2009 Motocross of Nations Italy Preview

September 30, 2009
JC Hilderbrand
JC Hilderbrand
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Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA's Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn't matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.

2009 Motocross of Nations
The finale to a hard fought season of motocross racing has come, and with champions facing off against each other it should prove to be a great weekend of racing.

It’s time! The 63rd Red Bull Motocross of Nations is upon us and this year it’s held at the Autodromo di Franciacorta in Brescia, Italy. It’s the first time the boot country has hosted the MXoN in 23 years and the facility is impeccably top-shelf. At over 500,000 square feet, it has multiple street tracks with paved paddock and accoutrements suitable for elite auto and motorcycle racing, but for the weekend of October 3-4, the two-wheeled world cares nothing for pavement. This is the testosterone-filled slugfest of international motocross – the time for 105 riders from 35 nations to put up or shut up in a battle of mud, rocks and glory.

Just how does it all work? Each team is comprised of three riders who contest the MX1 (450), MX2 (250) and MX3 (Open) divisions. A three-moto format puts each class against the other one time i.e. MX1/MX2, MX2/MX3 and MX1/MX3. Riders are scored on their finishing position and the lowest point total wins. Each team is allowed to throw out their worst finish (which saved the Americans last year when James Stewart crashed in the final moto). To the victors go the spoils, but in this case there is no cold, hard cash. These teams spend a boatload of money and resources to attend solely for the chance to take home the coveted Chamberlain Trophy and another 365 days of bragging. Want to see what these riders are facing? Check out this virtual lap around the Italian circuit on the Red Bull Motocross website.

Last year the Americans took top honors and were joined on the international podium by France and Belgium. The scene is very different this year with Team USA missing the star power which has carried us to victory in the last four attempts. No Ricky Carmichael (retired), no James Stewart (didn’t race Nationals) and no Ryan Villopoto (injured). Just how did we get in this predicament? Check out this blog on the subject. As a solution, Roger DeCoster and the AMA selected three hungry and fast-as-hell men to carry the weight. Western SX Lites and 250 National champ Ryan Dungey moves up to the MX1 division on a new-to-him Rockstar Makita Suzuki RM-Z450. It will be his first motocross race on the 450 (though he has raced the 450 in Supercross) but Dungey has proven through his short tenure under the factory tent that his coping skills for pressure situations are second to none – a choke artist he isn’t.

Jake Weimer - AMA Motocross Lites  Thunder Valley
Consistancy hurt Weimer during the 2009 AMA Motocross season, Can he pull it together for a top finish at MXoN?

If there’s anyone who will play the team tactics to their fullest it’s MX2 selection Jake Weimer. The Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider has consistently talked about strategy and mental strengths/mistakes throughout the 2009 racing series. The reason we’ve heard him say these things is because the KX250F rider has made podium appearances throughout the AMA Supercross and AMA Pro Motocross series. One thing’s for sure, this guy is on the fastest 250F motocross bike in the world. Villopoto proved that by stomping everyone at the last two MXoN meetings on a Mitch Payton KX250F. He’s got the tools and his speed is there too as he proved by battling international and domestic competitors of the highest caliber all year. Weimer finished fourth in the 250 Motocross class with two moto wins and two overalls at Thunder Valley and Budds Creek. The problem has been his consistency. Several mediocre finishes are what kept him away from the top-three competitors. As a rookie MXoN competitor, Team USA needs him to put it together solid for two motos and ride like he’s capable.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Idaho rider will be the unique format. Weimer will line up for the first moto against all the 250 and 450 riders, then have to head right back to the starting gate with only 30 minutes rest to challenge the 250 and Open classes. Fitness, fast recovery and a solid team behind him to make any necessary repairs or adjustments will be critical.

Ivan Tedesco - AMA Motocross 450 Washougal  Washington
With Ivan Tedesco coming in third in AMA 450 Motocross this season and his experince racing in previous MXoN, he was the final choice for Team USA.

“I never really felt that maybe I wasn’t the guy for the job, I just kind of felt that I needed to put in some good rides and just leave no doubt anywhere that I was the one to go,” he said in an interview. “I feel good and I feel confident that I am the guy for the job.”

Ivan Tedesco has been on two winning MXoN teams so far and he is returning to join the squad as an elder statesman and mentor to the young rookies. “It’s an honor just to get picked for this event,” he said. Tedesco is as much a surprise pick this season as any other with an outdoor season that’s hard to call impressive. Hot Sauce nailed a wild 1-1 victory at Thunder Valley, but other than that his performance on the Red Bull Honda CRF450R was pretty plain. Injuries to other racers and some fortunate timing on his part led to the subsequent third-place championship standing. Not to say Tedesco isn’t fast. He showed flashes of speed and was consistent for the most part over the long 12-race series. His real strength is in the familiarity born out of a tour in France (2005) and England (2006). The Honda racer is the rock foundation. Watch for him to put in solid performances in both motos and work real magic in the pits as he wears the coaching hat simultaneously.

“It’s different than just going and racing for yourself,” he continued. “You’re racing for your country and your team and you have to work together. It’s a hard race to win and this year’s going to be even harder.”

Chad Reed - AMA Motocross  Thunder Valley
Chad Reed has a big target on his back in MX1 with some of the world’s top 450 racers coming out to take on the new AMA champ.

Root, root, root for the home team… Italy has one hell of a trio and each will be racing with the weight of a country’s dream on their shoulders. Antonio Cairoli won the MX1 World Championship this year. This headliner knows which is the business end of the throttle cable. Cairoli won four regular season overall races and held the red number plate from the third round through the finish. The dude is bad and he’ll have David Philipaerts, fourth in MX1 this year and 2008 champion, to back him up as the Open rider along with Davide Guarneri in MX2. This all-Yamaha team is led by Andrea Bartolini as the team manager. It’s on their turf and they mean business.

Australia has to be one of the top contenders. They finished sixth in 2008 but with freshly crowned AMA 450 Motocross champion Chad Reed at the helm with a supporting cast of Brett Metcalfe (MX2) and Michael Byrne (MX3), these guys are out to kick some serious ass. Reed and Dungey were teammates all season, but they never faced each other on the track since Dungey was in the 250 class. Now they are on identical equipment and in the final MX1/MX3 moto they’ll have fellow Rockstar Makita Suzuki rider Byrne in the mix. Dueling Suzukis might be the story of the weekend. If nothing else, it will be a preview for next season when Dungey lines up full-time on the 450 gate. Metcalfe gave the title contenders (Dungey and Christophe Pourcel) fits aboard his Geico Powersports Honda and Byrne has years of factory rider experience to his credit.

Steve Ramon  MX1 Moto 1  - FIM Motocross  Limburg Belgium
Former FIM MX1 champion Steve Ramon had a rough season this year, but there is nothing better to make up for a tough season then to win his class at MXoN.

Belgium is another country with above-average chances of snagging that trophy. Joel Smets is managing 2007 MX1 title holder Steve Ramon. The Teka Suzuki rider finished 10th this season but is a former MXoN competitor as well. He’s got Clement Desalle who showed up at Southwick and posted a surprise third-place finish in the opening moto as a privateer. The Belgian then went back to Europe and promptly won the Czech Republic GP and then the finale in Brazil. Joel Roelants will contest the MX2 division.

A whole slew of racers who spend, or have spent, time contesting the AMA series in the US has returned to their countries of origin to carry the native colors. Chad Reed, Brett Metcalfe and Michael Byrne (Australia), Antonio Balbi (Brazil), Dean Wilson and Tyler Medaglia (Canada), Tommy Searle (Gr. Britain), Tyla Rattray (S. Africa), Zach Osborne (Puerto Rico), and Juaquim Rodrigues (Portugal).

East Coast SX Lites champion, Christophe Pourcel, is not slated to ride for France. However, MX2 World Champion, Marvin Musquin, is set to lead the Frenchmen on his KTM with Nicolas Aubin and Cautier Paulin in the MX1 and MX3, respectively.

Practice and 20 minute + 2 Lap qualifying heats start Saturday with the consolation or “B” final and championship racing Sunday. The real action starts at around 1 p.m. Who’re the best motocross racers in the world? We’ll know in four days.

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