Hunter Cross had a season full of ups and downs in 2019, but one thing that remained consistent throughout the year was his speed on the track. The Californian demonstrated his ability to go fast at many of the prominent amateur motocross races in the yearly schedule. Cross recorded 5th in a Schoolboy 1 moto at Spring A Ding Ding and 3rd in a Schoolboy 2 moto at the JS7 Freestone Spring Championship on his 125 at the beginning of the year. In the latter stages of June, he showed up at Mammoth and nabbed a moto win in the Schoolboy 1 class, subsequently earning a 3rd place overall as a result of the second moto. An unfortunate broken finger ended his week at Loretta’s early but Cross used it as motivation to go back to work over the offseason. Recently, he’s been putting in a lot of seat time on a CRF250 in preparation for his eventual move up to the B class, but he claims it’s also been helping him find the next level of speed on his 125. We talked with Hunter to get the lowdown on how he’s been spending his time the last couple of months, switching from a two-stroke to the four-stroke, and his mindset heading into Super Regionals.
What have you been up to the last couple of months with no racing happening lately?
It's been crazy with everything going on in the world right now, but not much has really changed for me honestly. Obviously I haven't been going out as frequently or hanging out with any of my friends but as far as riding goes, I've really just been doing the same thing. I've been workin' out and goin' to the track. The tracks were closed down for a little while but I still went to plenty of private tracks to get my riding in and now they've started opening back up again so I can go back to my normal routine. It's just been a little bit weird not goin' to races, you know.
What was your riding situation like when a lot of the tracks were shut down?
I realized that racing was gonna shut down and I kind of took it as an opportunity to ride more often. Whether that was riding in the hills or going to private tracks, I kind of took the chance to catch up on some other skills. I would go trail riding or I would hit ramps and do some freestyle stuff - every chance I would get I'd try to be on a bike either riding over a log, trail riding, riding a private track that's super bumpy or stuff like that. It hasn't been on like full-on twenty-minute motos and the normal routine or whatever, but I've just been riding my bike and keeping it fun, you know, touchin' up on some things that I never really get to work on.
Yeah, it's probably a nice change of pace for you compared to the normal grind.
It helps you remember why you ride. You keep it fun, start learning new things, and you're not so focused on half a second a lap. You can go out there, have fun, and throw some whips, you know.
What have you been doing in all of the downtime you've had when you're not riding or training?
Really nothin' too crazy. I've been doing a lot of mountain bike rides 'cause I really enjoy riding mountain bikes and I've been riding a lot of pit bikes, kinda just bein' a kid on two wheels still. I've probably been riding more often because of the rain and everything. About a month ago, I was riding a bunch of private tracks and ridin' the hills. I got my 250 practice bike and for two weeks I was riding every day whether it was a private track, hittin' jumps, or trail riding. I really threw myself into riding and I was really enjoying not having to stress about having a race coming up. I was just out there by myself and with my buddies having a good time.
What inspired the switch to Honda and how's the transition to the 250 been for you?
Yeah, I really enjoy the 250s, I'm really happy with them. I'm starting to get the suspension dialed in and I'm very happy with how the motor is doin'. It was a bit of an adjustment period to be honest with you, at first I was a little bit timid, but now I'm able to ride it better than the 125 at times. I went with the Honda mainly just because I was kind of drawn to it, I'm not sure why. I rode a Husky for a little bit of time and I really dug the Husky as well, but I decided to go with the Honda 'cause I feel like it suits me a little bit better. I've really been enjoying the 250 and it's been making me better on the 125 as well. I'm going to be racing the 125 this year at Loretta's so that's my main focus but I'd still like to get ready on the 250 since that's gonna be where I end up goin'.
When you get back down onto the 125, do you feel like you can just hold it wide open everywhere?
Yeah, it's taught me some new skills 'cause on the 125 you can kind of ride it a little bit careless if that makes sense. You can hold it wide open and get away with it, but with the 250 you have to take it down a notch. You can't go out there and go crazy, you're gonna lose time so I've kind of been transferring that to the 125. It's just a really cool experience 'cause it's a new bike and it's keepin' it fun, you know. I get to the track and I'm like "Ooh, I get to ride my new 250!" It's just making it more fun.
Was the hardest adaptation for you having to slow down to go faster so to speak?
One hundred percent, It was rough. I wouldn't say it was like terrible, but it was, to go to the four-stroke to be more exact. I've been on two-strokes my whole life so I got on the four-stroke and I didn't know how to tell if the bike's gonna blow up, I don't know how the power hits, I don't know how the engine braking acts. So it took some time but one day it just clicked and I felt really comfortable and then stuff started to come together. I started to feel really comfortable and really understand how I'm supposed to ride the bike and it started going from there.
How much seat time do you have on the 250 now? How long have you been riding it?
I've been kind of riding it on and off. There'd be times where I'd only ride the 250 for two weeks and then only the 125 for three weeks. Typically, I ride my 125 seven times out of ten times that I ride and the other three I'm on the 250. If I hit ramps, I'll ride the 250 or if I go to a hill spot or go to the trails, I'll ride the 250. But mainly, I'm focusing on the 125 but the 250 has been gettin' me a lot quicker on it. I get used to goin' a little bit quicker and it transfers to the 125 so I'm able to build on that.
Any seat time you can get on it whether it's hitting ramps or riding in the hills is ultimately going to benefit you when you move up...
I almost feel like it's better ridin' ramps, hittin' jumps on it, or riding trails because a big issue for me on the 250 is throttle control. It's so touchy and the power is delivered immediately compared to the 125 where it kind of has to work up to it. I'm really able to learn the throttle and learn how the bike pulls hittin' the jumps, so it's actually really nice to be able to take it a little slower and really learn the bike.
Switching gears back to some of the racing that happened last season, Mammoth was definitely one of the best events of the season for you. You got a moto win there and came away with an overall podium, how'd things go from your perspective?
I love Mammoth! That's one of my favorite races of the year for sure. My biggest issue at the races is that I tend to overthink them and put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself. So I've been trying to make it a habit to calm down and get my mind off of it instead of going to the hotel and sittin' around all day thinkin' about it. Mammoth was the first race that I did that - I kind of was like "You know what dude, I'm here to race and I'm gonna go hang out with my friends and get my mind off of it, relax, and just go be a kid." And I think that really transferred over to my riding 'cause I got there and I wasn't so stressed and worked up. I was just able to go out there and ride how I know how to ride and keep it fun, you know what I mean? Also, at the Vegas Supercross race, the night before I was out playing Top Golf with my buddies and I was out all evening and then the next morning I went to race and I won the championship. It's been good for me to kind of realize that it works if I can just calm down.
What happened at Loretta's last year? You finished the first two motos and then had a DNF that ended your week early.
Yeah, that was a bummer. In practice, I felt really solid all day. It was probably the best I felt for Loretta's, but during one of the races I had an incident where I went into the corner and I hit a false neutral. It threw me over the bars and ended up breaking my finger, so I just couldn't hold on. I wasn't able to race the rest of the week so I was pretty bummed, not gonna lie, obviously. It was a pretty big bummer goin' all the way there for nothin'.
Have you had any gate drops so far in 2020?
I did a couple of back before this whole virus went down. I had one race on my 250, just a local race nothin' really crazy, and some local kids showed up that were pretty quick. I actually told myself that I wanted to start doing more races 'cause for me that's what I felt like I lacked the most. I feel great in practice and then at the races I can pick it up and bring more speed. But I just haven't done any races, the last race I did at that time was like October. I wanted to try and get some more races under my belt and then it all got canceled, so I've just been practicing a lot which is good. It allows me to focus on myself and what I need to work on and not what everyone else is doing. But I would like to have more races under my belt for sure, but once I get my first motos in then it'll be able to come back.
What're your plans for the Super Regionals and what're your thoughts on the different format for this year?
For me, I really don't mind. Like I said, I don't really like to overthink things, I just like to show up and ride. I know it's different, but for me it's just another race that I can go out there and win. That's how I think about it. I just go out there and ride my best and tell myself that if I do that it'll work out. It's definitely different but I don't really see it as anything crazy. I just see it as another race that I've got to go to and I've gotta go win.
As far as Loretta's goes this year, you're racing both 125 B/C and Schoolboy 1 this year. What're your plans after that?
Yeah, that's correct. I'm going to do one more year on a 125 and then we'll see how Loretta's goes. We'll probably move up to 250s after that but we're definitely going to try to do this year on 125s and hopefully it goes well!