The Motocross des Nations (MXdN) is one of the biggest annual motocross events in the world. Yet, when it was time to go racing in 2015, Team Canada wasn’t present. A lot of people blamed it on opposing interests by the two organizing associations within Canada: the CMA vs. the CMRC. The CMA is the body that is connected with the FIM and has the power to send a team to the MxDN, but yet the CMRC hosts the primary Canadian Pro Motocross Championship every year. The lack of CMA involvement in the sport dropped so low in 2015 that they weren’t even able to put a team together, or so the story goes.
Regardless of what actually happened in 2015, Canadian motocross fans owe the return of the Canadian MXdN team to one person: Kourtney Lloyd. Lloyd is a savior to the Canadian motocross industry, working tirelessly to help run a bike shop (Cycle North) in Prince George, a Canadian AX team, a huge amateur support program, and now Team Canada. With her efforts, Team Canada not only returned to the world stage last year in 2016, but also got a top 10 finish (their best in 15 years)!
Kourtney is now in the process of putting together the 2017 Canadian MXdN team. We were fortunate enough to catch up with Kourtney shortly after the Toronto SX, where she had a press conference about the team. We were able to talk to her about the team, CMA/CMRC tension, her hopes and struggles, and of course, whether or not we will ever see Dean Wilson race for Canada again!
Moto Now: Firstly, give us an introduction; tell us a bit about yourself.
Kourtney Lloyd: I wear a few different hats, but the biggest one that I’m most excited about is that I am the team manager for the Motocross des Nations for Team Canada. I also run a power sports dealership up in Prince George, B.C., with my two brothers, and my parents have owned it for about 36 years. [We] have a 32 person amateur program that is really big for our shop and beneficial for our shop. So we have lots of up and coming riders, and some older guys that have been riding for quite some time. Between all of those, I am a busy person, but its all lots of fun.
You had a large press conference in Toronto the same weekend of the supercross. How did that go? What did you cover?
The press conference went good. For my portion of it, I was up there for Team Canada to try and get some funding for the Motocross des Nations. I also named the riders that are on my radar for 2017 and the biggest announcement was that I started a youth ambassador program for the Motocross des Nations. We are going to choose a rider for the east and a rider from the west, and that rider is going to get to come to the Des Nations with us as part of Team Canada to just experience what it’s like. It’s very overwhelming for a lot of the Canadian riders once we get to these big races because we don’t have events this huge. Whether its the crowd or the gates, when you go and have to represent your country, it’s really tough and it’s very overwhelming for riders once we get to that stage. So I want a lot of the younger kids to be able to experience that before it is their turn, whether it is going to be their turn or not. There’s going to be no pressure on them, we just want them to experience it and to bring the youth in a bit. The Motocross des Nations is kinda that race that just die-hard fans watch and know about, but we want to make it popular across Canada so that everyone knows, everyone is cheering for the team, and everyone is excited. I think the kids, bringing them into it, is the best way to do that, so it doesn’t just go away like in the past.
That’s a really impressive initiative. Any thoughts of expanding that?
We would eventually like to get to that point, but it’s tough because we don’t have much funding for this program. We kinda have to start small, and build from there. We do have a lot of big ideas that we have written down for the future, we just don’t have the means to establish them yet. So that’s kinda what we are asking from the manufacturers and the industry for as well. If we want to send these teams and these riders and if we want to do well, we all have to be behind them and support them. So I think that once we can grow the program to the point where everyone is involved in the whole country regardless of the brand or riders, I think we could get to the point where we can send them down to some U.S. races or some GPs. We don’t want them to be just Canadian champions, and then that’s it, that’s as far as they go. Instead, we want to be able to groom riders to get them to the world stage, get them to be competing with the top riders in the world, and to be competitve once they get there.
How did you come across the opportunity of managing the team and putting it together?
Gauldy [Ryan Gauld] had done it in 2014. He did a great job at it, getting the crowd involved and getting Canada back on board with it, but then for the next year, the CMA didn’t feel comfortable sending the team. They didn’t think that they had everything aligned to go. So the team for 2015 actually got cancelled. And then in August of 2015, the CMA actually put out an application looking for a team manger for the MXdN. It was a pretty extensive application process; 4 page application to fill out to get past the first stage, and then another application. Marilyn Bastedo (North American FIM rep and CMA president) then called for a phone interview. We kinda just went from there.
Speaking of the CMA, there has been some tension having two sanctioning bodies. Is this something you have to deal with, or has it been a problem in the past? What are your thoughts on this?
To be honest with you, there was a lot of tension between the CMRC and CMA, and even tension between the fans and the CMA. But honestly, there is also [tension] with the fans and the CMRC, so I take it from a perspective where I wasn’t there for any of that. I wasn’t really around when that happened 25 years ago. I was so young when it happened, my perspective on it is not really personal. The CMA has been really good to me; Marilyn was great to work with. I know a lot of people, and some on social media haven’t been kind to her, but I was actually surprised. I went into it kinda expecting her to be like what I’ve read on social media, but when I started working with her, she was great. As for the CMA and CMRC not getting along, the CMRC is also awesome and supportive of my efforts. I have a great relationship with Mark [Stallybrass, the president of the CMRC], and he even let me sell raffle tickets at the nationals last year, despite it being a CMRC event. He’s been helpful, and actually came to the Des Nations, and hung out in our pits. He came to our track day and test day, and was always their to help. So, there is a lot of tension between the CMA and CMRC, but when it comes to me and those two parties, there is no tension at all. They both put that aside for me, which I’m really grateful for.
As team manager, what are your biggest struggles then? What are your duties?
The biggest struggle is fundraising. Last year a lot of local businesses in Prince George actually helped to pay for the team to go. We also sold raffle tickets. That was a hard part, because if we don’t fundraise enough, the team can’t go. But it’s also hard to fundraise without a team, so you’re announcing that you have this team, but at the back of your mind, you know that if you don’t come up with enough money, you will have to cancel it. And it was close last year; we fundraised just enough money to go. It’s no different for this year, because there was nothing left over from last year to start with this year. We want to get to a point where we don’t have to fundraise like that every year, we don’t want to have to sell raffle tickets. It would suck for a rider to get picked to be on Team Canada, and then, due to not having enough money, to have to cancel the team on them. So that’s the biggest hurdle every year with this program, but we are striving to change that. There are a lot of industry people that are really excited and have said that they will back it. I’m relieved about that, and once we get those contracts in place, I will feel a lot better. You also have to pick the team. That’s a little stressful too because it’s such a small industry and they are kinda all your friends. You’ve got all your friends that you’re with every single weekend at the track, and they’re like, “so is it me, is it me?” And all I can say is that I don’t know! The good thing is is that it’s all results based, so I don’t have to really choose sides or anything like that. So that was another one of the stresses. And then you have to get permission from their team also to use their equipment. You could pick a rider, and then the team could say that you can’t use their bikes.
Who is the biggest sponsor then for the MXdN team? Does it come from within the industry?
It’s mostly friends and family; everyone buys raffle tickets. In terms of sponsors, out of 39 sponsors, only 6 of those were industry.
The rider’s team itself doesn’t support financially at all?
No. It still costs them to go. It’s their equipment that gets worn out, and it’s gone for a month. It’s still a big commitment from a team to let their rider go to the Des Nations. We were really lucky because KTM and Husqvarna actually did give money to the program, so we were lucky that way. A privateer or satellite team wouldn’t be able to do that, so we have to make sure to pick someone that the industry will get behind, so that we can get some money for the rider to go.
Last year all three riders were on either KTM or Husky. Was that part of the selection process, because you knew you were getting the financial support?
No that actually didn’t have any bearing on it at all. Shawn [Maffeinbeier]’s team was Redemption Racing, and they weren’t factory KTM. Tyler [Medaglia] is on Husqvarna, but he got picked based off of results; he killed it on the east coast last year. Tyler has been at the Des Nations around 4 times now, and he’s a very easy going rider. It was nice to have him there because if things got a little tense or stressful, Tyler would make a joke, and we would all just bust a gut laughing. He was a really, really good person to have there and to make the team comfortable. But overall, the bikes that they were on really didn’t hold any bearing. Colton [Facciotti] couldn’t go because his wife was having a baby that same week; if he had gotten picked there would have been a Honda there. So it’s just circumstantial, nothing to do with the brand.
Okay, so here’s a tough question: what is your dream team for Canada?
(Laughs) I’m not going there! I have to spend the whole summer with these people! I know kinda in my head who I think is going to be on the podium once the gate drops in June, but again, I haven’t seen anyone ride all winter, I don’t know what type of training program they are on. Right now Kaven [Benoit] is hurt, so it’s really going to depend on how the season goes.
Last year you had some great success with Kaven. Speaking as a fan, it was amazing to see him up front! What was your experience like last year?
Going back to what I had to organize as the team manager, I had to organize lodging, airfare, rental cars, vans, shipping of all the bikes from Toronto to Italy, picking up bikes, food for the whole week and race day, find test tracks, buy fuel, pretty much eveything you need for a week but for the biggest race of your life. It was cool. I rented a 12 bedroom house right on the lake so that the boys could go jogging. We had a tennis court and a pool, they had a lot of room to move around. In a hotel room you’re just sitting on the bed. If you’re sitting on a bed for 5 days, you’re not moving around. We were the opposite; we had a soccer game one day! We had a chef that came to cook for us on race day and at the house, so we had a really legit set-up. And what that did is that it created a really solid bond for our team. We had dinner together every night, and no one even had their phones at the table! Every morning for breakfast we all went down, starting at 7 a.m., and we just talked. We became like a family! On the morning of race day, it wasn’t just us meeting outside of a hotel. Instead, it was actually like waking up and meeting with your family. We were one of the smallest teams there too. The U.S. has a group of like 100 people, so for our little group of like 20 people, we were all just so proud to be there and so pumped. It was a lot of organizing and a lot of work, a lot of back and forth, but it was so worth it at the end for all of us.
Well, you mentioned your one future goal with the youth ambassador program. What other goals do you have for this year? How do you top the success from last year?
I think my goals are to just have it go as smooth as it did last year, if not smoother. Until I see everyone riding, I don’t know what our goals are for results, because this kinda changes every year depending on who can or cannot go. Kaven killed it last year, one hundred percent. By the end of the weekend, people were cheering for Canada! It was such a cool feeling. Tyler and Shawn were amazing as well. For Shawn never being there before, he was so calm, cool, and collected. And had Tyler’s chain not fallen off, we probably would have placed better than we did, but getting a top 10 at the Des Nations with a DNF is incredible. I don’t know if I can top that feeling; we weren’t even expected to go to the A final! Then we made it, and some of the stuff that was written was like “they will probably get last place, but it was cool that they made the A final”. When we got in the top 10, it was the most incredible feeling, because we had been told that we had brought a B team. We had been told by so many people that I wasn’t able to run Team Canada. So it was incredible. I don’t know if my goal is to feel like that again, because I don’t know if I ever can, but my goal is to represent Canada the way we did last year and to have people fall in love with our country; we love our country! I think that is the best feeling to get away from that.
Well, we are all pretty ecstatic with how it went; I know I was pumped on it just as a fan. You did a great job. One last thing I have to ask, will we ever see Dean Wilson race for us on Team Canada?!
Deano! I don’t know, that’s a touchy subject. I don’t know for sure if he would or not, but I’m sure the conversation will happen. I love Deano, I think that he’s a good dude and will represent us well. I just don’t know if that’s fair to the other riders though in Canada. I don’t know if that’s one of the things where like, could he do better? Who knows, but i don’t know if it’s fair to the up and coming riders either. This could be their year where they get picked and then they ride really well, do the whole Canadian series, are in all the Canadian media, and then Dean Wilson ends up going. I probably shouldn’t be so emotional about a decision like that, but I just don’t think that that is fair.
You kinda see it with the French not choosing Musquin in past years as well. Similar idea?
Let’s just say that Jess Pettis wins MX2 this year. To look him in the eye and say that this year we are going to take Dean Wilson, he would just punch me in the face! People would be mad! (laughs).
Cover photo from Team Canada Motocross of Nations (Facebook) by James Lissimore