The 2019 racing season brought forth multiple changes for Nate Thrasher as the Orange Brigade rider began working his way up the totem pole, signing with the Troy Lee Designs Red Bull KTM team to map out his route to the professional ranks. The Tennessee native fulfilled the old adage that the comeback is always stronger than the setback after he overcame a tremendous amount of adversity last year in the form of a lengthy recovery process brought on by a lacerated spleen to win a pair of titles this season at Daytona. Thrasher ended up skipping most of the year in the 125cc classes and made an immediate jump to the 250F once he got back on the bike, putting in long days at the test track out in California with the team. He started working with one of the sport’s most highly respected and well-renowned trainers, Aldon Baker, back in October and has since joined the program full time this season as he’s doing all of his training down in Florida. Thrasher had a strong start to the season and seems to have rediscovered the raw speed that saw him sweep both Supermini 1 and 2 at the Loretta Lynn Amateur Motocross National in 2018, bringing the same intensity to the bigger bike. We were able to get Nate on the phone for a quick conversation after an arduous day of training at the Baker’s Factory to chat about his injury last season, adjusting to his new training program, and his future plans to race the Pro Motocross series.
What have you been up to lately to occupy your time and keep yourself busy during the quarantine?
Yeah, I've just been working out a lot and trying to stay in shape. We've got a little local gym that lets us go, so that's about the only thing and then we just started back riding about three weeks ago now. We took off for about two weeks just to let the body rest a little bit and then we just started to get back on the grind a few weeks ago. It's been good, I'm tryin' to stay safe and I hope everybody's doin' the same.
Did you take that time off of the bike in Florida to visit your home state of Tennessee or are you down there full time now?
Yeah, I haven't been back there in a while now. I've just been here -- we've been road biking and in the gym every day. We didn't take off working out, we were just off the bike for about two weeks and then we got back into it after the spring races were over.
Did you change up your program off the bike much to accommodate all of the time off from racing?
Yeah, we toned it back just a little bit but not too much -- not as high intensity on the road bike rides, but the workouts are about the same really. We took about a week off and eased back into it really and now we're back in the full swing of things.
What's it been like for you on the grind in Florida and being around such a professional training environment at Baker's Factory?
Yeah, it's been awesome. You get to learn from the best every day and it's just what they do. You try to mimic what they do every day and there are no days off here, but that's what's tough. You go anywhere else and you might get a day or two off a week, but there are no days off here. You're doin' something every day to make yourself better. It's tough, but I get to see what they do and ride with them every day and it helps me push myself to get better. There is proven success when you come here and you just try to stick to the plan that hopefully you'll be a champion one day too.
As you said, there's a certain sense of security in having a championship proven program like that behind you.
Yeah, for sure. If you listen to everything he (Aldon Baker) says you have no doubts in your mind that it's going to work.
How long have you been riding and training there now?
I started here in February, but I've been training with Aldon since October of last year. We were in California for about four months, so I wasn't really in the swing of things out there. It's tough out there, so I was doin' his program but it's a lot different, you know. Here it's a lot more structured and it's a lot harder. Before the spring, I didn't have much time to get acclimated to it and I'm just learning a little bit. I've been here for a while now and it's been really good.
What's been the biggest adjustment for you since you started training there?
Yeah, I was at MTF before and we worked very hard so it's easy to do a lot of work here, but the biggest adjustment for me has just been the everyday grind. There we might get three days off a week but here, it's every single day you've got to do something. They hold you accountable and it's very tough. I mean, it's not easy stuff you have to do every day. So it's important to get the little bit of time you have to let your body rest so you're able to put out what you need to put out every day. The tracks are gnarly and it's so hot here, so you gotta do stuff to make your body better for the next day -- that's the biggest thing I've had to learn how to do. I'm doin' more massage stuff and things like that to get my body better for the next day, you know what I mean? Especially eating good, I wasn't really doin' much of that before I came here so that was a big change and that really helped.
Have you had to focus more on cooking yourself to make that happen or are you able to get premade meals? How does that work?
Yeah, there are some places here that we go to that have good, clean food. I really liked cookin' before so it really wasn't that big of an adjustment. I cut out a bunch of stuff from my diet, so there's not much you can eat now. You don't have much variety, so it kind of gets boring but it's good.
You had a pretty gnarly injury last year at the beginning of the season and a lot of people don't realize how much you had to go through to get back on the bike. Could you walk everybody through the process of what happened?
Last year at the Redbud Loretta Lynn Regional during practice, there was about a lap to go and it wasn't really a big crash at all -- I hit a braking bump weird, I was jumping into these braking bumps and it kind of kicked weird, I went down but not hard and got right back up. It felt kind of like broken ribs, but it ended up that we went to the medics and my mom was asking if it could be my spleen and they were like "No, no, no. It's on the wrong side." They were wrong about that, so we didn't think anything was wrong and we went back to the camper. They said I'd be fine in a couple of days and nothing was broken, so they figured it was bruised ribs or something. I went back to the camper and I was just sittin' there and it really just didn't feel like it was ribs or anything, it was really painful and there was no way I could sit. Most of the time when I've had broken ribs you can sit in a couple of positions that make it feel better, but this just really didn't have that position. It was really excruciating pain and I was sittin' there and just got really lightheaded, then I just started throwin' up blood everywhere. I started to walk out the door 'cause we decided to go to the hospital and I ended up passing' out. We were having trouble getting the ambulance down there so my mom and them just sped me to the hospital and I was kind of going in and out of consciousness on the way there. I don't remember anything until I got to the ICU and when I got to the hospital and my mom was tellin' me that when they took my blood pressure, it was like 80/30 so they said within fifteen minutes I would've ended up dying if they didn't get me there on time, so luckily we did. They rushed me back and we got CT scans and everything and I ended up having the worst spleen laceration you can have which is a grade V. Most of the time with a grade V they take it out no matter what, but luckily they kept it in. They were going to test it for twelve hours and if it didn't stop bleeding then they were gonna go in and take it out. If they did take it out, it would've been a lot less recovery time but I'd never be able to go anywhere overseas or anything like that, I'd be on medication, and things would never really be the same. I mean, I'd be the same but you'd be more prone to sickness and things like that, so we were trying to save it as much as we could. Luckily, it really just kind of healed on its own and God was in my corner. I ended up getting blood clots in that hospital, I was there for about seven to eight days and in the ICU for about five days. Luckily it all healed up, but I still couldn't really breathe good or anything like that. They let me go home after seven days so I drove home that night. It was in Southbend, Indiana where it happened so we drove to Tennessee and I was there for about two weeks, but I couldn't really lay back. Every time I'd lay back, I couldn't catch my breath like I couldn't really breathe. So after about two weeks, we went to the hospital in Knoxville, Tennessee and I had blood in my lungs that they thought would go away, but it didn't. So when I went in there, I had blood clots and they saw this thing on my aorta that they thought was a blood clot inside of it. They said if it bursts that you'd die instantly, so I had to stay there for eight days and it ended up being that it flushed itself out somehow. We don't know how but I got really lucky there too, and God was with me the whole time. They were pretty much saying that this could happen and we can't do anything if it happens, so they almost had to do surgery and take it out which if they did that would be open-heart surgery I think. They didn't get into too much detail with me about that, so I don't know exactly what would've happened. But it was pretty crazy and I couldn't leave, so after all that happened it was another eight days in that hospital, in the ICU for about seven, and I finally got out of there. When I went home I couldn't even lift a gallon of milk for about three months, they wouldn't let me lift anything or do anything like that. But it ended up goin' good and I think it's good now.
Wow, that is such a remarkable story and it goes without saying we're glad you made a full recovery and are back doing what you love to do. How much time did you take off the bike?
It ended up being about four or five months off the bike and then I started riding a little bit. I couldn't really do much, 'cause they said it probably wouldn't heal for about a year so even with all this sickness going around, I was probably more prone to get it because it wasn't fully healed so I'm just trying to stay safe and all that.
How was the mental battle of being off the bike and missing a handful of the big races for you?
Yeah, for sure. It wasn't good, I wanted to go to Loretta's and back up what I did there the other year. It wasn't easy because I couldn't exercise. Normally, when you break a bone or whatever you can at least do stuff, but I couldn't do anything. I couldn't even go out on a boat or anything 'cause it might jar it too much and I couldn't ride a bicycle in case I crashed. I literally just sat there for four months and until then I couldn't even lift up a gallon of milk, so it was tough. But, once I got through it all I think it made me stronger for it.
Could you at least lift up an Xbox controller during that four-month period?
Yeah, for sure. I was definitely playin' a lot of Xbox during that time.
You mentioned you were out in California for about four months when you started working with Aldon in October. How was the experience of being out there and making the transition to the 250 coming off of your injury?
Yeah, it was tough. I was going from a two-stroke to a four-stroke without much time on it at all and before that I didn't ride much. I got out there, I'm not from California, and I rode a lot of supercross during that time. I didn't even ride much motocross 'cause I was training with all of the (Troy Lee Designs) guys for A1 and all that. So I was riding mainly supercross the whole time and I did a couple of days outdoors, but not really much. Then we went to the AZ Open and it ended up going good. I wasn't in great shape or anything like that since I was just comin' back. The four-stroke is a lot different and I'm just now getting used to it, you know what I mean? It's a lot different with all the engine braking and that kind of stuff, you have to ride it totally different, so I'm just now gettin' used to it. It was tough but we made it work.
What was it like for you being out there in California during that preseason boot camp with all of your professional teammates?
Yeah, it's cool for sure seeing everybody out there training every day. You know what you need to do when you get there to win races and getting my feet wet on supercross was the best thing for me. I trained with those guys for about two months solid every day on the supercross track, so when I finally get there I'll just be that much better.
Were you able to go to a couple of the west coast Monster Energy Supercross rounds with the team?
Yeah, I went to A1 for sure and I didn't end up goin' to A2, I just watched that one on TV and then we left the weekend of San Diego.
Did you get to do track walk with the team and all that good stuff on Saturday?
Yeah, the one I went to we did all that. It was cool seeing everything that goes on at the rig, talkin' with all of them between practices and all that.
How'd the beginning of this season go for you on the 250? You started out with two titles at the Daytona RCSX.
For sure, it was really good. I rode really well there, I started training for Daytona on the supercross track 'cause I didn't know if I was going to end up doing it, so about two weeks before I was riding strictly supercross just to get ready. It ended up going really good, I was hopin' to go for three (titles) but in the other one I ended up gettin' tangled up with somebody off the start. If you go down on the start there, it's pretty much over for ya, but other than that it was a good weekend.
There was some good competition and some good battles in the B class at Spring A Ding Ding this year. How was the weekend of racing there from your perspective?
Yeah, the track was really tough and challenging so that was good but I just didn't get the results I wanted so we're back training harder to try and be better for Loretta's. Shit happens, so hopefully all that stuff will be good and I just need to get stronger and just keep getting better.
What do you think about the different plans that they have proposed for Loretta's this year?
Yeah, I think anything they can do to get it in is the best way we can do it. Those guys (at MX Sports) know what they're doing over there. All the people that run it are really smart people and they know what's best for us. With everything going on, they can't do anything so I'm not puttin' it on them or anything like that. If we have to push it back or whatever, as long as we can do it I think that'd be the best thing.
Lastly, what are your tentative plans for the end of the year following Loretta's heading into the 2021 season?
Yeah, I think it's still the same thing. Plans might change but we're still looking at making my pro debut for 2021 outdoors, so I'll move up to A class right after Loretta's and we'll see whatever is best. You never know, I could go sooner and I could go later so it just depends on when they need me or whatever they think is the best fit for me.