Alex Martin descended from a jump on the track at Thunder Valley MX Park in Lakewood, Colo., during a qualifying session on June 6 and didn’t see the soft spot on the track where he was about to land.
“I landed in some soft mud on the downhill and went right over the bars,” Martin said. “I knew I’d broken my arm immediately.”
Later that same afternoon, as Alex Martin was seeing a doctor near Denver and getting prepared to have surgery that day, his younger brother Jeremy had the same bad luck strike. During the second round of the AMA Pro Motocross National Championship series, Jeremy, while landing after a jump, hit a soft spot in the track and tumbled off his bike.
He suffered two broken fingers and aggravated wrist and shoulder injuries that he had been dealing with for more than three months.
“I started the season very strong and felt like I was really going to win the 2021 championship, even with a dislocated shoulder,” said Jeremy Martin, who won the 250 class national title in 2014 and 2015. “It needed surgery, but I opted to just rehab it … and still felt like I could control the series.
“Unfortunately, I had a crash (at Thunder Valley), fractured my pinky and ring finger to the point where you have contact with the (handlebars) and I couldn’t escape that kind of pain. I missed (Round 3 of the motocross season) at High Point (Pennsylvania), so the title is pretty much gone.”
Indeed, Jeremy Martin’s title hopes are incredibly slim after missing one round of the series. He sits in eighth place in the 250 class standings, 79 points out of the lead. Alex, who has missed four of the series’ first five rounds, is in 26th place.
But as the series hits its halfway point this weekend, the brothers from Millville are energized. This week is their busiest week of the year, and also their favorite, as the series makes its annual stop in their hometown, at Spring Creek MX Park, the track owned and operated by their parents, John and Greta Martin.
“This is definitely my favorite national of the year, for so many reasons,” said Alex, who will be back in action just six weeks after suffering his broken arm. “We always have lots of friends and family here and I love the track. … I’m super fortunate and grateful my body has healed fast enough to even think about racing in the national this week.”
Alex hasn’t missed the pro nationals at his home track since he made his pro debut there 13 years ago, in 2008. He was able to get back on his bike just 26 days after having surgery and trained and rehabbed hard, with the hope of being able to race at his home track.
“It’s not so much pain when I’m on the bike, but definitely some soreness,” the 31-year-old said. “Every day and every week it’s been getting better. I’ve seen big gains from just a week ago. This past Saturday was the big test. I knew I couldn’t race the Spring Creek national if I couldn’t do two 35-minute motos, and I did that last Saturday.
“It’s healed pretty fast; when it happened I thought I’d be out the entire summer. It helps that there are four plates and 23 screws holding it together.”
For 28-year-old Jeremy, it’s been nearly four years since he has raced in front of a full crowd at his home track. A severe back and neck injury kept him out of racing for nearly a year and a half, forcing him to miss the pro nationals at Spring Creek in 2018 and 2019. Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic cut the size of the crowd at the Millville pro national races nearly in half.
“I’ve been hurt a lot throughout my career, missed a lot of practice time and seat time on the motorcycle,” Jeremy, who is putting off surgery for the time being, said. “I’ve chosen to deal with the cards I’ve been dealt and be out there riding. I may not win every weekend, but sometimes you have to persevere.
“It’s definitely been a mental battle, kind of having to suffer and handle some of the injuries. … You can sit back and say ‘why me?’ or you can accept it and move forward, make the best of every situation.”
Though 2021 has been unkind to the Martin brothers -- both of whom also suffered injuries on the same day, at the same track during the Supercross season in February -- they are looking at this weekend as a breather, a sigh of relief after all of the adversity that has come their way.
Saturday, the Martin brothers expect to be riding in front of a “normal” crowd of close to 20,000 fans.
“Last year, we called it the ‘COVID national’ and we had maybe 10,000-12,000 people there,” said Jeremy, who finished second overall at Spring Creek last fall. “It was cool because it was one of the biggest races of the season as far as how many fans were there, but it felt hollow compared to years past.
“You do sense the crowd (while racing) when it’s bigger, especially on the parade lap, when you can look around and take in the moment. Then there are times when I’m locked in the heat of the battle and can’t hear anything.”
New Teams, New Bikes
This has been a season of change for the Martin brothers, even prior to their injury troubles.
Alex and Jeremy both switched teams after last season, both out of necessity. Alex’s JGR Suzuki factory team and Jeremy’s Geico Honda team both shut down after the 2020 motocross season, which left both riders looking for new homes.
Both have ended up on Yamahas, though with different teams.
Jeremy, who rides the No. 6, is back with the factory-backed Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha team, the same team he departed from after the 2016 season.
“The transition has been pretty easy,” Jeremy said. “I’ve worked with these guys in the past, we went our separate ways at the end of 2016. I matured, they matured, so making the transition back has been a lot easier. It helps coming back to a team where people know you and you know them.
“The bike is a lot different, has a lot more power. When the track gets soft and deep, I can ride the same speed with a lot less effort.”
Alex, who rides the No. 26, is back to being a privateer -- racing for a Manluk/Rock River Yamaha/Merge Racing team that isn’t factory-backed.
“It’s been good,” Alex, who finished third overall at Spring Creek last year, said. “I spent the last two years at JGR Suzuki, loved it over there and was hoping to finish my career with those guys. Unfortunately they weren’t able to secure funding for this year and beyond and they had to fold, which is sad for the sport.
“I was forced to look elsewhere and in the 250 class, it’s all about horsepower, and Yamaha is the best bike in the class. If I’m off a factory team, I want to be on a better bike and the Yamaha is the top bike in the class.”
Despite all the changes and all of the injuries they have been through in the first half of 2021, the Martin brothers are looking at Saturday’s races as hitting a reset button. They hope the rest of 2021 will bring more success on the track and will set them up for a better 2022 season.
“Alex and I have talked a lot about this 2021 season,” Jeremy said. “We both got hurt back in February, same day, same track, almost the same time. Then we both got hurt again in June, the same day, same time. That happens to both of us, twice on the same day in the same year.
“What are the odds of that?”