This year’s Olympic Games of Motocross in Italy could be one of the closest-fought competitions in many years.
On paper at least, the traditionally all-conquering Americans seem very beatable with their trio of riders not known for their world-beating abilities. Will the Chamberlain Trophy (pictured above) find a new country of residence this year?
The defending champion team from the United States has a very new look, with two MXoN rookies in Ryan Dungey and Jake Weimer making up two-thirds of the squad.
While their MX1 rider, Ivan Tedesco, has ridden for Team USA on two previous occasions — in 2005 (in Ernee, France) and 2006 (Matterley Basin, UK) — the team selection for 2009 seems a little bit under-powered compared to previous seasons when such superstars as Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart and Ryan Villopoto held the balance of power.
That is particularly so when you consider the teams nominated by some of the other nations, particularly the host nation of Italy, traditional power-house France and the Australian trio as well.
Italy will have 2008 MX1 world champion David Philippaerts, two-time former MX2 world champion and new MX1 world champion Antonio Cairoli, with MX2 frontrunner Davide Guarneri taking up the third spot.
The French, who provided so many revelations in the MX2 world championships this season, will put forward Steven Frossard, Marvin Musquin and Gautier Paulin, while Australia will be led by recently-crowned AMA 450cc champion Chad Reed, backed up by fellow AMA championship frontrunners Michael Byrne and Brett Metcalfe.
Team New Zealand also stands an outside chance of featuring on the podium with MX1 world championship veteran Josh Coppins and UK-based Kiwi internationals Scotty Columb and Michael Phillips on their team card.
The Germans will be a threat too with MX1 frontrunner Max Nagl, Marcus Schiffer and young MX2 sensation Ken Roczen expected to impress.
For the Belgians, MXoN veteran Steve Ramon (Open) will join two MXoN debutants Clement Desalle (MX1) and Joel Roelants (MX2) as Belgium hopes to collect their 15th Chamberlain Trophy.
Belgium’s latest win dates back to 2004 when the team made of Stefan Everts, Ramon and Kevin Strijbos led home Holland and France at Lierop.
Other riders who will be keen to show their form against the stronger teams are Rui Goncalves from Portugal, Aigar and Tanel Leok for Team Estonia and Switzerland’s Arnaud Tonus and Julien Bill.
The Americans were the most dominant force of any Motocross of Nations when it was last staged in Italy, at Maggiora in 1986, when its three riders finished 1-2 in all three motos.
The riders that day were David Bailey, Ricky Johnson and Johnny O’Mara. Can they dare to dream of a similar outcome this time around? We don’t think so.
Here are some of the key line-ups (in no particular order):
David Philippaerts, Antonio Cairoli and Davide Guarneri.
Tommy Searle, Billy MacKenzie and Shaun Simpson.
Steve Ramon, Clement Desalle and Joel Roelants.
Chad Reed, Michael Byrne and Brett Metcalfe.
Team South Africa:
Gareth Swanepoel, Tyla Rattray and Grant Langston.
Ken Roczen, Max Nagl and Marcus Schiffer.
Tyler Medaglia, Dean Wilson and Mitchell Cooke.
Steven Frossard, Marvin Musquin and Gautier Paulin.
Ivan Tedesco, Ryan Dungey and Jake Weimer.
Team New Zealand:
Josh Coppins, Scotty Columb and Michael Phillips.
Tanel Leok, Aigar Leok and Gert Krestinov.
Jeffery Herlings, Herjan Brakke and Mike Kras.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com