They know the American tradition for winning at the Motocross of Nations is a tough cross to bear and the hopes and dreams of so many fans will rise or fall on what happens at Teutschenthal, in Germany, next weekend.
But this trip to Europe could also be one of Team USA’s toughest assignments yet.
Managed by expatriate Belgian and motocross legend Roger DeCoster – who has lived in the US for many years and managed nearly every US team since 1981 – the American trio are determined to bounce back from the shock loss in the deep sand of Belgium last year, when the three men from Germany instead won the main prize (the Chamberlain Trophy) and Belgium finished runners-up with the Americans forced to settle for an unaccustomed third place.
With a record 22 MXoN crowns to their credit over the past 30 years, there’s no reason to suggest the men in the stars and stripes colours won’t be among the favourites in Teutschenthal, but the pressure to perform will be on Dungey, Barcia and Tomac as they seek to “restore honour”.
Team USA won its first Motocross of Nations title in 1981 and, from that moment on, made it a bit of a winning tradition, until they came unstuck last year.
That first US team of Donnie Hansen, Danny LaPorte, Johnny O’Mara and Chuck Sun (the teams comprised four riders in those days) was regarded as one of the greatest in history, but who can forget the winning American trio in Italy in 1986?
The 1986 team of David Bailey, Ricky Johnson and Johnny O’Mara finished 1-2 in each of the three races and that instantly wrote their names in the history books with an unbeaten team performance that has never been repeated.
The European countries, and even Australia and New Zealand, have stepped up the pace in recent years and now regularly threaten the American stranglehold, so a repeat of that 1986 dominance by the Americans seems very unlikely, but anything can happen in motocross.
Regardless of the individual race results in Germany this time around, Team USA is still hoping for outright victory No.23.
The Motocross of Nations finals race features teams from the 20 countries that qualify, with each rider competing in two heats for a combined score to determine the overall championship-winning nation. The event emerged in post-war Europe in 1947 and has run uninterrupted since.
With 22 wins, the United States is the all-time leader in the Motocross of Nations. Great Britain is second with 16.
© Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com