If the stars continue to align for Jesse Valdez then don't be surprised to see him standing on the podium next year at Loretta Lynn's and then sometime after that lining up for a National.
Valdez got a "late" introduction to dirt bikes considering most riders, especially those with higher aspirations, start around five years old. Furthermore, he didn't exactly get his bearings on a Honda CRF150F or a Yamaha TT-R125. Rather, it was a Chinese knock-off. But within a few years, he replaced the knock-off with a Honda which eventually gave way to a Yamaha and growing racing resume under his belt.
Ten years later Valdez continues to compete while working fulltime (12 hour days!) to supplement his riding and racing habit. He's still young enough to make this whole "racing for a living" dream workout so despite the grueling hours he makes the most of every weekend on his dirt bike. The Colorado native currently resides in Texas where the warmer weather provides better employment thus supplementing his weekend racing, which perhaps not too coincidentally, is pretty easy to find in the Lone Star State year-round.
Valdez continues our "grassroots" series of sponsored riders who have regular jobs while racing on the weekends. This is what he said:
Years Riding: 6
What age did you start riding and on what: I got my first dirt bike to learn and mess around with on the property when I was about 12 or 13, it was just a Chinese off-brand 110 with a clutch.
What do you ride now: A Yamaha YZ250 two stroke and a Yamaha YZ250F.
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
- Winning many local and D25 championships
- Racing the Texas winter series events
- Racing the Baja Brawl
Favorite Track: Pala
Favorite Riders: James Stewart, Jason Anderson, Ken Roczen
Other sports participated in: BMX, Mountain Biking
Other hobbies or interests: Cars, tattoos, music, traveling, and anything with two wheels being the road bicycle, BMX, mountain bike, or road motorcycle
1. How did you get started riding a dirt bike?
I saw some Supercross races when I was younger, on TV, and went to a couple Arenacross races to watch and I knew right away I wanted to try it.
2. Then you started racing a few years later. Was that more for fun or did you have higher aspirations?
I did it more for fun and something new more than anything. I never intended on racing at any point but one of my friends took me to his races, and I just did practice, eventually I just tried it out and I enjoyed it. I also really enjoy traveling and riding fun new places, and throwing a lot of whips with friends.
3. You're from Colorado but right now you're in Texas working. Is this a "racing" move or unrelated to riding?
The main reason was for my job. In Colorado it's hard to do certain work with the snow and colder weather. It just happened to work out for winter riding and racing so I packed up my dirt bike and all my riding stuff in the van and brought it down with me.
4. What is your day job?
Directional drilling and laying pipe for gas and fiber optics. Also other odd jobs to pay for expenses of racing.
5. That sounds more like a career path rather than a to-make-ends-meet job so you can ride.
Definitely, it's fun because it's always something different so it's hard to get bored, and it's pretty awesome living in a place for a bit that I can ride during the winter time!
6. How did you get into directional drilling and laying pipe? Doesn't exactly sound like something you can pick up the first day on the job.
I actually met a family at the track and at the races that moved to Colorado from Missouri. I got to train with their son almost as a full time job for a while. Immediately we all clicked and they had a construction company they owned also, so it all just stemmed from that point in riding and I've rolled with everything and it just kind of worked out.
7. You're working long days. Is it difficult to spend the weekends riding?
Sometimes the long work days wear me out a little bit, but on the weekends I wouldn't really want to be anywhere else than riding, I sometimes will drive three or more hours just to go ride for the day and drive back down but it's always worth it for sure.
8. Earlier when we talked, you said you're training on the weekends. Will we see you at a Supercross event or National next year?
I'm still pretty new to Supercross and I enjoy it but I definitely have a lot more training to do on it before I decide to race one. As for the National, that is the next goal after Loretta's!
9. What's training look like at your level? Is it mostly getting in as many laps as you can or have you implemented a fitness regimen?
As far as training goes, when I go riding at tracks during the off times or during the week, I try and do really long Motos as fast as I can for as long as I can. I think its super fun to leave the track super beat from the day and it feels like I accomplished something that day. I pretty much ride until I start getting pretty sketchy and I know I put in the work that day.
I also like to have a lot of fun just flowing and throwing a bunch of whips in the process. Off the bike, it's kind of nice because my job is pretty active so I view it as some training in a sense. I also like to ride my road bicycle or mountain bike as much as I can. I'd like to do a lot more off the bike training but with working a lot of hours it makes it difficult sometimes so I do the best I can with the time I get.
10. You've put in a lot of racing over the last few years. What's it going to take to reach the next level for you or do you even want to step up the ranks in racing?
I definitely do want to put in the work and step up the ranks! It's just going to take giving 100 percent with everything I can do to improve myself as a rider!
11. So, I've never asked this of any rider. What are your strengths as a rider and what are the weaknesses you're trying to improve upon?
I would say my strengths as a rider would be rutted or technical tracks probably or also sand where it can get wild, rough and wide open. Also I've heard a lot of compliments before on my riding style which I viewed as a strength and I thought was super cool because I never thought I would have even decent style on a dirt bike (laughs). I definitely try to have as much fun as possible on the track at all times even at the races to keep the nerves a little bit more at ease.
I would say my weaknesses would maybe be mentally at races. I try really hard not to get nervous about racing and the level of riders I compete against sometimes and I would like to improve on that, but at the same time if I didn't get nervous and have big challenges it wouldn't be nearly as fun to do. Also I would say just having the money and the support to get to the big races. It's sometimes hard to get the training and to get to as many races as I'd want to, but a lot of people are in the same boat out there I'm sure.
12. How about Loretta Lynn's? Any interest in an amateur championship?
Up until this year being a mechanic for a friend, I've never been to Loretta's. After experiencing it even just watching it was pretty awesome. I definitely plan to go next year as a racer for the first time in the B class and do my best in that! I would like to do as many amateur nationals as I can make it to!
Written By: AndrewT