Justin Cooper was arguably the star of the 2019 Motocross of Nations. Not only did he surpass all expectations during the qualifying process on Saturday, he then pushed through the pain of a hand injury to salvage important points for Team USA on Sunday. It was an extremely eventful weekend and one that he broke down in the form of an exclusive MX Vice interview.
MX Vice: I didn't even think you would still be here, because obviously you got injured today. Just talk us through everything that happened, how you crashed on the first lap and how you somehow hit your teammate.
Justin Cooper: It's funny. I didn't even know it was my teammate until I saw actually a video of it. I just know that someone hit me really hard. I ended up messing up my hand really good. We tried to put some injections in it and numb it up a little bit, but it was painful. Made the call to go out right at the last second and just sat out there in pain. It's a shame. Pretty unlucky that it was my teammate. It would have been cool if I just went down, but I took my teammate down with me and that didn't help anything. That's the way the cookie crumbled. Good day yesterday but nothing today. It was pretty brutal out there.
I didn't even think you were going to continue after that first moto crash. You were down for a while. It looked like you were hurt. Initially did you think you had done more damage than what you actually did?
Yeah, I got up and I couldn't pick my bike up. There was no way I was going to pick it up. I took a breather and my hand was throbbing like crazy. Eventually I got to the bike, then saw there was no clutch or anything. That kind of freaked me out a little bit more. Then I ended up crashing again, because I didn't have a clutch to save me in the turns at all. I had to be really careful. When I did fall then I had to kind of rev it and pop it into gear. It was a mess. It is what it is. We'll go home, regroup and get ready for supercross.
Was that first moto easier than the second? I guess you had adrenaline still and all of that. Was the second moto a bit more comfortable, because of the injections and all of that stuff?
No, the first moto was way more comfortable. The only thing that wasn't comfortable was no clutch. I could not really ride. It was hard to ride, because you couldn't really pop out of lines and save yourself if you messed up in a turn. In a mud race you need the clutch rely on to stay straight. Sometimes you just need to use it for stability. It is what it is. Tried, but we weren't anywhere in race shape to draft or anything. It's a shame, but it's how the sport is. You get highs. My Saturday was great and then Sunday just all went to poop. That's all there is to say.
This is going to put a bit of a dark cloud over your Motocross of Nations experience, but let's not forget that you dominated yesterday. A lot of American riders would love to come here and have a day like that. Based on your pre-race comments though, I feel like maybe you expected that against the MX2 guys?
Yeah, for sure. I came here to do my job in the MX2 class. I was doing just that, and then one little mistake and it all goes away. Just wrong place at the wrong time, especially with Jason [Anderson] running into me. This track was so brutal. The weather that we got made it so much different than yesterday. It made it a lot more treacherous. Vision was a problem. It was all that kind of good stuff. Nothing to really complain about. I think I rode really good. It's just a shame that that happened to us. We'll regroup and we'll come back for some revenge, I guess you could say, for the next time for the Motocross of Nations.
When you hopped onto the track for the first time yesterday, was it like nothing you have ever ridden before? Could you at least compare it to the European tracks you have ridden over the last couple of weeks?
I definitely could compare it. Definitely a little bit more slippery. That's the best way to describe it. It wasn't really too difficult, but at the same time it was different. It was different than the European tracks I rode and definitely different to at home. I felt like we were prepared. I felt like were comfortable. Just would have been nice to have a weekend in the deep sand like how it was supposed to be. Turned into much more than that. The vision was so bad out there. Every straightaway you had to pull a roll-off or something. It's tough on the 250. I knew it was going to be like this. Just survival mode out there.
You have broken a knuckle it sounds like. Is there any other damage? How long is that going to put you out for?
My hand's just pretty banged up, cut up and all that. I don’t know exactly what hit me, but I should be out for… I'll take a couple weeks off – two or three weeks – see how I'm feeling and then go from there.
You put a lot of effort into this race, a lot of time and gave up a lot of off-time. This is a shitty way for it to end, but no regrets? Happy you did it? Happy you had the experience?
Yeah. Just disappointed it ended like that. First lap of the first race. Not how I wanted it to go. All in all, a great experience. Thankful I came. We literally fell as a team on this one. I'm grateful for the opportunity and I'll do it again the next chance I have. Hopefully we'll have a little bit better luck next time.
Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX