With two races left in the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series, Minnesota’s Levi LaVallee is sitting second in overall points in the Pro Open category.
Despite the focus and time it takes to win a Snocross title (which he did in the Super Stock class in 2009), LaVallee doesn’t concentrate solely on racing. Levi holds 7 Winter X Games medals, including four golds in four different disciplines (HillCross, Freestyle, Speed & Style, and Knock Out). He’s known for being an all-around threat whenever he’s on his sled, and he’s famous for rotating a massive double backflip at WXG ’09, even if he did get bucked off on the landing.
We checked in with Levi before he headed to Hayward, Wisconsin for this weekend’s race, and we talked about the double flip, recovering from his 2009 heel injury, and starting his own team for the ‘09/’10 season...
So how’s your season going?
It’s been a tough one this year, because I broke my heel in May last year, and I’ve got two bones in my ankle right now that are rubbing together. It’s hard to take the hard impacts. I’ve got surgery scheduled for right after my last race.
What exactly happened with that injury?
I blew my heel apart, and when it grew back together, it was wider than normal so it pushes on one of the bones in my ankle. Now it’s rubbing bone on bone, so they’re going to shave one of them down to get more clearance, and I should be good to go.
How long will your recovery from the ankle surgery be?
They said it should be fairly short, maybe three months. I should be back by the middle of summer. That’s what I need, I need to be able to ride my dirt bike – the only thing I rode last year was a cart on the golf course. It didn’t do much good.
What’s your plan for the last two races?
Just go out there, do the best I can and have fun. That’s the approach I’ve always taken – I think it’s unnecessary pressure when you say, “I have to win.” If I’m riding as hard as I can and doing everything possible, then whatever happens, happens. It’s racing, you can’t ever expect more than just doing the best you can.
Which do you like better: Super Stock or Open?
It’s funny, it changes from year to year. Last year, I was doing awesome on my stock sled the whole season and struggling on my open, and this year it’s just the opposite. I’ve always enjoyed riding my open sled a little bit more; it’s got a lot more motor than my stock sled.
What motivated you to start your own team this year?
Glenn Kafka and I had been working together for the last few years, and we figured we should just do our own deal. We were able to work out some good things with sponsors and partners. It’s basically a way to keep me involved in Snocross and snowmobiling, the sport that I love, for years to come. When I start slowing down and plan on retiring from racing and competing, hopefully I’ll be able to work on the business side of it, as well as coach the up-and-coming riders.
"You can’t ever expect more than just doing the best you can." -Levi
Have you had any surprises this year with running the team?
With the first year as a team, there are a lot of growing pains, a lot of things snuck up on us. We’ve been able to handle it pretty well. I think the biggest thing is having great sponsors to help us out with everything. It’s definitely been a learning experience, but I’m super excited for next year, just knowing the things I learned this year.
Speaking of retiring, have you thought much about when you’ll pull out of racing or freestyle competition?
For me, it’s just a matter of what I’m feeling, how I’m feeling… I enjoy both of them; they’re so much fun. As long as I’m still competitive and have the drive to do them, I’ll do both as long as I can. I can’t say which one I’d bow out of first. I’ll just come to a point where I’m not at the level to compete or where I’m not willing to push myself as hard as I did in the past. That’s when I’ll know it’s time for me to bow out gracefully.
Don't worry folks, that's not happening anytime soon. Watch for Part 2 of Levi's interview over the weekend, where he'll talk more about the freestyle side of things. In the meantime, check out the Team LaVallee site for more info.