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Miller battling injury, focused on riding well at Millville in front of hometown crowd

Rochester's Henry Miller plans to race in the AMA Pro Motocross nationals at his home track -- Spring Creek MX Park near Millville -- for the fifth time in his pro career. He'll be battling through a shoulder injury during Saturday's races, but he said "I can definitely ride."

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Rochester's Henry Miller races in a 450 moto during the AMA Pro Motocross national championship series races at Spring Creek MX Park near Millville on July 20, 2019.
Andrew Link / Post Bulletin file photo
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MILLVILLE — Henry Miller had the best day of his professional motocross career the last time he raced at his home track, Spring Creek MX Park.

That was three years ago.

Since then, luck has not been on the side of the 25-year-old, sixth-year pro from Rochester.

After placing ninth overall — including a career-best fifth-place finish in that day’s first moto — in the 450 Class at the AMA Pro National races at Spring Creek in 2019, injuries have prevented Miller from riding on a track where he has turned hundreds of laps, a track he says “I could almost ride with my eyes closed.”

Miller fully intends to be back on his home track Saturday, when the AMA championship series makes its annual stop in southeastern Minnesota for Round 7 of its 12-round national championship series.

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For a third consecutive summer, he won’t be 100 percent on race day, but he at least intends to be on the track this time.

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Henry Miller

“(The injury) was finally just starting to get better and feel stable,” Miller said early this week. “I can definitely ride. That I’m not worried about. It’s just, what percentage can I ride at?”

Miller has been to physical therapy at least once a day this week after aggravating a shoulder injury — a torn rotator cuff — that he suffered during supercross season this spring. It’s an injury that kept him out of the first two rounds of the motocross season, and one that he battled through over the subsequent three rounds, finishing 15th on June 11 at Lakewood, Colo.; 17th at High Point in Mt. Morris, Pa.; and 17th at RedBud in Buchanan, Mich., on July 2.

But, during a practice session last Saturday on an ultra-sandy track at Southwick, Mass., Miller went down in a corner and his shoulder took the brunt of the impact.

“There were berms built up around the track when they groomed it and I relied on one of those, hoping it’d still be there when I came around,” Miller said. “I jumped up in the corner and part of the berm was gone. My front tire didn’t have anything to push off of when I landed, so my shoulder took the full impact. It drove straight into the part of the berm that was still there.”

Miller gave it his best shot, but he said, in his sixth year as a pro, he’s learned when he can push an injury and when he shouldn’t.

“I rode around the rest of the practice to see if it would loosen up,” he said. “The Alpine Stars (on-site medical team) taped it up and I tried to give it another go, but crashed again in the second practice and needed to call it a day.

“Sometimes you just have to know when to throw in the towel for the day.”

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Miller said Monday that he was going to focus this week on rehabbing the shoulder, and that he wouldn’t get back on his bike to test his pain threshold until Saturday’s early morning practice sessions at Spring Creek.

“I’m going to give it a shot, no matter how it feels,” Miller said of riding in front of his friends and family, on the track where he grew up racing. “I’ll wait until Saturday to get on the bike. I know how to ride, I’m not going to forget that in a week, so I’ll give (the shoulder) as much time as possible.”

Doing it on his own

Miller is a privateer — he’s not backed by a factory team, and has to pay for his travel, his bikes and his mechanic out of his own pocket — but he has traditionally raced well at Spring Creek, and has traditionally been one of the top privateers in the national championship series. Despite having only raced in half of this season’s events, Miller is in 21st place in the 450 Class standings entering this weekend.

In his three professional starts at Spring Creek in the 450 Class, Miller has placed 12th, 11th and ninth overall, and has three top-10 moto finishes. He doesn’t like the entry next to his name over the past two years at Spring Creek, though: Did Not Start-injury.

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Rochester native Henry Miller (81) takes an early lead from the start in a 450 class moto during Spring Creek Nationals on Saturday, July 22, 2017, at Spring Creek MX Park near Millville.
Post Bulletin file photo

“Unfortunately I’ve had a string of injuries the past few years,” Miller said. “It’s tough to deal with. It really sucks seeing everyone else out there and you can’t be. You have to sit back and wait for your body to heal.

“You have to take things as they come, let your body heal and go back to work. … For me, riding a dirt bike is like riding a bike. You get back on it and you know what you’re doing.”

Regardless of what percentage his shoulder will be when he takes the track today, Miller said it’s a relief to be racing at home, with plenty of familiar faces in the sea of 20,000 fans who will converge on Spring Creek on Saturday.

“I’ve grown up racing there,” he said. “I’m familiar with the dirt, the track … I think at some places that’s a big part of it. The dirt feels different and the way your bike handles is different. And I’m just confident there. I feel like I could ride the track with my eyes closed.

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“There are always a lot of people there supporting me, too. The amount of people and fans who come up to talk to me, it takes my mind off of anything that’s bothering me and lets me just go ride my bike and do what I know I can. … It’s always a positive to be home with friends and family.”

Jason Feldman is the sports editor of the Post Bulletin. In addition to managing the four-person sports staff at the PB, Jason covers high school football, golf and high school and junior hockey. Readers can reach Jason at 507-281-7430 or jfeldman@postbulletin.com.
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