MPG / DAILY BREAD / FEBRUARY 6, 2017
Hannah Hodges came into the 2016 racing season eager to make her WMX debut, but a concussion kept her out of contesting the first round of action at Daytona. It only prolonged the inevitable as she lined up on the gate for the second round of the series at Freestone, proving her speed on the big bike right away. She qualified a couple of seconds ahead of the rest of the field, carrying that speed into both races as she dominated her WMX debut with both moto victories. Unfortunately, she would experience some injury problems throughout the middle of the year, forcing her to switch the majority of her focus to the big show at Loretta Lynn’s. The Floridian wasn’t accustomed to dealing with such prevalent injuries, but she put them behind her and grabbed a podium finish down at the Ranch. Hodges was incredibly determined coming into Mini-O’s to put in the results that she had been chasing since her professional debut; she wanted to prove that what she was able to do on superminis could easily be replicated on the big bike. The Team Green Kawasaki rider experienced a bit of misfortune in one of the first 250 B races when she broke her wrist, but she powered through the pain and went on to win the Women’s (14+) class as well as both WMX motos. We caught up with Hannah to talk about some of the injuries she dealt with in 2016, sharing a pit bike with her dog Oscar, and what lies ahead in 2017.
So, one of the highlights of the 2016 season for you was making your WMX debut and taking the overall victory in your first race. What did it feel like to finally line up on the gate as a pro and go out and win both motos?
Yeah, it was cool for sure. I’ve kinda been waitin’ -- they didn’t let me race it when I was on superminis, so it was just kind of a waiting game ‘till I got on big bikes and I finally got to move up. It was a good experience. I wanted to do Daytona, but unfortunately I got a concussion right before the WMX race, so they didn’t allow me to race it, and uh...it felt good just to get out there at Freestone and show my speed on the big bike right away.
Both races couldn’t have been more opposite for you...
The first moto I was just able to get the start and get out front, ride my own race. The second moto I came out of the gate and got tangled with another rider, and was literally dead last going into the first corner. I just kinda tried to make smart passes, I knew I had the speed after qualifying; I qualified a few seconds quicker than everyone. So, I just tried to make smart, clean passes and just get up front as soon as I could.
You had a fairly solid week at Loretta’s this past year, you came away with a 3rd overall in the Women’s (16+) All-Star class, what was the week down at the Ranch like for you?
Yeah, Loretta’s didn’t really go like I planned. I was leading the first moto and got tangled up with a lapper, and unfortunately didn’t win that. Uh...I think the second moto, I got tangled with lappers and went down on my own, made a few mistakes. It just wasn’t a good week. I wasn’t really that comfortable on the bike, I had a lot of injuries this year that we kinda kept quiet. I just wasn’t one hundred percent...no excuses, I just didn’t ride like I should’ve at Loretta’s.
What were some of the injuries that you dealt with throughout the year?
I broke both my wrists after Freestone actually; I was in casts for a few weeks after that and just started to rehab those as quick as I could ‘cause qualifiers had already started. I was already behind for qualifiers and I just had quite a few concussions last year, so that kept me off the bike quite a bit. As soon as I got back on the bike from my wrist, I twisted my ankle -- like literally the first day back. It was just a rough year for me. Everyone says that your first year on big bikes is just difficult and I definitely dealt with the injury part of it. I’ve pretty much stayed injury free my whole career other than my ACL and just smaller stuff that we could deal with quickly, but it was difficult for me from not being injured pretty much my whole career and just having back-to-back-to-back stuff this year.
Speaking of Loretta’s, there has been quite the uproar recently of the removal of the Girl’s (9-13) class from the schedule. What is your opinion on the whole situation?
It’s definitely rough for the younger girls. I definitely know how it is ‘cause I never had that class growing up. Every year they’d change the rules to where I wasn’t able to even ride the Girl’s class. So, it’s kinda hard for me to be very sympathetic about it ‘cause growin’ up that’s what I had to deal with -- it was either race the guys or don’t race at all. So umm...I definitely feel for them though. I know a lot of them work really hard, it’s definitely heartbreaking for them. I’ve been in that position so many times, I know exactly how all of them are feeling. I mean, hopefully MX Sports has a plan and they get something together for the younger girls, ‘cause you definitely don’t wanna just cut them out, that’s just gonna cut the growth of women’s motocross.
Could you talk a little bit about what you went through to help encourage aspiring young girls going through a similar situation?
Yeah, I got on 85’s a year early and I was always really small growin’ up -- that was kind of a big step for me and then they took the class out. At that time, they changed the age so I wasn’t old enough to race it. My only option was to race the girls class and not be able to race the guys classes anymore, because that would move me out of that age bracket, or just not race Loretta’s at all that year. So, I decided on my own that I wanted to race the guy’s class. I actually qualified out of the first regional of the hardest one. It made me push for sure that year, that was the hardest I’d ever worked at that point in my career, and you could definitely see my growth throughout that year -- it helped me build speed and confidence racing the guys.
You’re one of those riders that’s always zoned in on the gate, a lot of the times with headphones on. Do you have like a specific pre race routine that you follow?
Normally at the nationals I just try and bring my headphones, I just kinda listen to my own stuff and don’t really listen to a lot of the chit-chat that goes around -- especially in the Women’s class, there normally seems to be a good bit of drama going around with all the rule changes and that stuff. I just kinda try to stay out of all that stuff.
What’s some of the typical music on your pre race playlist?
I normally just listen to a lot of rap stuff before the races and keep the slower stuff for later on, haha.
Are there any particular riders that you’ve always looked up to as a role model, or any rider’s styles that you kind of try to emulate?
Whenever I was younger I looked up to Ashley Fiolek a lot, because she was the top upcoming female at the time. We live close to them, so it was convenient for me to be able to talk to her a lot. Her Dad helped us out a lot with some advice that from stuff she had went through. And I really enjoy how Ken Roczen kinda brings our generation into the sport now; Dungey’s like more serious, I like how Roczen just kinda has that fun style to him.
You dominated the WMX class as well as the Women’s (14+) class at Mini-O’s this past November, walk me through how the racing went down there.
Yeah, Mini-O’s was pretty good. I worked really hard comin’ into Mini-O’s after Loretta’s; I just wanted to be able to prove that I could do it on big bikes just as much as I could on superminis. I felt really good comin’ into that, had my bike handling a lot better and everything was good. I qualified in all my B classes on SX -- I think it was the first B race, I was in fourth passing for third on the first lap, and just kinda tucked the front; it was one of the early motos so the track was kinda slick. I actually ended up breaking my wrist and my next moto was on the gate. So, I went straight back to the gate and won the Women’s (14+). My wrist was still bothering me like the rest of the week and I just kinda rode it off, taped it, and iced it as much I could. My family and the team decided that it was best to sit out the B classes -- if I’m not one hundred percent, I definitely can’t be competitive. I have to be on the top of my game to run up top in the B class, so they let me sit that out. I got an x-ray like two days after Mini-O’s and ended up having a small fracture in my wrist, so I took like a week off and just let it heal up, then I just got back to ridin’ slowly.
I saw a video of your dog Oscar riding through the pits on your pit bike with you, did you have to put him through any training to get him to chill on the bike like that or was he just a natural?
No, Oscar’s a natural! He’s actually like a really chill dog. It’s weird -- like someone can walk up to him and he’ll just bark-bark-bark and the next person will walk up to him and he’ll be like their best friend. They say that dogs know good and bad people, so I guess that might be part of it. He’s like super chill; I’ll put his paws up on the bars and he just sits there and he’ll ride through the pits with me, haha.
So, you’ve been putting in work down at MTF getting ready for spring nationals, what’s your program been like over the off season and how’s the preparation coming?
Everything’s good. I took a little bit of time off after Mini-O’s and spent some time with my family, Christmas and all that good stuff. I just kinda rode in Florida for a little bit ‘cause it had been a while since I’ve been training up at MTF so much. So, I was down there for probably a month or so and then I headed out to California for A1. I just try and go out there and hang out with all my sponsors, just kinda put faces with the names since I live on the east coast; it’s kinda hard to be so connected with the west coast. We try and go out there at least once a year. Then I came back to MTF, just been workin’ really hard -- they have a really good program for us right now and I’m feelin’ good. We have my bike handlin’ a lot better now and I’m really enjoyin’ the ‘17 Kawis a lot better than I was the ‘16’s. With me being so light, it was kind of difficult for them to get my bike set up at first; it was kinda different for them ‘cause I was riding the bike aggressive and I was super light, so they didn’t really have any settings for that. We had to do a lot of testing this past year... just the new bikes comin’ out -- the ‘17 Kawis are really great, I’m enjoying those a lot. So, I’m feelin’ a lot better coming into ‘17 than I was last year.
What’re your goals/expectations heading into the 2017 season?
For 2017 I definitely wanna be up top in the B class, when I was on superminis I always ran up front in the supermini class, so I’m definitely workin’ to be up front with the guys like I was on the supermini, and I just wanna stay up top in all the Women’s stuff this year.
What races will you be attending/classes you’ll be running, etc…?
I’ll be at Daytona, Freestone, and then I’ll start doin’ my qualifiers. I’ll be at Loretta’s obviously, we might look into doin’ Monster Cup this year. I plan on doing AX next year to get my points to do SX, so I might start riding some SX. But, this year we’re gonna focus on 250 B and I’ll do some of the WMX rounds as well.
Who would you like to thank?
Monster Energy, Team Green Kawasaki, Pro Circuit, Troy Lee Designs, Factory Connection, Atlas, Dunlop, Maxima, Renthal, Scott, Alpinestars, Ethika, Stance, Motion Pro, Hinson, MTF
/ Words / Lake Kilpatrick
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