Matthew LeBlanc made a big step in his blossoming amateur career following his title last year in the 65cc (7-11) class at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch. The Louisiana native has left the 65cc machine behind and has placed his focus solely on the 85 and the supermini for the upcoming season of racing. The opportunity to place all of his attention on the bigger bike paid off immediately as he swept all four classes that he contested at Mini-O’s, subsequently boosting his confidence heading into the 2017 season. LeBlanc has encountered a few obstacles at the beginning of this year’s season -- he broke his elbow before the Millcreek Spring Classic, and then he suffered a shoulder injury at Daytona. Although he hasn’t been competing at one hundred percent, the Orange Brigade rider still managed to snag three titles throughout the spring nationals, and he’ll only continue to improve throughout the year as he regains full fitness. We caught up with Matthew to chat about pushing through the pain during the spring nationals, how it’s been adapting to the supermini, and cooking cajun feasts in the pits at Motofest.
You started off 2017 with some solid results throughout the spring nationals. You came away from Millcreek with two titles, are you happy with how the racing went down there?
Yeah, I felt really good; the track there was fun and I felt really confident going into Daytona. I had a little injury at Daytona, so I didn’t get to finish my week, but spring nationals were really fun.
What happened in the crash at Daytona and what were the extent of your injuries?
I jumped and I hit a pothole and just fell over. I hurt my shoulder -- they said I had a broken growth plate, but I went to the ortho and they said it wasn’t broken. Two weeks before Daytona I got t-boned by accident, and I didn’t know about it, but I broke my elbow. We figured that out when I went to the ortho to x-ray my shoulder. So, I raced Millcreek, Daytona, and Freestone with a broken elbow.
Did you still get a chance to hang out and watch some SX at Daytona?
I watched a little -- just hanging out with a couple of friends, watched a couple of races. We took off a little bit early, but I still had a lot of fun even with the injury.
What’d you think about the track they put together for the RCSX?
I really liked the track. Unfortunately, it rained a little bit, but I still had a lot of fun.
How did the injury change your preparation for Freestone?
It really didn’t change anything for my schedule. I was in a little bit more pain than normal, but I felt good and I just pushed through it.
Are you content with how things went at Freestone considering your condition leading up to the event?
Uhh, I mean...I felt really good. I felt like I could have done better -- we had a couple of bike issues -- but I’m still happy with how I did and that I was able to get a title.
The track conditions were all over the place at Freestone — ranging from dry and dusty to soft and rutted, did you make a lot of bike changes throughout the week or is it something that you kind of just ride through?
Umm, you have to adapt to it a little bit, but it doesn’t take long to get used to the track. You just have to get used to the lines and stuff. We didn’t change that much on the bike, it’s just something that you kind of mentally get over and ride through.
How has it been adapting to the bigger bike now that you’re off of the 65?
It’s a little bit different gettin’ on the bigger bikes and stuff, but it’s not that big of a change. I feel like I’m a little bit looser just focusing on one bike and riding that bike everyday -- just gettin’ more used to the bike, that’s pretty much it.
You did some training at MTF heading into spring nats, how long have you been there and how has that helped your program?
I’ve been at MTF for about two years now. My Mom’s the homeschool teacher there, so I just train there pretty much full-time and they help me out a lot.
So, you don’t spend much time at home in Louisiana?
Not really. I’ve been in Louisiana a little bit, but I’ve been out here in Cali for a week and a half and it’s been really fun.
You’re out there for the Orange Brigade camp, talk a little bit about that.
The KTM guys show up, we have a little meeting, we ride, and at the end of the day we have some fun. Y’know, they fly a couple of trainers out here and it’s really fun.
Are you stayin’ out west and using that to prep for the Cal Classic?
The first week I was in Cali I stayed out with Ryder D and we celebrated our birthdays, and had a little bit of fun, didn’t ride any. We rode one day at Lake Elsinore and then headed out to Deegan’s and we’ve just been chillin’ here. It’s my second time out here and it’s sick.
You went to the Georgia Dome and raced the Supermini Dominator class on Friday night at Motofest earlier this year. What’d you think of the event and how’d the racing go for you?
It was really cool. They put on a really good event; the track was great, the event was great. I could have done a little better during the race, but I had a lot of fun and I hope to go back next year.
You brought the whole Louisiana crew to Atlanta and you guys had quite the feast brewing in the pits. What were you guys cooking up?
Uhh, I’m not sure. There’s all kinds of stuff, you never know. You hang out with Cajuns and you get a lot of food.
There’s a lot of interesting facets of the culture down in Louisiana where you’re from — what do you like to do to get back to your roots when you’re back home in the bayou?
Pretty much just chill out, fish a little bit, go hunting, and anything on the water -- wakeboarding, fishing, hunting, pretty much all of it.
How’re you feeling heading into Loretta’s qualifiers and what’re your expectations for yourself this year?
I’m hoping for a top three in Supermini, top five in Supermini would be decent. In the 85 class, I should be able to win it, but second would be alright.
Who would you like to thank for helping you out?
KTM, Orange Brigade, Dunlop, Thor, Scott, Viator Performance, JM Racing, FMF, MTF, Nihilo, Vertex, Dubya, Pro Taper, DT1, FCTN, Ethika, Ogio, Bell, Frog Fitness