Interview: Ryan Alexanderson talks signing with WZ KTM in 2023 and adapting to Europe

Image: Sevenonepictures | Interview: Andy McKinstry

At the end of the 2023 season, Ryan Alexanderson had the opportunity to end the season racing in Europe. The WZ KTM team were on the look out for a fill in rider and decided to look to Australia and Alexanderson raced the final round of the ADAC Youngsters Cup in Germany as well as the EMX250 finale.

The team were impressed so decided to keep him for the 2024 season which will be his first full season racing in Europe.

We decided to catch up with the Aussie to discuss his opportunity and more which you can read/listen/watch below:

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GateDrop: Last year, it was towards the end of the season that you’d been racing in Australia up until that point, and then all of a sudden, here you are in Europe and racing. Just how did the opportunity all come about with the WZ KTM team? Was it a surprise, or did you reach out to the team?

Alexanderson: Yeah, it was a bit of a surprise. We finished racing the Australian Motocross Championship, and we opted out of doing the Supercross in Australia. We have other goals. A friend of ours got in contact and spoke back and forth. We come over here to do a bit of a trial riding with the WZ KTM team, which was a surprise to me.

I didn’t really figure it out until a week and a half before we flew over here. We flew over here, met the whole team. Everything went really good.

I raced the second to last round of the ADAC MX Masters in Germany and then did the EMX250 series in England. I rode really good in Germany. I got second to my teammate, Oliver and got a podium at that round. Then I raced the final round of the European Championship and I got top 15 there. We then did another one or two races. Everything gelled well with the team and I really enjoyed the bike and the suspension and everything. Everything went well, and both parties seemed happy, and here we are this year racing in 2024.

GateDrop: Just before you came over, how much did you know about Grand Prix’s, EMX250 and racing in Germany? Did you know that much, or was it a case of once you found out what you were doing, you did a bit of research?

Alexanderson: Yeah, obviously I did a bit of research, but they’re completely different. I’ve always watched, obviously American Motocross, and the GP’s but focused more on the MX2 class and the MXGP class over here. I never really focused on the EMX, but yeah, there’s a lot to learn. I had to learn all the new riders and just how the whole race format runs over the whole weekend.

GateDrop: How do you find racing the EMX 250? Obviously, like you said, maybe you didn’t expect it to be so good, because the focus is mainly on the World Championship, but I think you can see now the way they develop the kids through the EMX systems, it works really well, and the top 10 guys in EMX can also do well in MX2, which maybe people outside Europe don’t realise…

Alexanderson: Yeah, I didn’t realise that the level in EMX is actually crazy. Look at the lap times compared to MX2, sometimes they’re faster. Yeah, there’s some crazy talent in that class and it’s definitely been tough to adjust to over here. I’ve definitely had to get into gear and put in a lot of work just to be competitive in this class. So, yeah, it’s really good sort of stepping level to get into the World Championship.

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GateDrop: Just on your first race at the ADAC MX Masters, the German race, the Youngsters’ Cup, that was obviously your first race. You probably had no idea what to expect, to get second I am sure you were pretty stoked?

Alexanderson: Yeah, of course, I was stoked. I honestly didn’t know who anyone was just going into the race. I didn’t know what sort of level the race was. I wasn’t sure if it was a local race or… Yeah, but, yeah, I think that sort of helped me, just going in with no expectations, just going there to have a good time. It was some nice hard pack, deep ruts and some hills, which I was fairly familiar with, it was like a few tracks in Australia. So, yeah, I felt comfortable, and I feel like I rode really good there.

GateDrop: Then how did you feel going from that series to EMX250? Because, like we’ve already touched on, the level is crazy and it is obviously a lot tougher than the German Championship…

Alexanderson: Yeah, which I got a bit of a shock when I went from there to the European Championship. I don’t know. After that round in Germany, I was like, oh, yeah, we’re looking pretty good going to here. And, yeah, I mean, I still got top 15, I was happy with the result there. But it was definitely a big shock how much talent goes into that class.

GateDrop: Just on your goals for this season, what are your goals? Is it just to learn and pick up things and hopefully prepare yourself for racing the GPs in the future?

Alexanderson: Yeah, for sure. Everything’s always learning. But, yeah, the main goal this year is the ADAC MX Masters and the Youngsters Cup. We want to go for that and it’ll be a competitive championship as well. Obviously getting experience every weekend at the EMX250  rounds.

GateDrop: I believe you’re living in Germany with the team. What’s it like living in Germany? A bit of a culture shock when you got here, or have you adapted pretty quickly?

Alexanderson: It’s small things, but it’s really good living with the team, living with the teammates and everything. So it’s good to be able to train together on and off the bike. It’s good chemistry with everyone, so it all gels and works really well.

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GateDrop: In terms of the language and the culture, have you been able to get by just speaking English? Or have you had to pick a little bit up of German?

Alexanderson: I’ve picked a little bit up, but just small things like thank you and just some of the small things like that. But no, my English is… It gets me far enough, luckily.

GateDrop: This weekend didn’t go to plan but what are the goals for the rest of the season?

Alexanderson: Yeah, the goals for the rest of the season are just to put our best foot forward and just try our best, work well with the team. Hopefully we fight inside the top ten for the rest of the season. But we’ve got some more work to do, obviously. We’ll be back fighting next round in Portugal.

GateDrop: If any other young Aussies that might have the dream of going to America, what would you say to them if they get an offer to come to Europe? Come and brace it, because it’ll make you a better rider, especially racing these type of tracks. They’re very rough and will help you improve…

Alexanderson: Yeah, for sure. It’s definitely a big challenge coming over here, but even myself, I’ve picked up so many techniques and other things. You don’t even look… They look at the track completely different over here. I would say, it’s almost a different sport in some aspects, how much preparation, just the way they ride the track. They always open everything up. It’s crazy. It’s like road racing over here compared to Australia.

If you look at all the lines and stuff, everyone’s left to right, edges of the track, and really creative with their riding. It’s different, but it’s definitely a great opportunity to come over here. You’ll learn a lot, I feel the best opportunity is over here.

Alexanderson: Obviously, there’s an under-21 age rule in the EMX250. How many years does that give you in the class?

Alexanderson: I think, that gives me three more years.

GateDrop: Okay, so you have plenty of time now to learn, so that’s a good thing…

Alexanderson: I really do like the age rules with the championships over here. It keeps it fresh, and obviously lots of young talent, everyone gets a chance. We have, over in Australia, no age limit,  we have a lot of really older riders, some professional factory riders in their 30s, racing MX2 class, and you have young people. There’s just not enough room for it, but I really like how they do that over here.

GateDrop: In Europe, you’re racing in Lommel one week, Riola the next, and then the week after that, you’ll go to somewhere that is rock hard. You need to be very versatile, but that’ll help you be a better rider… I’m assuming that Australia wouldn’t be quite as versatile as that…

Alexanderson: Yeah, for sure. I mean with us, we probably go from sand to hard pack, but our sand looks like hard pack to these guys. I have learned, after training down Riola for the pre-season, and doing some testing at Lommel, it is crazy. It’s completely different sand, and this hard pack as well. You call this hard pack and this is really hard. It’s really loose on top and hard underneath. It’s completely different to all the tracks we have back home.

GateDrop: Do you see yourself in this paddock for the foreseeable future? Are you enjoying it that much? Do you want to stay? Some Australians come and they get a culture shock… Don’t know what to expect and maybe run home, but I feel like if you can stay, learn, it’ll make you a far better rider…

Alexanderson: Yeah, for sure. I’d like to stay, but I think a lot of people come over here expecting to do super good. But it’s obviously a lot harder work over here if you want to make it. I don’t think a lot of people that come over are prepared for that, which I have recently learned how hard it is over here. But yeah, I would be keen to stay here for the foreseeable future.