This week's Wiseco Tuesday Toolbox takes a look into how Thad Duvall got started with his racing career, as well as the adversity he has had to face coming into each season.
Duvall came into the 2021 season looking to be the man to beat after KR retired, but after round one disaster would strike and Duvall would find himself laying in the hospital. This year Duvall is looking to battle at the front of the pack for not only wins but a National Championship.
GNCCRacing.com: To get started, let’s go way back. It’s pretty obvious to most but tell the story regardless. What got you started riding and eventually racing GNCC?
Thad Duvall: I’ve been around GNCC since I was probably a day old. A lot of people don’t know, but my dad actually raced professional on the quad side as I was growing up. I believe I was 3 years old when I went to the black water 100 so it’s just been in the blood. My parents got me a PW50 and I actually crashed it so bad I didn’t want anything to do with it, so they went and bought a quad, yes a quad, and I actually rode it for a few years till I was maybe 6ish and I asked for a bike one day and my dad went that day an bought one. The rest is history.
How’s the offseason treating you, training at Kailub’s?
Can’t say, it’s a secret remember… hahaha no it’s good. I actually really enjoy being here with the guys. These guys are going fast so it makes me step up my game and being a little older it’s a little sweeter when I put a whooping on em’.
It’s no secret you and KR were rivals throughout his 8 championship seasons. After he retired, how did you guys go about getting back to your roots as kids and start working together to train?
I honestly think the people made the rivalry more than what is was, a lot of people don’t know but growing up Kailub and I were inseparable. If I wasn’t at his house, he was at mine. We had some good times growing up and we kind of grew apart and the rivalry started, I guess. We had some pretty intense battles, but I think we respected each other. At the end of 2020 I knew I wasn’t where I needed to be to compete for a championship, so I approached him about training me. He always joked about me coming down to train, but I always laughed it off. Honestly, it’s cool working together, watching Krue and Jacobi grow up together is pretty fun!
2021 started off great for you with a second place finish. I remember you being adamant about not being satisfied with second at Big Buck. Happy to be on the box, but the expectation for yourself was to win. After round one, things got difficult again. How were you able to maintain focus and keep moving forward despite the adversity?
Coming into 2021 I thought I was the man to beat, I was riding really well, I was in shape and after all those years I thought I was the man to beat. Big Buck started good even though it wasn’t a win it was were I needed to be on the podium. Then disaster, honestly laying there in the hospital I was done, I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was just tired of being hurt and I just don’t bounce back like I used too. But Maggie didn’t let me feel sorry for myself very long, I think maybe two days after my surgery we were driving back to Florida to be back training with the boys. It took awhile but I finally started feeling normal at the end of summer break. I felt like I had some good rides and felt like the fire in me was back.
After the summer break you seemed to find your groove again with a couple top five finishes, a third in round 12 and in arguably one of the nastiest, most difficult Ironman GNCC’s in our history you came out on top. Is the Thad Duvall of old back as we prepare for 2022?
We hammered over summer break and Kailub even came up to the house and we changed some stuff on the bike for the last two races and felt like it was the right direction. So I let it hang out the last two rounds. A lot of pressure was on my shoulders to perform and I didn’t feel like I was performing the way I needed to be. So it was nice to get those two rides and have some confidence knowing I still had some speed left.
You and your wife, Maggie, have been enjoying the parent life. How has Jacobi changed your outlook on life and racing?
I don’t know what we did before him, he’s so wild and growing up so fast. We are truly blessed with him; he loves to travel and is 100% boy. The kid is ate up with dirt bikes! We have the same lifestyle as we always have just a +1 now. He’s really starting to figure out the whole racing side of it, so him being able to see me on the podium and winning races is such a good feeling and I hope we can enjoy it together for a few more years. Maggie said one day about maybe being our last banquet, but I told her it’s just the beginning with him and I can’t wait to get to watch him chase his dreams like I did. But I’d be fine if he wanted to do anything else but race, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen.
Alright, tough question time. With so much attention on Ben and Stew last season, how did that make you feel? Knowing you were the guy, arguably, next in line to get a championship given the battles you and KR had over the last several years?
It eats Maggie up, but I don’t really pay attention to that stuff, I’ve always been kind of an underdog, so I’ve just always made sure I was ready and tried not to worry about what others were doing. I remember talking to Kailub one day and he told me, “Why you are worrying about me when I’m not worrying about you, only me?” I kind of took that and ran with it. People are always talking but I just need to focus on me and worry about only me. I put enough pressure on myself, somedays I think I’m my own worst enemy, but I think that’s made me the person I am today and the grit I have at the end of the day.
Moving forward to this upcoming season, do you feel the same pressure you did a few years ago? Looking from the outside in, I feel like if I’m Thad Duvall, I’m saying, keep watching what Stew and Ben do, let those guys worry about all the drama while I go out and snag wins and podiums and fight for this championship.
The pressure is always there, and I like that, I’ve been around this sport along time but I’m still learning to be better. I’m not down in Florida busting my ass everyday to not be battling for wins and this championship. I’m on one of the best teams with one of the best guys to step foot on a bike backing me, I’d be kinda pissed if they didn’t put any pressure on me to perform.
Wouldn’t be a Thad Duvall interview with addressing hunting season. (Plug that hunting page on Instagram!) So, how’s it going? Also, let’s make this public, Cameron Hanes needs to invite some of you XC1 guys out for a GNCC Hunting Trip. Just sayin’…
Haha I’ve been pretty fortunate that racing has been my job during the summer months, and I can spend the the winter months hunting. For 10 months out of the year I eat, sleep and live dirt bikes so to be able to just get away from it for a while is nice. You get to think about a lot when it’s 20 degrees out and sitting in the middle of nowhere for 11 hours a day. I put in a lot of work when it comes to hunting, I’ve been able to kill a few big deer and I’m sure it eats Stew up that I’m better at racing and deer hunting than he is! Haha The Instagram plug is @tjdhunt. If hunting is your thing, give it a follow!
Who would you like to thank?
The whole Rockstar Energy Husqvarna factory race team, then guys are truly family, I’ve been with the team since 2017 and they’ve helped me grow into the rider I am today. Obviously, my parents for everything, My wife maggie, there has been a couple long quiet rides home but she always there to pick me back up on my feet. My little man Jacobi for being my number one fan. Hammer nutrition, 100% goggles, Nuthin Fancy and Matt over at custom outfitters to supplying me with some badass atc campers!