, and I was tied with Josh Varize going into the third moto. He was rippin' that's for sure, he was fast! He actually beat me off the start in the third moto, I was in about 5th or 6th and he was in 3rd or 4th. I knew if I could just get around him in the first couple of laps, I could put some good laps in and hopefully force him into a mistake. So I passed him on the third or fourth lap and Levi (Kitchen) was actually winning. I pulled up on him and we put a little bit of a gap on Josh, then I got to thinking that I better slow down 'cause I didn't want to force myself into a mistake. All three of us were goin' fast and about halfway Josh started creepin' then with about two or three laps to go, he actually reeled us in within about two or three seconds. I think he fell right after the finish line and my mechanic, Big B, told me to use my head so I knew something happened. I didn't see Josh come back around and I was just tryin' to slow down and didn't want to make a mistake. I still couldn't believe it...even when it happened! It was still unreal for sure.
We remember your podium celebration with the FMF squirt gun.
Yeah, Joel gave me the squirt gun and I had to get my dad with it. (laughs)
You've been out to The Motoplayground Race at Ponca City for the last three years. What're your thoughts on that race and the event in general?
I love that place! I dunno how they do it, but I swear every time I go there it rains and you think the track would be flooded but give it a couple of hours and we're back riding. I don't understand it! It's definitely a fun track, it gets rutted up bad and it's a good track to ride. It's definitely a good track to practice on because that's what a lot of the pro races are I'm assuming. They're deep and cupped out like that and that's probably one of the roughest tracks we go to as amateurs which actually helps a lot 'cause it's good to ride stuff like that. I love that place, I'll go back every year.
What're your thoughts on what might happen with Loretta's this season?
Well, I definitely hope there's going to be a Super Regional. That's definitely the plan and that'll be good, pretty much all the fast guys on the east coast will be at one Regional and you'll see where you stack up with everybody. Of course, there's always the downside where if your bike messes up or something, you might not get to go to Loretta's. It's a big gamble but I reckon it'll be fun. I probably think that's going to be the plan, but you never know...we might be at Loretta's for two weeks. As long as they have it, I don't really care which one there is. I just wanna go and have a good week.
Have you thought about what your plans are following Loretta's this year in terms of what classes you'll be racing?
Well, I got kicked out of Schoolboy 1 for Loretta's because I got top five there last year, so I got bumped. So I gotta run Schoolboy2 and 125 B/C at Loretta's and then after Loretta's I'm definitely done with 125s and we're going to go straight to 250s. Hopefully, I have a good year at Loretta's like I did last year, open some eyes, and maybe we can get little support and get a deal signed or something.