Jonny Walker exclusive interview – that Megawatt crash, the “ridiculous” pain and the long road to recovery to be fit and ready to fight for the WESS title in 2019.
Following his season-ending crash in September at Red Bull Megawatt, while leading the race and the WESS Championship, Jonny Walker’s road to recovery has been a painful one: “It went on forever and the pain was ridiculous.”
It is a bitter blow for any rider to sit out a large chunk of a season, particularly when you’re riding on top of your game. But lessons learned from a leg break earlier in his career helped Jonny’s decision to wait until things were properly healed before getting back on a bike.
Three months later and Walker is now back on a bike, has already competed a local MX race (breaking himself in easy!) and plans a race every weekend in January to get back on track and up to full strength in time for round one of the World Enduro Super Series in 2019…
How are things? How long have you been back on a bike now and how is everything feeling?
Jonny Walker: “It’s good. The physios were worried that I wasn’t going to get all my movement back but I smashed physio for literally six hours a day for six weeks.
“I’m not saying it’s good now, it’s still not right – I still have a bit of pain and I have to ride real smooth. My right hand isn’t a problem but my shoulder and my left wrist are not quite there, we’re still trying to build strength.
“When I crashed I broke both bones in my left arm and dislocated my shoulder and it was out of place for something like three hours because I had to get x-rays on it to check the collar bone wasn’t broken. My shoulder had dropped and it looked like it was broken but I hadn’t - it’s just that it was out for so long.”
JW – “It was literally stuck and I’d lost all my muscle in my forearm.”
What was the recovery process like?
“It went on forever and the pain was ridiculous. In total I had three operations and the first one was just to get me home to Spain so I could have a proper operation.
“I had it in a half-cast for two weeks and the swelling was really bad at that point. When I came out the cast I couldn’t move it at all. It was literally stuck and I’d lost all my muscle in my forearm.
“My physio was bending it and the pain was…I couldn’t deal with it. I was on so many painkillers.”
JW – “I don’t know to this day what I hit.”
Looking back on the crash at Megawatt – how do you feel about it now? You were racing for the win and for the WESS championship and that’s your job of course. So surely you can’t look at it and wish you’d done anything differently?
“No, no, that’s the thing. I’m not going to say it wasn’t my fault but you know when you get things wrong and it is kind of your fault if you crash then. This crash wasn’t like that because I crashed and I hit something that was hidden in the sand. I don’t know to this day what I hit.
“It’s kind of annoying and it is racing, yeah, it is what it is. But I know what I want to do next year and I’ve done so much training recently I just can’t wait to get back racing.”
JW – “I had a moment when I thought it’s just not worth it.”
A couple of years ago you broke your leg and is it fair to say you came back too soon with that? Were you mindful of not coming back to soon this time?
“We weren’t really sure when I was going to come back to be honest. The original plan was to try and come back for the last round of WESS but that didn’t happen.
“I obviously enjoy racing SuperEnduro so that was something we thought about and I’m gutted I’m not part of that this coming weekend in Poland.
“But breaking my leg definitely taught me a lesson. It’s funny but I was back in Britain when Hawkstone was on and we were trying to strap my wrist up solid, so I could ride the race. Then I had a moment when I thought, “it’s just not worth it.”
“I was actually told I could start riding again but I didn’t because it didn’t feel right still and that all comes from experience with my leg. I was going off feel and it didn’t feel right to come back too soon.”
How does it feel riding a bike at this stage?
“It’s still not strong enough but I am going fast, just not really fast. I’m having to ride with a wrist brace for support and my grip strength is not right so I’m getting loads of blisters all the time. But I’m super happy with the way it is going.
“I wouldn’t say I was in the best shape this year (2018) but it is like a reset, I know where I want to be next year, and I can’t wait to get started.”
So you will return to racing at the British Extreme races in January?
“January is a busy month because I’ll do the first weekend at the Heads Of The Valley’s Extreme, then the first round of the British Extreme Championship at Tong, then to France for Alestrem, then back to Britain for The Tough One. That’s me riding basically every weekend in January.”
JW – “I did a motocross at the weekend actually…f*ck me it hurt!”
So you’ll make a comeback and never stop by the sounds of it?!
“Yeah, that’s the plan. I just can’t wait. I’m just trying to put the hours in, well, minutes in really to get the wrist strong. I did a motocross race at the weekend actually – I’d been to the track a bit so I was feeling good about it. The first 10 minutes I was battling with this guy and I was smashing all the bumps and it was fine, then it hit me and I was having to mix all my lines up to miss the braking bumps. And then when I got home, f*ck me did it hurt!”
What does 2019 hold for you, what is the goal?
“I want to win that WESS. That is my main focus. I feel like I had the speed to win it this year and obviously that didn’t go to plan but I definitely feel like I can win it next year. Having the break this year gave me the chance to think more about how to train for each event and what I need to do to win it. I know what I need to do.”
Photo Credit: Future7Media/Andrea Belluschi/Robert Lynn
Jon PearsonEditor and Bike Testerjon.email@example.com