MPG / DAILY BREAD / JANUARY 17, 2017
Words / Lake Kilpatrick
Antonio Calavano had one of the most successful seasons of his amateur career throughout 2016. The California native turned some heads towards the end of the year, and it all started with his first ever moto win down at the Ranch. He continued to put in solid results throughout the rest of the week and captured second and third overall in the 250C and 450C classes, but that was just the start for Calavano. He went down to Gatorback Cycle Park for the forty-fifth annual Thor Winter Olympics with loads of confidence that translated directly into three championships. Calavano is currently contesting 250 B and Allstar A/B on the AMSOIL AX tour to get some racing prep in before the spring nationals. He’ll be looking to carry his momentum from the end of the 2016 season into Daytona when he returns to Florida, hoping to make some waves in the B class. We caught up with Antonio to talk about what it was like to grab a moto win at Loretta Lynn’s, the story behind his Pikachu helmet, and his goals for the 2017 season.
You had one of the best seasons of your racing career in 2016, what’s it like reflecting on the season as a whole?
Yeah, I definitely think 2016 went well. I kinda made like a plan with my old trainer on what I was gonna do for 2016, and I definitely stuck to that plan and just kind of went with it, went to all the big nationals, and showed what I had to offer. Towards the end of the year I made everything click and Mini-O’s was kind of a big one, and Loretta’s was, too; I got second and third overall, but at Mini-O’s I really went there with some revenge and damn near swept every race I showed up for! 2016 was a big year for me.
Loretta Lynn’s was a pretty awesome week for you. You went out and won the first 250 C moto when the track was basically a mud bog, where’d you learn to ride in the mud like that being from California?
Dude, honestly the track was looking perfect, it wasn’t raining. 50s were before us so the track was mint and, y’know, the gates were perfect. Right before I get my sight lap goggles, it just started dumping. So, I was like ‘Alright, hopefully I can just get a start and run up there.’ I came off the start second and after the Ten Commandments, I made the pass into the lead and kinda stayed there. I rode my own race and stayed pretty smart...and uhh, I got the job done, dude. It’s pretty sick, I don’t know how a California kid can really ride in the rain. Spring Classic was the same thing, it was pouring rain, and I ended up winning three titles there.
How would you describe that first moto win at the Ranch?
Dude, honestly there’s so much going through your mind that you can’t believe it happens. You just think like ‘Man, I finally did it.’ All the hard work paid off. I mean, everyone who has doubted you, it’s like a laugh in their face. But, the people who stuck behind you, you know they’re truly happy for you, and you just gotta keep goin’, I guess.
What’s the story behind the Pikachu helmet?
I get asked that a lot. So, basically my Grandpa (Papa Joe) was driving me to all the races this year; everywhere I needed to go, he drove me there. It came down to us driving and he wouldn’t like to listen to my music. So, I’d put on the pandora radio station of Gabriel Iglesias, and we started listening to it and he just started saying ‘Pikachu.’ We would mess with each other; I’d mess with him while he was driving and he would mess with me. Anytime we’d go mess with each other, we’d just say Pikachu to like scare you, ‘cause you know it’s comin’. So, basically when it came time for Loretta’s and he had helped out so much that year, I was like ‘Let’s get the helmet painted and put Pikachu on it. So after the year is over, I’ll sign it and give it to him for a thank you for helpin’ me out the whole year.’ So, that’s what the Pikachu stands for.
You went to Mini-O’s and took three championships out of four classes, could you kinda walk me through the week of racing down at Gatorback?
Yeah, definitely. I came in there and I knew that I wasn’t going to leave without most of the championships. I told a few people that I was gonna win, y’know, all of ‘em. I mean, I came really close, I won seven out of eight motos; I lost my last moto, me and the kid just ended up tying for the championship which was cool. I gave it my all in that last moto in the 450 class, but their bikes were just a little bit faster. No excuses, it was definitely a fun experience and I’m glad I went out with a bang. I’m just ready for 2017, man.
Could you talk a little bit about how training this year stepped your riding up to that next level?
Actually, I went to GPF before Mini-O’s to get ready for AX and then since I was gonna be down there, I was like ‘I might as well race Mini-O’s.’ But, I didn’t put in too much time in down there, ‘cause when I was there my bike was broken. Two weeks before Mini-O’s when I got there, I didn’t even ride. I showed up Saturday and rode on their practice track at Diamondback, and then ended up racing Monday. So, really I didn’t put in much time; I worked out a lot there, y’know, doing my runs and doing my work outs. Other than that, I was training with my California trainer, Rusty Holland, and we had been putting in motos and fitness things before Mammoth and Loretta’s. So, Rusty helped me out a lot. I mean, I’ve been to training facilities, so I kind of figured out, y’know, what they’re all about. I figured out as I got older that it’s up to me to get the job done. Yeah, it’s cool to be there, but I could do the same thing in California and find the trainer that I really like and that I can, y’know, explain myself better to. I just called him and said “Hey, I have this plan and I’d like for you to be my trainer, kinda just point me in the right way. I already know what I need to be doing.” He was like “Alright, let’s get it goin’.” So, I went down towards Bakersfield and just started training, and riding with him, and it kind of all fell into place.
You spend loads of time on the road traveling back and forth between both coasts, any traveling horror stories?
This year before Grand Rapids - the night after the pros raced - I finally turned eighteen and I went to the gas station to buy a powerball ticket. I went back to the van and the van would not start for an hour and a half; I did not get back to the hotel until late and I was so upset. That’s probably one of the gnarliest things, I mean, we’ve hit some pretty gnarly storms traveling back and forth. But, nothing too bad so far, no.
You got the opportunity to travel to the Hinson and FMF headquarters over the holidays and get a sneak peek behind the scenes, what was that experience like?
Yeah, me and my homie went down there and were able to check out Hinson. They messaged me after Mini-O’s and really liked how I rode, so they asked me to come down there and check out the warehouse, and give me a tour of how everything was made. We drove all the way out there, it’s only like a six hour drive. We went out there, rode at Milestone, then the next day we went to FMF in the morning; that place is crazy. You would never believe how they have everything made. There are hundreds of people workin’ in there, it’s insane how everything is made. Same thing with Hinson: there’s just this block of steel or whatever it was that they use to make the clutches. It was a pretty cool experience, like honestly, I’ve never seen anything like it and I’m glad I was able to check that all out.
You’re stepping up to the B class for 2017, what sort of goals do you have set for yourself?
Yeah, for 2017, I definitely plan on racing the 250 two-stroke again and hopefully making some noise. I’d like to be top ten at most of the big nationals and hopefully get in that top five and shoot for a championship. Y’know, I think I can definitely do it. I think I have the team behind me with gear, bikes, and training. I think I definitely have all the pieces to the puzzle...and uh, I think it’s just up to me when it comes down to that gate drop. I mean, I’m not afraid of anybody. It’s anyone’s game out there and just let the best man win.