Words Mike Rose
Photos Nathan Hughes and Ale Di Lullo
With the off-season now in full swing, we thought it would be a good idea to catch up with the INTENSE Factory Racing (IFR) team riders to take a quick look back at the 2022 season and a brief look forward to 2023. First up is Dak Norton.
Dak joined the IFR team at the start of this season. Much was expected from the US rider… and he didn’t disappoint. I get the feeling that Dak can be a little hard on himself, but from my point of view he had a pretty good season, especially considering the team were on a completely new bike that they’d only been able to ride for a few days before the first World Cup of the season. This was testing in the raw.
Dak will kick himself for ending up ‘battered and bruised’ in Fort William when on a great time, and then again in Lenzerheide when he ‘crashed and burned’ when all set for a podium position. But that’s racing I guess. It was obvious for all to see that he was on it, he just needed to stay on his bike!
As the season came to its conclusion Dak started to fire. Seventh at the infamous Les Gets World Championships, then third at the ‘nuts’ final round of the World Cup in Val di Sole, which left him in 16th position overall and a protected rider for next year. Then to put the cherry on the cake, he won the US Open in Killington, Vermont, and walked away with a cool $15k. Not a bad way to end the season!
Can you sum up your 2022 season in three words?
I don’t have three good words to describe it, but the best way I can put it is ‘bitter sweet’.
Can you talk about a few of the high points of your season?
Val di Sole, US National Champs, and Worlds. Races that I delivered under pressure and performed in the moment. That was a really cool feeling and a breakthrough.
Which was your favorite track of the year?
That was Val di Sole, and I think that showed. Least favorite race was Fort William due to the conditions.
Where there any standout races, racers or race runs that impressed you?
Worlds was a cool experience to be a part of. Even though my performance wasn't spectacular, just being in that environment was really cool. Racing in front of so many people was really special. Not to mention seeing the French riders perform at home, and the crowd losing it was pretty cool.
And what about high points off the bike?
With how my career has gone it's been like the emergency button has been stuck on the last two years and I've felt like my back has been against the wall so to speak. A big high point for me off the bike has been just learning to relax a bit. Being around Aaron (Gwin) and his mentality has helped this a bit, and my mental coach. Just learning that it's all gonna be good no matter the outcome.
And the low points of your season?
Watching all my goals go out the window the first half of my season was pretty devastating. I worked super hard coming into the year and felt like I missed so many good results and podiums due to stupid stuff outside my control that I should have been consistently on the box. I hit a point in the year where I was ready to be done, I just wanted the season to be over... and once I was able to be like ‘hey, it can't get any worse’ I was able to rebound a bit.
What does the off-season hold for you?
I just have been working around my house to get things a bit more set up for racing, and riding my dirtbike some. Really just trying to have some fun and be normal a bit with this long break.
Do you like the fact that the 2023 World Cup season doesn’t start until June?
This is the best thing I could have asked for. I really needed time to catch up on life a bit so I can come into next season super focused.
What’s the biggest lesson you have learned this year?
You can only do your best, and if you give your best effort you have to be OK with the outcome.
Any messages or advice for your team mates?
Life’s short, buy the bike.