Meghan Rutledge Interview – Transcribed from RRR
RRR: Today we’re joined by Meghan Rutledge, who’s just been crowned runner-up in the 2014 FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship. Meghan firstly welcome to the show and congratulations on a sensational year. It’s got to be a big effort to travel from Australia over to Europe for all of the rounds of the FIM Women’s International Motocross World Championship but well done on a great result.
Meghan: Thank you! As you said, it’s definitely tough, a 24-hour flight every time, it definitely takes it out of you.
RRR: And this year I think as a change from last year, the women’s event was actually held at rounds of the Motocross World Championship as well, so probably a lot bigger events too, being in the paddock with all the MX1 and MX2 World Championship riders as well, and give you girls a lot more exposure which may be not so much the case with a lot of women’s sports, they don’t get that exposure.
Meghan: Yeah, I definitely think we still don’t get the exposure we deserve. Like we’re out there doing the same job as the guys are in MX1 and MX2, but it’s definitely a lot better this year than it was in previous years, going back with the bigger guys and having the teams there and all the media coverage, it was definitely better for our sport. I’d like to see it go up another level again, but we can only pray for that in the future.
RRR: I guess after being crowned runner-up this year that hopefully you’ll be back in the Championship next year, but I guess this is your second year in the Championship and how much confidence does it give you going into maybe getting a ride for next year, the fact that last year when you got the ride in the World Championship it was actually filling in for an injured rider who incidentally was the one behind you in third place in the Championship this year, a Championship regular, so you certainly stamped your place as in that top three now.
Meghan: Yeah, well I’ve got better each year. The first year I went in I only got second, and first place won by a long way and this year it was obviously a lot closer between myself and first place, and next year I’m hoping that I can walk away with that gold medal, like I’ve always wanted to.
RRR: Going into the last round, it was actually still pretty close, and in the end it was only a couple of points in the championship, but I guess this year didn’t go entirely your own way, wasn’t it I think I saw a post from you on Instagram that a couple of rounds from the end you were actually lying in the hospital with a drip in your arm.
Meghan: Yeah, I’ve had a pretty tough year, I actually went into the first round with a broken ankle after falling off the stairs and I was in a cast for the whole week before that, I was meant to be in a cast while I was over there. They cut my cast off and let me race and then yes, I got really sick before the second last round and I was on a drip for a week straight, trying to get me healthy and it knocked me around for two or three weeks and yeah, I definitely wasn’t healthy for a lot of the rounds this year, so it made it very tough.
RRR: I think you actually did win a couple of rounds this year though, out of the six rounds of the Championship, didn’t you?
Meghan: Yeah, I’ve won three of the rounds. I actually won the first rounds when I had the broken ankle and won the round when I was really sick, so it just shows that you can do anything that you put your mind to.
RRR: Well I think that probably you should go into a few more rounds injured then.
Meghan: (Laughs) Well, I was hoping for the last round and I thought that I could go in there and do a lot better than I did, it’s just the track, the track didn’t suit the way I ride, it just took me too long to get used to it. I mean when you have girls over there that have rode and raced that track multiple times, and you’re going over there to ride it for the first time at the race meeting, that makes it tough.
RRR: What was it about, because I read a couple of stories that the track at the last round was a bit of a unique track, how was it different to the other tracks that you went on and how is it different probably more importantly to the tracks that you’re more used to here in Australia?
Meghan: Just the terrain of the track was very different, it was like it was that hard, it was like cement, and it had like a very light dust and small rocks all over it and just took a lot to get used to and I think if I had a chance to ride that track beforehand, and test my bike on it, we would have got a lot more things sorted out and it would have been a lot better, but I did the best that I could and it was just a different track for me.
RRR: Tell us about the team that you ride for, the Bud Racing Kawasaki team and how the relationship with those guys developed.
Meghan: I did one round in 2012 for a different team, and I actually started 2013 for a different team as well, and I did the first round and I got on the podium and all I wanted to do is I wanted to finish the year and my mum started e-mailing people just trying to get me a ride, trying to get me anything to finish off the year and with Livia Lancelot being out injured in 2013 it was this perfect opportunity for me to get a ride over there for Bud Racing Kawasaki, and the whole team has been absolutely fantastic, the bike is the best bike I’ve ever rode in my life and my mechanic and team manager and everyone, they’re just so easy to get along with and yeah, it’s just such a perfect team.
RRR: Now, Meghan, you’re still under 20 years of age, you’re 18 or 19. How does someone with such young years get so much experience not only internationally, but you seem to be around the racing here in Australia for many, many years.
Meghan: Yeah, I’ve been racing since I was 4, so pretty much been doing it my whole life, and it’s just something that I’ve always, always wanted to do. I mean I’ve tried other sports ,but they’re just not the same. I have this real competitive side, and I guess motocross is a really easy way to be competitive and be aggressive, without getting into trouble.
RRR: I think some people have gotten themselves into a whole lot of trouble on dirt bikes. Now tell me if this is true or not, but one of the stories I heard was that as a young tacker, that you’ve got two older sisters that also rode motocross, and all you wanted to do was try and keep up with them. As a father of three daughters, that sounds pretty scary, because my youngest daughter is actually already trying to keep up with the two older ones, and she’s giving away ten years to them.
Meghan: Yeah, definitely, I have two older sisters, no brothers at all, yeah, two older sisters and for as long as I can remember I just wanted to beat them and sure enough I got onto a bigger bike, but still a smaller bike than them and I was starting to put out faster lap times and starting to run with them, they weren’t too impressed about it, but you know it’s just that competitive side of me coming out again. And I really wished that they’d both still race, but they don’t anymore, but yeah, my oldest sister, she was really good, she could have gone a long way, but she just didn’t have the drive that I have.
RRR: Speaking of drive, is a lot of that drive do you think coming from the fact that when you were out here in Australia you didn’t race against women a lot of the time, you were actually racing against the guys? And I read one story where you said you loved nothing more than serving it up to the guys on the motocross track, and I guess that probably hardens you up a little bit as well.
Meghan: Yeah, it’s definitely the best feeling, the best feeling is going out against a full grid of boys, you’re the only girl, there’s 40 riders on the gate and you’re the only girl sitting there and you know that you can go out and mix with the best of the guys in Australia and it’s just, it’s so awesome. As a young kid I used to beat the guys, I was the first female to ever win a State Championship against the boys and to do that… and that was in 2004 and that was when I said to mom and dad, ‘I want to become a world champion, I want to do this seriously.’ I was only 8 years old and I decided that it’s what I wanted to do.
RRR: The other thing is that I guess you were mentioning before about the profile of women’s motocross is nowhere near as big as the guys’. A lot of the guys are professional riders, they can essentially go to the rounds and they come home, they just spend their time in-between rounds in training. You actually got to hold down a full-time job to help finance the fact that you make your trips and everything overseas. How do you fit in having a full-time job and doing the amount of training? Because I imagine that you have to be incredibly physically fit to do those long motos in the World Championship, and what are some of the things that you do for training?
Meghan: Yeah, it sucks that all the guys that race, they can just ride and train pretty much as a living. I work as a lifeguard anywhere from 4 to 5 days a week, so I don’t get to ride a bike during the week at all, I have weekends for that only. I spend most nights in the gym or in the pool or just running around like a kid still, I’m 19 years old but you’ve got to stay active, so I do it anyway I can. I’ve actually just finished at the gym for tonight so it was perfect timing. But yeah, that’s all I can do, I’m not lucky enough to be able to ride during the week and not have to worry about having a job, so I do the best that I can around work.
RRR: Now what sort of things do you do at the gym? Because I imagine that you’d also have to be conscious of not doing too much weights to put on weight, but at the same time you probably need to be doing some weights to maintain unbelievable strength to throw the bike around. I imagine core strength would probably be a big thing as well.
Meghan: Yeah, core strength is definitely one of the major things. I do a lot of boxing.
RRR: Good aerobic fitness.
Meghan: Yeah and it’s really good for my cardio.
RRR: And helps get out the aggression too.
Meghan: (laughs) Yeah, it definitely does. I still do weights, we just try and break it up evenly through the week with mix of cardio and strength work as well.
RRR: And I suppose you mentioned swimming, being a lifeguard you’d have access to the pool pretty much.
Meghan: Yes, definitely.
RRR: So when you come back here to Australia and have to recoup from the weekend, how hard is it to get off a plane after a 24-hour flight and get straight back into it, or do you give yourself a couple of days off?
Meghan: Coming home is definitely the worst, I don’t think you get jet-lag going over there, but when I come home I just want to sleep for a few days straight, but I don’t get that. This time I flew in on Thursday night and we had a welcome home party for me. I didn’t walk in my front door until 12:30 on Friday morning. Luckily my mom didn’t make me work, mom’s my boss, so she didn’t make me work on Friday, but Friday morning I still got up early and packed because I was going away riding on the weekend.
RRR: Nice. Now Meghan you’re from Picton in Western Sydney, that area has been responsible for probably more than its fair share of excellent motorcycle riders and a lot of them still live around that region, of course probably one of the most famous exports from that area would be the Gobert Boys, Josh Brookes as well comes from down that way, Glenn Allerton as well I think from down there as well. What is it about the Picton area? Is there something in the water down there that maybe we should be heading down there and having a bit of a drink?
Meghan: I’m not sure. And it’s just that within two hours of me I know so many people that are racing and doing so well, so there could be something in the water.
RRR: The other thing is that all of those guys have started out doing motocross and made their way across to road racing. Is there any desire there to take up road racing and give that a shot as well when maybe you finish with motocross in a couple of years’ time?
Meghan: I looked at doing road bike day this year and it just fell into the wrong time of the year with my racing overseas, but yeah it’s definitely something I want to give a go. I don’t know for sure if I’d ever swap motocross for it, but I’d definitely love to try it out.
RRR: Now Meghan one of the things I always find funny is the little logos and slogans that riders use, and Josh Waters is a multiple Australian superbike champion and one of the most mild mannered men you’ll ever meet off the circuit, has actually got a tag ‘Wildman Waters’ as they call him and I’ve noticed that on your bike you actually have ‘Mad Meg’ as well. Is that a contradiction in terms like the ‘Wildman Waters’ one is? Because you seem just like a normal girl who happens to have an unbelievable amount of talent when hopping on a motorcycle, and roosting everyone else in the dirt.
Meghan: ‘Mad Meg’ has been with me… I don’t even know how I got the name to tell you the truth, it’s been with me since I was on a PeeWee 50 and it’s just stuck. That’s what everyone knows me as and I don’t walk through the pits and people say, ‘Oh, there’s Meg Rutledge,’ or, ‘There’s Meg.’ It’s, ‘There’s Mad Meg.’ So it’s gonna stick and it’s gonna be there for my whole career, it’s something that I enjoy, a nickname is a cool things to have and if people want to call me that and want to know me by that, then I’m proud of that.
RRR: The other thing about the World Championship is that Chiara Fontanesi, that’s won the Championship the last three years in a row, I imagine she’ll be coming back next year, how much of a rivalry have you built up with her over the last two years?
Meghan: She’s actually a really nice girl and we get along quite well. So it’s interesting, like obviously there’s no friends on the track, but off the track we get along quite well. But yeah, I definitely don’t want to come second again, I’ve come second twice, and this year it was a disappointing second. I am still proud of it now but when I got that second place I wasn’t happy at all, I wanted that first place more than anything, so next year is definitely going to be a year that I’m just going to push and push and push for that first place.
RRR: A lot of top sporting people have people that they look up to and sort of use as a bit of inspiration, and they’re not always from the same discipline as what you actually tend to compete in. Who’s your sporting hero?
Meghan: I’ve got two in the sport and one out of the sport. I have Matt and Jake Moss in the sport, they’re pretty much big brothers to me, their father coaches me as well as them, so I wouldn’t be the rider I am without them and their dad and then Layne Beachley. I just think she’s absolutely fantastic.
RRR: The Moss brothers, Matt Moss is on a bit of the roll lately in the Australian Championship, isn’t he? He’s of course reigning champion and doing pretty well this year as well.
Meghan: Yeah, he’s absolutely killing. He killed on the weekend out at Raymond Terrace and I really hope he takes away that number 1 again this year.
RRR: Now obviously you don’t get where you are without a whole lot of help, not only from your family, who are probably one of your biggest sponsors, but also people that get behind you and give you some backing. Who are the people that have really helped you out over the last couple of years and got you to this place where you are and hopefully as the 2015 FIM Women’s Motocross World Champion?
Meghan: Definitely Bud Racing Kawasaki and Kawasaki Australia, without them I wouldn’t have a bike, so definitely a huge shout out to them, Greg Moss from Moss Institute Coaching, as I said, him and Matt and Jake have just been there my whole life, they’ve coached me since I was on a PeeWee and they were always there for me and always supported me and I have Fox Clothing, obviously they supply me with all my gear and that’s a huge help and they’ve been supporting me now for years. I have so many sponsors to thank, Race Tech, they do my suspension, Dunlop Tyres have come on board this year, which has been really great, because we actually had a bit of a problem with one of my old sponsors and we didn’t have a tyre sponsor so they’ve jumped on board now and they’re helping me out, so a huge thanks to them, and just all my other sponsors, like Powerplus Fuels, they supply me with race fuel to get through the year. And it wouldn’t be possible without all the sponsors that I have and obviously I haven’t named them all, but I’m grateful to every single one of them.
RRR: You mentioned a lot of companies there that sound like they’re Australian-based. After the two results that you’ve had in the last couple of years, are you starting to get a lot more sponsorship interest from Europe, because that’s where all the rounds of the Championship are held?
Meghan: Unfortunately, no. All of my sponsors are still Australian-based, except for Bud Racing. I was hoping for a little bit more, but at the moment it’s still only the Australian sponsors and I will be riding for Bud Racing Kawasaki again next year.
RRR: Excellent. Now Bud Racing Kawasaki to me sounds like an American team, now with the Men’s Motocross, a lot of the time a lot of people think that the AMA Motocross Championship is probably equal or in fact in advance of the FIM World Championship in relationship to how good the riders are and the amount of people that are turning up, but I don’t see a lot of interest in any women’s championship in America, obviously the FIM Championship is the big one for women.
Meghan: Yeah I went over to America in 2012 when there used to be a Women’s AMA Championship and it was great, but that was the last year of the Women’s AMA Championship, unfortunately. They run a three-round series over in America now and the girls over there that race like to think that that is the best championship for females in the world, and they claim to be the best in the world when they win it. I’d love for them girls to come over and race the World Championship, because I’ve raced both and I guarantee you that the World Championship is definitely the place to be if you want to make it in the sport. Obviously, the guys over in America are fast and I believe that the guys in America and the guys in Europe would probably still be at about the same level, but the amateur girls and what we have when we’re racing World Championships in Europe, it’s just a completely different level and it’s something that needs to be shown I think.
RRR: Excellent Meghan, congratulations on that second place again, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on the show today and best of luck for 2015 and hopefully we’ll be able to talk to you this time next year after wrapping up that number one plate.
Meghan: Yeah, I really hope so, thank you so much.