By Jeff Emig,
I heard that Lance Armstrong would enter the Tour de France a little undertrained. Throughout the first part of the tour Lance would race himself into shape. The tour is so long and grueling that if you were peaking at the beginning you would surely bonk once you hit L'Alpe d'Huez....
We just hit the highest peak in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship and one would think that it’s all downhill from here. Not the case at all. But I do believe this is a pivotal time of the series for the rider and teams. Twice in my career I had to recover from a massive points deficit to win the Championship. Once in 1992 to win the 125 title then again in 1996 to win the 250 title (of course now the class names are 250 and 450). When I look back on those years I can remember having many struggles in the beginning of the season with bike setup, fitness, pure speed and, of course, lady luck.
Once we get through RedBud we are at the halfway point. Let’s say you are Ryan Dungey and you sit 21 points behind the leader Chad Reed. Seven moto wins in a row would put you in the points lead, at worst a tie. My point is that many times I have seen a rider struggle in the beginning of the series but put the pieces of the puzzle together by RedBud and next thing you know he’s back in the title hunt. Outside of the obvious points leaders, here are the riders that can get back into it with a couple of wins...
Ryan Dungey- Last week at Thunder Valley he was fast and consistent or consistently fast! This was the first race since last year that I felt he was back up to his pace from last season. I look for Ryan to build on that and be the man to beat the rest of the season.
Ryan Villopoto- each week the 3-time 250 champ gets better, stronger, faster, riding more like the aggressive rider from a few years back than the rider we saw at the start of the championship.
Kevin Windham- obviously a long shot for the title, but if it rains, look out! Kevin has really impressed me with his speed and stamina so far this summer. Kevin has the “just happy to be racing” attitude that seems to pair so well with the “I’ve got nothing to lose” mudders that could be coming our way.
Tyla Rattray- Tyla is the benchmark for this years 250 title. A rider’s day is scored either +/- based on where he finishes. I look for Tyla to be back on the podium this weekend in RedBud as his speed is much quicker than at the beginning of the season.
Blake Baggett- All I can say is this kid has been awesome so far. Blake needed to eliminate the “bad” races that seem to be every other even week. RedBud is the 6th race of the summer which, if you’re a believer, is going to be an off week for the young Californian. I believe that RedBud is a track that Blake will excel on. If he gets he even-week-gremlins out, the other riders may only see him at the start of the race and on the podium.
Eli Tomac- At 38 points down he is not out of it yet, but he has yet to win a moto. Something he desperately needs to do. If Eli can win a moto at RedBud it will be a big boost in confidence for him and Geico Honda. Only problem is that he has three very fast Pro Circuit riders in front of him that have set the pace in 2011. He needs better, more consistent starts and to raise his intensity to match that of the leaders.
I look for our championship points leader to be as fast and consistent at RedBud as they have been all season. RedBud is a track that takes a smooth, carry your momentum cornering technique to set fast lap times. It is a fun track with some of the biggest jumps on the circuit, including “LaRocco's Leap”, and 120’ uphill masterpiece by the track builder Tim Ritchey. Seems like to me that each year he stretches out the leap little by little. I was just there for the Kawasaki kx450f press release and it was wide open in 3rd gear, with a clean run up. 450's shouldn’t have any problems getting over it at the race, but the 250’s should be a little apprehensive once the track gets rough.
RedBud is one of my all-time favorite tracks, fitting that the Legends and Heroes Tour will be honoring my accomplishments there this Saturday.
Once again we will be giving you the first motos live on FUEL TV and here on the allisports webcast. This weekend the running order will be swapped, the 250's on SPEED will race before the 450's to accommodate the live NBC 450 coverage. As always check for broadcast times in your area.