They say through the hottest of fires, comes the strongest of steel. Devastating crashes, broken bones, and many bed-ridden months are an unfortunate part of this game, and TJ Uselman is well aware of that. However, it’s how you rebound, walking through the flame, and eventually being molded into the ultimate competitor of your inner being that counts. TJ had quite the injury late last year, creating many months of rest and recovery, and subsequently an ample loss of riding time. Choosing to come back with a stronger will than ever, he’s propelled himself again into trackside chatter, creating quite the buzz around the country. With that being said, we had to have a word with the Yamaha pilot, seeing what he’s been up to, and hearing the low-down on how his year has gone so far.
So TJ, how did you get involved in motocross of all things?
My friend, Jimmy, had a PW and a track at his house. After school one day he let me take it for a ride. I kept talking about how fun it was to my mom and dad. I was finally able to get a PW and went to a local Friday night race. I pretty much raced
every weekend in MN at the D23 races after that until my family moved to Texas.
Who was the one pro rider you looked up to growing up? Any reason in particular you chose them?
When I was first racing, I really didn't have any pros I looked up to. Every weekend at local races in MN, my family and I would watch the A riders race. Those were the guys I started watching the most and really looked up to.
You had a pretty significant injury recently and were out for some time; can you detail us a little bit on what happened?
I was training last November when I got hurt. I really don't know what caused the crash and no one saw it. My trainer took me in to get checked out and I realized it was worse than I thought. I ended up in ICU and found out I fractured some vertebrae in my neck, had a concussion, some compressed discs in my back, and a few other minor injuries. I had to wear a brace from head to waist for over three months - it wasn't fun. I was completely off the bike and missed all the spring nationals. It felt like forever until I was able to get back on my bike. I was able to start training again during LL qualifying.
How long did it take you to get back into the flow of things on the bike? Was it your speed or stamina that needed more work once back on the motorcycle?
It actually felt good to be back on the bike and riding again. I was looking forward to racing the South Central regional and realized I wasn't where I needed to be. I found out it was hardest to get my stamina back. I went back to training and worked harder on and off the track for the next month. I decided I wasn't going to feel like that at a race ever again.
Coming into your regional, were you confident that you could dominate as you did?
I felt way better heading to IL than I did at the South Central regional. I wanted to walk away with 6 wins and I had been putting in the extra work to do it. My starts were terrible and I made it hard on myself every race. But, I knew what my goal was
heading into the regional. I could tell all my extra training was paying off.
How were you preparing for the ranch this year? Where were you doing your training?
I was doing sprints, long motos and off the bike workouts. I've been training at Oak Hill with Jeff Oldenburg for a couple years. It's not a big group of kids so it is more personal and technical. Jeff is the type of trainer who tells you like it is when you're
out there training so you always know how you are doing and what you need to work on. The guys that I trained with are really a lot of fun to hang with after you are done training for the day. Of course, myself and #theothers like to call it JeffTF when we are all together training.
Recap Loretta Lynn’s for us; how did you feel the week went for you?
Overall, I felt like this is the best I've ridden at LL. That felt good to me. I was hoping to show that a Yamaha could be at the top in all 6 supermini races, but I had some mechanical issues that came during the same class. My other 4 races were decent
races and I finished 9th overall in one class.
Even before the ranch, you were beginning to dabble in the Schoolboy class; is that the move from here on out?
LL was my last supermini race. I'm really looking forward to getting some seat time on the YZ125 before the Ponca race in October.
What other nationals do you plan on racing in 2017?
Right now I'm planning on racing Ponca and Mini O's this fall to finish off the 2017 race season.
Describe to us your vision of 2018; races, results, what are your goals for next year?
After my accident, I had time to really think about what is important to me. I feel like I became a much smarter rider after that happened and I know I have more room to grow as rider. This spring and summer my vision really changed about training on
and off the bike and I saw some great results. I will continue my training program with Jeff at Oak Hill. I'm really just focusing on getting better every time I ride, improving my off-bike training, and fixing the small things to improve my results.
I haven't planned my schedule for 2018, but know I'll hit Oak Hill and Freestone in the spring. And, of course get ready to improve my finishes at LL.
Off the bike, how do you get away from the stresses of racing?
I like to hang out with my friends, ride my mountain bike and give my brother and sister a hard time when I'm home.
Any sponsor’s you’d like to thank?
I have so many great people backing me. My mom, dad, brother, sister and grandparents support me more than anyone. Besides that, I can't thank Answer, Oakley, ProTaper, OCD Graphics, Jeff and Dawn Oldenburg, Jeff Quick, TDM Films and CoreMX enough for their support - especially after my injury and sticking with me.
DAILY BREAD BY / LOGAN MATTINGLY
IMAGES BY / JESS TEN HAGEN
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