GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox: Jeremy LeDonne

Tuesday Toolbox: Jeremy LeDonne

Tuesday, June 6, 2017 | 3:55 PM
Tuesday, June 6, 2017 | 3:55 PM

Jeremy LeDonne is only 20 years old, but he has already experienced a lot! Racing is in his blood – both parents were riders. He grew up watching Supercross and was actually named after Jeremy McGrath. He first started riding an ATV just after his third birthday. A few months later, Rich Hetrick, a family friend, talked them into racing moto, and the rest is history. He and his parents spent 13 years driving from Pennsylvania week in and week out, pursuing the ATV National Motocross series. Tragedy struck when Jeremy crashed during a race and was paralyzed from the waist down. He was able to fight through the injury and is now racing the GNCC series. He competes on both bikes and quads – riding a Honda TRX 450 ER on Saturday and then a KTM 250 SX on Sunday. Currently he leads the 19+ C class on ATVs and is third in Open College C. In addition to racing two classes every round, he is running a race team and works full-time. Fortunately, he had a few minutes to sit down and answer some questions for us.

LeDonne raced in the ATVMX Series from an early age, but after a disastrous crash and years of physical therapy Jeremy came back to racing. 
LeDonne raced in the ATVMX Series from an early age, but after a disastrous crash and years of physical therapy Jeremy came back to racing.  Provided So Jeremy, I hear you raced the ATV Motocross Nationals for 13 years. Can you tell me a little bit about your time pursuing that series?
Jeremy: I started racing at a very young age, so I didn't live the normal life as a kid. I spent winters training in Texas and traveled cross-country with Joel Hetrick doing riding schools. Seeing friends from all over the world every other weekend. I was homeschooled, so I never went to a regular high school. However, it wasn’t always easy – there was a lot of pressure on my family and we often fought. Everyone around me was trying to push me closer to my dream. But looking back over the past, I definitely wouldn't pick any other way to grow up. When I look back on the past it always puts a smile on my face. 

I went through every rank in the ATV National series, from 50cc all the way up to the 450cc quads. Pretty much all of the kids I rode and raced are all pros right now. It seemed like I always fell a little bit short in the points, getting second in most of my full seasons. In 2014 it was a little different, I had an awesome team behind me and JR Hinds was training me. I was winning races and had the points lead. At the fifth round of the series at Briarcliff MX I won my races Saturday, but then on Sunday, the very first moto out disaster struck. I got the holeshot and wrecked after the second turn in a whoops section, going about 60mph. I got landed on and crushed by multiple quads. I knew instantly I broke my back and was paralyzed. Not being able to feel my legs is the scariest thing I ever went through. Two back surgeries, two rods, eight screws, a fake vertebra, a broke L2 vertebra, a shattered pelvis, broken femur, a shattered tailbone, months in the hospital and years of physical therapy later, I am back and ready to race some GNCC's!  

It’s a shame that your career was shot down before it’s time. Are you at all bitter about that?
I keep it in perspective. Was it shot down before I actually made it? Yes. But the things I learned, people I met, places I traveled, things I accomplished, and time I got to spend with my dad are way better then any Pro license is. It does suck that the best season of my career, the one that finally opened everyone's eyes, is the one that ended it all for me. But because of that, I found my passion for cross country racing. I’m ready to start a new chapter in my life. 

On Saturday's at a GNCC event you can find LeDonne racing his ATV. 
On Saturday's at a GNCC event you can find LeDonne racing his ATV.  Provided

How were you able to come back from such a traumatic injury? What (or who) helped you keep pushing? Why didn't you give up? There are a lot of people out there who would have thrown in the towel.
After we found out how bad my injury actually was my parents told me straight up I am not allowed to race again. They should have known better. Ask anyone – you don’t tell me I can't do something, because I will find a way. Lying in the hospital bed for months all I wanted to do was ride again. I felt like I let my Dad down and my injuries had crushed all the dreams we shared. My motivation was getting my old life back. If it wasn't for wanting to ride so bad I really don't think I would be walking right now. It took well over a year of physical therapy trying to get me back on my feet. Eventually Michael Lapcevic, my personal trainer and his amazing equipment got me walking and riding again.

 I am a true believer in never giving up, if something bad happens I have to do it again or else I am not satisfied. So I worked at it until I could compete at the 2016 Loretta Lynn’s ATV national two years after my accident. Then I could step away and move onto a different path of my life. 

Why did you decide to start riding and racing again, especially since it had already hurt you so much? You must really love the sport!
Racing and riding is all I ever did in my life. It's part of me, it's in my blood. One of my favorite sayings is "why tip toe through life to end up at death's door safely?" It was never really a question in my mind; I was going to ride again, even if I had to strap myself to the machine. There's nothing in this world that makes me happier then racing!

When you were finally able to compete again, what made you look into doing the GNCC series?
Motocross has a really high risk level. With all the hardware in my back, I was looking for something with a slower speed that was closer to the ground. GNCC was exactly that, the trees in the woods slow you down enough that it is safer and there are no 130 feet jumps you have to hit wide open on a 450 quad. 

After I had the idea of doing GNCCs, I really wasn't sure what to expect since I had never really ridden in the woods. So, not only did I have to learn how to ride with really weak legs and get my endurance, I also had to learn how to ride between trees and how to pass people on a trail.  

I know you're one of those rare riders who competes on both bikes and quads. Is it difficult trying to juggle both?
I actually focus mainly on the quad, my new goal is to go pro in a couple years since the motocross thing didn't work out. I started racing bikes too because some of the riders on my team race bikes on Sunday, and I like a challenge. I’ve already spent enough time sitting out, so I wasn't about to sit back and miss an opportunity to have fun. So I went out and bought a bike to start riding with my teammates. It was a lot of determined days of coming home all beat up because apparently weak legs and keeping a dirt bike on two wheels is harder than you think. One day it just clicked, I wasn't falling anymore and I felt good on a bike. Now I can do a two-hour race on a quad and race the bike for another two hours right after. 

Not only do you ride two races in a single weekend, you seem to do pretty well in both of them too! You're currently third in Open C College (Bikes) and leading 19+ C (ATVs), correct?
Yes, this is my first year racing cross country and my first-year racing full-time after a long three-year break. This is a learning year before I move up to the PM race next year. I’ve been battling through a broken leg and the weather at the X-Factor was not in my favor, but I’m hoping to start getting good finishes again. I aim to win both classes, bikes and quads!  

Then on Sunday's he hopes over to the two-wheel side of things and races his motorcycle in the Open C College class. 
Then on Sunday's he hopes over to the two-wheel side of things and races his motorcycle in the Open C College class.  Provided

Some riders like faster tracks, others like tighter and more technical stuff. Does what you like to ride vary based on what machine you are on?
Not really. I am definitely a fan of the faster flowing tracks. If there is a motocross track on it I like it even better. I practice whatever I struggle with on both so I will get used to it eventually. I enjoy the faster tracks but if it is tight track that weekend “I am still gonna send it!”

Your story is definitely an inspiration! What advice or encouragement would you give to other riders out there who are trying to come back from injuries or struggles of their own?
Never give up, don't let anyone tell you what you can and can't do. This is your life do what makes you happy, no excuses, you can make it happen! Stuff may seem like it's the worst thing that could ever happen to you at the time but in a couple years you will look back on it and it won't be so bad, it only made you stronger. 

Is there anyone out there you would like to thank?
My Dad has always been there for me and supported my racing; even after a life changing accident he still supports my dreams. I will never be able to repay him for that. I need to thank my mom, sister, and entire family for the support and taking care of me for the last 3 years. In addition, I am grateful for all my friends that stuck by me and come to the hospital every day for months. I especially want to thank everyone that donated for us to be able to afford the rehab that was my road to recovery. 

As far as my racing right now, I want to thank my teammates that help me push my goals everyday training, and all my sponsors who make my equipment bulletproof: LeDonne Racing, Tri-State Plumbing, JLT Racing, Hetrick Racing, AGX Designs, ATV Four-Play, Fox Shocks, GBC Tires, Tire Balls, DWT Wheels, Extreme Powder Coating, Maxima Oils, Fourworx Carbon, Amped, Fly Racing, 100% Goggles, SIDI Boots, Leatt Brace, VGR, BNR, TDR, Flexx Bars, Sunstar Sprockets, Oury Grips, Powermadd, FMF, FLO, Factory Seats, IMS Tanks, Ripitupfilms, Tubliss, Hinson Clutches, Lone Star Racing, Slick Cleaners, Hot Rod Cranks, Hot Cams, Pivot Works, Cylinder Works, Vertex Pistons, Wrench Rabbit, Fuel Star, Risk Racing, Pit Posse Motorsports, Streamline Brakes, Dominus, ASV, CV4, Ogio, Engine Ice and Go Pro.