There will be a huge weight of expectation on Team USA to again win the Motocross of Nations this year.
Ryan Dungey (MX1), Jake Weimer (MX2) and Ivan Tedesco (Open) are the chosen ones after the USA selectors opted not to include otherwise “dead cert” rider James Stewart because he had a “supercross-only” contract with Yamaha and had not been racing motocross this season.
Another “dead cert” would have been Ryan Villopoto, but he’s sidelined with injury.
It still seemed odd, however, that Stewart was left out, especially seeing as Stewart was unbeatable in the US outdoor nationals last season and must surely have the skills to run with or even beat the best of the GP riders that make up the vast majority of teams from the other vying nations.
Are the Americans resting on their laurels? Team USA won the previous four editions of the MXoN but it’s no sure thing that they’ll repeat the dose this time around.
If nothing else, it gives the other countries a sniff of a chance to win in Italy on October 4.
Tedesco is the only one of the trio to have ridden the event before but the 28-year-old Honda factory man from New Mexico has gone home as member of a victorious team on both of his previous visits in France in 2005 and England in 2006.
He is the anchor of the team, while America’s two top MX2 riders will surely be able to star on the jump-infested SX-style track at Franciacorta, northern Italy.
Dungey (19) from Minnesota should have no difficulty on the 450 Suzuki he is expected to race next year, while 21-year-old Weimer from Idaho will ride his regular Pro-Circuit Kawasaki.
Stewart’s absence from the line-up is no longer a surprise, but it is amazing that Nations title sponsor Red Bull has not insisted that its US star athlete be present.
The Americans certainly have a chance, though they are certainly not overwhelming favourites.
At the Unadilla round of the outdoor nationals recently, their trio went 2-3-7 in their respective classes. Chad Reed, Michael Byrne and Brett Metlcalfe, their Australian rivals who were also nominated to ride for their country in Italy, went 1-3-4.
Belgium is another candidate to win the Peter Chamberlain Trophy in Italy on October 4/
Belgium also has two MXoN rookies in their line-up, but Clement Desalle (MX1) and Joel Roelants (MX2) are the outstanding riders in their respective classes this year and both very much on form.
The shock was the omission of Ken De Dycker, but team manager Joel Smets clearly believes Steve Ramon is the more reliable anchor; ‘Keeno’ is notoriously erratic, while Ramon still has six weeks to build again after his injury lay-off during the summer.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com