It’s been a long journey for Zach Osborne, but the #16 has arrived at the pinnacle of the sport. The Abingdon, Virginia born rider graduated from Loretta Lynn’s Ranch 15-years ago and has gone full circle to win his first-ever 450 AMA National at “The Ranch”.

In his 15-year pro career, Zach has gone all over the world to chase his dreams but the 30-year-old accomplished one of them on Saturday in the most familiar of places. It was awesome to see, but more importantly, it is awesome to know we possibly have another Championship contender on the line in the 450 class.

Zach, congrats on the first win. You built a lot of momentum in SX and carried it right over into the outdoors. You came back from the injury that sidelined you for an extended period of time so how is this coming about? Are you surprising yourself a little bit with your riding or did you come into today feeling like this was your day?

Honestly, I woke up a little bit on the wrong side of the bed. I was a little bit not in the mood for it this morning. The track was really good when we went out and right off the batt I kind of felt the flow and I was able to get into the mindset pretty quick. For me, it was just an execution thing. I knew needed some good starts, which the first one was not great—I was 10th or so. The second one, obviously, with the holeshot, was really really good. It’s a great way to start and with this whole thing being a pretty fluid situation where you never know when the ends going to be as far as the series and everything goes, I knew it was important to strike early. Even if I didn’t win today, I wanted to take as many points as I could and try to build some momentum. To get the win and take the red plate, it’s really awesome. 

I know one of the biggest hurdles for you guys going from 250’s to 450’s is getting over that jersey shock. It is tough seeing the names of the top 450 guys on the back of their jerseys and feeling like you belong. You have now won two 450 races in a row with the final round of SX in Salt Lake City and here today, so are you now starting to feel like every time you line up you’re a contender for wins and even a possible Championship?

Yeah, for sure it’s coming. It’s hard to make that transition and last year I was hurt for the last of the SX season and missed a lot of time on the bike. The Salt Lake win definitely helped me a lot as far as the overall confidence and a sense of belonging like you said. Now I feel I’m ion more a position where I’m not panicking. I can go out there and ride the way I train and ride within my means. I’m not like, “Oh somebody’s passing me and this that and the other” it’s more straight forward racing and that’s what I feel like.

You and Jason 1-2 in Salt Lake and now 1-2 again for the second race in a row. Is the dynamic different at all in the truck with the way you guys are all riding?

No (laughs), it’s still pretty light-hearted. Loose ended.

Zach celebrates the overall win over the finish line. Photo by: Simon Cudby

I think at some point you won titles at Loretta’s. What was it like going back there and how did it work as a pro-level track?

I thought it would be a good track. There were a lot of concerns about it being too small, too narrow, or this or that or the other, but it shaped up pretty gnarly. Some of the ruts were…The one before the ten commandments out of that left-hander was like 200 feet long. That thing was forever to get to that corner. As Eli said, had they not gotten so deep trying to have a press day yesterday, I think it would have been a better racetrack but it did shape up pretty gnarly. I think next week is going to probably be even better with what they learned this weekend.

You said earlier that you got up on the wrong side of the bed. What was the problem?

I don’t know, it’s just one of those things. You wake up and some days you can bleed that confidence and know that everything is going to go right and today was just not one of those days for me. I was like, ew, we could be under the gun right here. Luckily, like I said, we found a good flow. I had a good first session, a good second session and that led to the races. My arm pump was actually quite gnarly in the first moto from like 10 minutes in until like 25 minutes in and finally at the end I kind of loosened up. Other than that, the motos were really good for me.

That pack you were in during the first moto…I mean, there were like nine of you going back and forth. It was Marv [Marvin Musquin] at one point then, Cooper [Webb]. [Justin] Barcia had moved up and Eli [Tomac] and [Chase] Sexton were in there for a while too. What was that battle like? Is it different when it’s the first moto of the year when no-one quite know where everybody stands?

Yeah, and also today it was what I call a status quo track. Where you’re going to go faster than say 1:57, but two mistakes will put you at a 2:04 before you even know what happened. That made it even tougher because the battle was quite intense. There was a lot of guys like you said and also you’re trying to not make mistakes while still going at a decent rate of speed. It was a tech track in the first moto, for sure.

It looked like you were the only rider going step-on, step-off by the mechanic’s area over that tabletop. Do you think something simple like that was a contributing factor to your performance and do have any thoughts on why none of the other riders were following suit? Looked like you were hopping off over a big gnarly bump there.

I watched a ton of motos from last week’s amateur race and just kind of did some research. I saw some guys doing it last week and then this morning I saw some guys doing it in the 250 practice. I just didn’t like that triple turning and also when you triple, you get into that bump and go up the face, and it was a lot of energy for me. I felt like I could go, scrub then jump on and jump off or go double-double or whatever you want to say, I felt like it was a big energy saver for me. For me it was more easy and consistent than trying to triple. Those ruts on the face were quite gnarly. AC [Adam Cianciarulo] crashed there big on the second lap of the second moto. I just felt like it was the safer option.

You seemed to excel as the track got worse and worse throughout the motos. As a bit of a smaller guy with a more unique riding style, what do you attribute to feeling comfortable in those types of conditions?

Growing up on the east coast, mostly. That’s kind of the stuff I rode every day as a young kid and that’s where I’m the most comfortable. Also, when I was in Europe, the deeply rutted tracks were my best tracks. They just so happened to be and that’s one thing that I leaned on when I came back here. It’s just a confidence thing more than anything I believe. I tend to struggle more on the hard stuff with a lot of throttle control. That’s just not my style at all and that’s not how I ride. Today kind of suited me down to the ground.