While his MotoGP grid mates relax on holiday, fraternize with sponsors and indulge in some training Bradley Smith is clocking up the hours in the depths of Thalgau and the Red Bull Diagnostics and Training Center. We decided to get in touch to ask what he was up to …
“I think it’s minus four [degrees] outside and there’s some good snow on the ground …” KTM’s new MotoGP recruit sounds like he is happy to be indoors. Bradley Smith has become very accustomed to his interior surroundings at the Red Bull Diagnostics and Training Center (DTC) having travelled to Thalgau – 10 km east of Salzburg – for a comprehensive physical and physio program working primarily on the condition of his left leg and the ligament-less knee (all from a practice crash from a disastrous wildcard appearance at the final round of the 2016 Endurance World Championship in August). We do not bring up the subject of arguably Smith’s favorite non-racing pursuit – Motocross – knowing this will hardly cheer the 26 year old who would most likely be on the dirt at this time of year. Later on though he does chat about the recently passed Anaheim 1 Supercross with typical zeal and admiration.
Brad is on a break from a fairly arduous routine at the DTC; a facility that helped multi MX2 World Champ Jeffrey Herlings get back to health after his hip dislocation and a number of other Red Bull athletes in their quest for a degree of fitness perfection. Before asking exactly how he passes the time we wanted to know what ’38’ thought of the location where he will have clocked up eight weeks of therapy, consultation and training before MotoGP buries the tacho at Losail, Qatar in late March and where KTM will join the grid on a full-time basis.
“They call it ‘The House’ because everything you need is under one roof. All the facilities and the specialists are in place for a total ‘MOT’ of the body,” he enthuses. “I’d been to another similar places – Harris and Ross in Manchester (UK) – but the DTC is totally interconnected; from physios, nutritionists, doctors, cognitive work, psychologists and even a testing lab. You don’t just have one person working on you and then you visit someone else, everyone is aware of the same program and the same goal. All the information is shared. It just seems so much easier.”
Smith had been based in Andorra and recently moved to Monaco but Thalgau has been very much his base of operations over the winter and from the initial end-of-season tests with the KTM RC16. He hobbled back into the MotoGP paddock for Grands Prix in Japan, Australia, Malaysia and Valencia to close out his fourth campaign in the premier class and then did his best in shakedown outings for his new KTM team before drawing a line under the painful summer episode and beginning work for 2017 in earnest.
His timetable involves an eight-hour day. “I come in the morning and will have two passive physio sessions – so working on movement and flexibility but basically from the confines of a bed or bench – then training sessions and normally just over an hour and a half for lunch. I’m usually out by six.”
“I’m very much here with a goal,” he adds. “We sat down on November 30th with the intention to be in the best shape possible for the first Grand Prix in Qatar. To try and be at that 90% mark for the first race. I think I am 10-15% away from that at the moment. I’ll be back here after the tests to keep on working.”
For a person who was already passing country borders frequently in his early teens as he carved his name through the Spanish Championship and made a splash in the 125cc World Championship with three victories and twelve podiums, the temporary residence in Austria and surrounding white mountain tops was not too much of an ask. Competing in MotoGP involves a lifestyle of ‘extremes’ and Smith will encounter more diversity when he swaps the snow of Salzburg for the intense heat of Malaysia for the opening MotoGP laps of 2017 in a number of days.
Smith might be noticing the cold in Thalgau but this is one motorcycle racer who is hardly easing off the gas.