The entire motocross world will flock to the scenic mountainside landscape of Colorado this weekend for what is sure to be another epic international competition.
That’s when the world’s motocross elite head into Denver, the “Mile High City”, for the most challenging event of the year, the annual Motocross of Nations.
Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey, of the United States, who wrapped up the US Motocross Championships several weeks ago, is honoured to lead his country’s effort in Colorado.
Last year, the 20-year-old Dungey raced to the overall title in the MX1 class at the MXoN in Franciacorta, Italy, last year, finishing 3-1 in his two outings.
His performance that day propelled Team USA to victory at the MXoN.
This year, in his first season campaigning a 450cc bike, Dungey took the American domestic scene by storm, becoming only the second rookie in history to win the US supercross nationals as well as going on to wrap up the US 450cc motocross crown. He had won the 250cc US motocross title the previous season.
If his current success is any indication, Dungey is more than ready for this weekend.
In addition to Dungey, Team USA comprises Andrew Short and Trey Canard.
Dungey is the only one of the three with previous MXoN experience and, with Team USA determined to defend its MXoN crown on home soil, the pressure will be on them to perform.
It may not be so easy.
Even though the American team did win its fifth consecutive MXoN race when it was staged in Italy last year, they did not do it easily and a large dose of luck determined that outcome.
Reigning and two-time MX2 FIM World Champion Marvin Musquin (pictured above) won the MX2 class in Italy last year, finishing 5-5 in his two outings, just ahead of German teen sensation Ken Roczen (who came in 10-8). The American MX2 rider last year, Jake Weimer, was only seventh best among the MX2 riders, scoring 8-25 finishes.
The 20-year-old Musquin dominated in his world championship title defence this year, leading the way all season, and, with plans to move to the US in 2011, racing in the world’s premier motocross event on US soil this weekend would serve as an ideal platform for him to introduce himself to American race fans.
Paulin won the first of the two open class races in Italy last year but, unfortunately, became caught up in a first-lap crash in the next race and DNFed.
If not for that crash, France could have won the MXoN in 2009. Instead they finished third, still a remarkable achievement but one they will definitely want to improve upon.
Musquin and Paulin join Xavier Boog in forming Team France, one of the few teams expected to be able to challenge the Americans.
Perhaps Italy too can mount a fierce challenge for the top step on the podium this time around.
Italy had looked strong at the MXoN last year, until MX1 world champion Antonio Cairoli suffered a first-lap incident in his second outing, crashing in turn one, just moments before the pile-up that claimed Paulin 10 metres further down the track. Cairoli had won the first MX1 race of the day – beating Dungey — but the crash in race two meant he eventually DNFed.
Team Belgium could again be expected to feature, with two-time former MX1 world Champion Steve Ramon and current world MX1 No.2 Clement Desalle in their line-up. Belgium finished third last year.
Individually there are plenty of riders who could snatch away points from the favoured Americans but, as is often the case at this event, there are very few teams that boast three world-beating riders.
Team New Zealand could surprise, providing international heavyweights Ben Townley and Josh Coppins can avoid trouble and as long as third team rider Brad Groombridge manages to step up for the occasion.
Watch out for top results from Australian pair Brett Metcalfe and Jay Marmont , German pair Max Nagl and Ken Roczen, Britain’s Dean Wilson and Spain’s Jonathan Barragan, to name a few.
These are just some of the incredibly talented riders who will be headlining teams from more than 30 nations in a global invasion of Lakewood, Colorado, this weekend.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com