The United States return victorious from the Motocross des Nations. Of course it helps to have the world’s greatest rider on your team.
The Motocross des Nations (or Motocross “of” Nations, as it has been recently renamed) has a history longer than the entire sport of motocross in the USA. Yet, even though the USA’s first win in the event didn’t come until 1982, Team America went into the Ernee, France, running of the MXdN only one win behind Great Britain on the all-time most-wins list for the event, with Belgium one win behind the USA. With riders Ricky Carmichael, Kevin Windham and Ivan Tedesco, the USA ran a great chance of tying Britain for the record for most MXdN wins.
The format is entirely different from the American MX Nationals. Every country sends three riders – one to ride the MX1 (250cc) class, one to ride the MX2 (125cc) class and one to ride the MX3 (Open) class. Then, three motos are run to determine the best overall team for the year. The first moto is a combined MX1/MX2 moto. The second is an MX2/MX3 moto, and the third is an MX1/MX3 moto. This means that both the MX2 and MX3 riders would have to ride back-to-back motos. In the end, riders are scored by their position on the track (so if an MX2 rider beats every other MX2 rider, but five MX1 riders beat him, he’s credited with sixth place, for example), and then, of the six moto scores between the three riders, the worst one is thrown out and the lowest overall score wins (1 point for first, 2 for second, etc.).
By virtue of being the event’s top qualifier (of the event’s 20 qualified teams), Team USA had the 1st and 21st gate picks for every moto. This is where the strategy came into play. In the MX1/MX2 moto, Team USA elected to give Tedesco the best gate pick on his KX250F while Carmichael took the 21st spot on his RM-Z450.
It paid off as Carmichael got the holeshot despite his poor position and Tedesco started at the tail end of the top 10, but the first 250F. Carmichael immediately began to distance himself from the field, and Tedesco worked his way up through the 450s in front of him. On lap 7 of 18, 9-time World Champion Stefan Everts of Belgium made his way past Tedesco, but that was the only spot the American 125cc National Champion would lose. After a poor start, France’s Sebastien Tortelli caught Tedesco on his KTM 250F, and for the last four laps, Tedesco held off the former World Champ, taking the checkered flag in sixth place overall and first 250F. Carmichael took the easy win over New Zealand’s Josh Coppins, France’s Mickael Pichon, Estonia’s Tanel Leok and Everts.
“I got a good start against the 450s and I was around 10th or so, and I came through,” Tedesco said. “I was picking some guys off and I got myself up into a good position. I didn’t know who was behind me. I didn’t even look back. I saw him after the finish line. But he was giving me some pressure and I think I rode really well that first moto. That was probably one of the best I’ve ridden all year. It was nice to be the first 125 and show those guys that the Americans have some speed. There was talk that I wouldn’t be able to handle these guys on their turf, so it was good for me.”
Tortelli was bummed that he had to come from so far back, though.
Kawasaki rider Ivan Tedesco arguably had the most pressure to perform, replacing the discarded Mike Brown. Although he crashed during his second moto, he was the top MX2 finisher in his first moto.
“I got the tough work,” Tortelli said. “They put me on the outside in the first moto, so it was a little more work for me to get back to the front, but I feel great on the KTM. Two weeks on the bike and I feel awesome. I was very excited about my first moto.”
The second moto started great for Team USA as well, as Kevin Windham picked up where Carmichael left off and took the holeshot, followed closely by Italy’s David Philippaerts, France’s David Vuillemin and New Zealand’s Ben Townley. Tedesco was around 11th. Most figured that, because of the obvious horsepower advantage, one MX2 score would be the one thrown out for most teams, so after Tedesco’s first-moto romp to the top of the MX2 riders, Team USA was sitting pretty. Windham was pulling away, and Tedesco was working through the pack. Tedesco fell on lap two, though, but being that the plan was to eliminate one MX2 moto anyway, it wasn’t such a big deal. Then, he and Tortelli began another epic battle, but it ended only three laps later, when both Tedesco and Tortelli went for the same line and neither would give way. They both went down.
“Me and Tortelli, we seemed to stick together both motos,” Tedesco said. “That second moto, I crashed and then I got up and caught back up to him, and we passed each other back and forth quite a few times and it started getting kind of aggressive, and we came up the hill side-by-side and neither one of us was going to shut off. We dropped into the same rut and we both went down. His foot got stuck in my rear wheel, and it took me probably 30 seconds to pull his foot out of my rear wheel, and then he got up first. I think he ended up going down again, but I just tried to ride as hard as I could and caught up to like 17th.”