A day at the office for Richie Escalante usually means sliding across the hot asphalt of Superbike competition at speeds that would make your palms sweat. His knees just whiskers away from the ground as he clutches masterfully to a bike that could crush appendages.
It’s a dangerous job, racing Superbike. Escalante would know, he’s broken his tibia and and his collarbone twice previously. But he doesn’t grimace when recounting those injuries. He rails them off to me over Zoom with the nonchalance of a quarterback reminiscing about the sack he suffered the previous weekend.
“This year, I'm on the best class in the best championship in America,” Escalante tells En Fuego. “For sure this is a completely different year for me. So, I'm a rookie, first season, and I'm learning a lot. I’m enjoying every time I go on the bike, every lap.”
Escalante is now racing in MotoAmerica Superbike, the big boys. This comes as a promising career continues to blossom.
He is the first Mexican to win an AMA National Road Racing Championship. And has managed 20 MotoAmerica wins, 16 in Supersport, and has placed on the podium 41 times in his very young career.
With so many miles under his belt, Escalante is quick to call himself a rookie this year as he steps up to the bigger machine, the faster demands of Superbike. In his first foray, there was enough to say he was well on his way to making quite the name for himself at this level.
The season is behind him as he placed sixth in his final competition. He was positive on Instagram about the ultimate results: “Very happy to finish my first season in the SUPERBIKE class P9! It’s been a very hard year with up and downs, but overall we as a team keep improving every race.”
The call to hop on the bike and compete was strong for young Ricardo. His father was accomplished in the sport and is a Latin American Road Racing Champion.
A self-taught specialist, Pablo Escalante began racing in the 90s to the disapproval of his father, Richie’s grandfather. Early on, Pablo lost his mechanic and had to learn how to maintain his bike for the grind of seasons, which included two years competing in American circuits.
The house was filled with trophies and mementos of a career that typified someone who loved the speed and fervor of a sport that plays out at breakneck speeds. at a young age, it was clear to young Richie what he wanted to do.
“My dad support(s) me so I start in 2004 when I (was) eight years old,” he said. “So, now I’m 27 and I’m still racing.”
At eight years old, we all have dreams. Some of us want to see the stars, other become doctors or see ourselves on the big screen. But rarely does life play out with that kind of opportunity at hand. Escalante is closing in on what he was determined to accomplish at eight.
“I think in that moment my dream is to win a world championship,” He said. The years have given him perspective but he is focused on ultimate success. “I'm the only Mexican to represent on this sport. So for me now, the best for me is to win the Superbike championship.”
This is a grueling sport with tremendous costs to the body and sacrifices at every corner, but he has the unwavering support of his father and brother, Pablo Jr., both of whom know what it takes to succeed.
The former often follows along on training days as Richie cycles for three hours. His brother, also a road racer, was happy to fill the void as his manager. Even his mother is close at hand making sure his diet is commensurate with a world-class athlete. It’s a family business, ensuring the name Escalante becomes synonymous with Superbike glory.
Representing his Country
At the end of July, Escalante was riding in a qualifying run in Brainerd, Minn., when he lost his balance, took a fall, and slid with the bike on him toward the outfield.
The video shows a dramatic spill, but, as he mentioned in the Instagram post, he came away with just a concussion, sore leg and stitches.
He does admit that concussions are no joke. He had double vision and was still on the mend a month later.
But he’s had worse, admitting that he’s suffered broken collarbones and a tibia in the past. He’s come back from such injuries stronger and more determined.
A sport that can be so taxing on the body and demand so much mental strength takes a certain kind of tenacity and passion.
For Escalante, he has the bedrock of family support. But he also has a country behind him, and the knowledge that he is a shining example for countless countrymen to fuel his progress.
“It’s amazing just to be the first Mexican to win a Moto America championship in 2020 is a dream come true,” he said.
It’s not lost on him that there are those potential racers out there. Young people who might have an itch to further the sport.
As he says, they might see him and say, “I want to follow his career and try to improve or pass Richie, for me is amazing. And I always try to do my best and to support the young people here in Mexico.”
He has many more miles to go before he rounds out whatever career he might have. His legacy is not yet defined, but the plan is there.
“I want to race ten years more so for sure,” he said, explaining that when he retires he wants to be able to say he accomplished the ultimate triumvirate of accolades with a World Cup thrown in for good measure.
“Also, I really want to win the Daytona 200,” he continued. “Just to say, okay, Richie (won) Supersport Championship, Superbike championship and Daytona 200. So now I have one, so I (am) working on two more.”