Altitude sickness is defined as a pathological condition that is caused by lack of adaptation to high altitude, but the sickness at Thunder Valley this weekend will be of the two-wheeled variety. The Lakewood, Colorado track sits at 6100 feet and will push both riders and bikes to their limits as they fight for every ounce of oxygen. A machine will lose 3% of it’s power for every 1000 feet of altitude, so the racers will be working harder to get every little bit out of their machines while their lungs burn in the thin air.
Last weekend Ryan Dungey once again took the overall, but it wasn’t easy. During the first moto, RD5 rode without goggles, eating Mike Alessi’s roost. Even without eye protection the Suzuki pilot managed to pull down a third, and then he waxed everyone in the second moto. Dungey has momentum and confidence on his side, and if someone doesn’t stop his streak soon he will run away with the title. If I was a gambling man, and I am, my money would be on the #5 Suzuki.
Andrew Short once again put his Honda on the podium at Budds Creek with a moto win. He has run at or near the front for the majority of the motos this year and can throw a monkey wrench in Dungey’s plans of world domination. Shorty was born in Colorado and is familiar with the rigors of riding at altitude. Will this be the weekend we see Short with the overall?
The only other 450 racer with an overall win this year is Kawasaki’s Chad Reed. A dismal weekend in High Point put TwoTwo way back in the points, but he rebounded at Budds Creek with a third overall. Reed has the speed and endurance to win, but has had problems making things click. There’s still plenty of racing left this season, but Reedy had better make a move soon to stop Dungey’s momentum.
Chad Reed is second in points, but needs to get a win to slow Dungey’s momentum. Can he get it done in Colorado?
Mike Alessi has one moto win so far this season, but riding a smaller-bore machine at altitude is really limiting his chances this weekend. He’s going to have to ride the wheels off of the 350cc KTM, and that could put him on the ground like so many other times this season. Alessi has an overall win in him; just don’t expect to see it in Colorado.
The Red Bull Honda Squad will be fielding only one bike indefinitely as Davi Millsaps had a hard get off at Budds Creek. Millsaps’ list of injuries included losing a kidney, broken ribs, a bruised lung, and a broken thumb. It is doubtful will see him back for the outdoor season, but we’ll be looking forward to his return to racing sooner than later.
Two top-10 250-class racers are also out on the disabled list coming into Lakewood. Suzuki’s Blake Baggett hit a rock on a step-down jump during the second practice at Budds Creek. Baggett broke his left humerus, and underwent surgery on Saturday. Earlier this week Wil Hahn separated his shoulder while training in Texas. Hahn will have surgery to repair the AC separation on Monday.
Trey Canard has been plugging along in the top-five, but the Honda rider needs to get better starts to improve his standings.
Three of the four Pro Circuit Racers are distancing themselves from the field. Christophe Pourcel, Tyla Rattray and Dean Wilson all have overall wins in the last three rounds. What about the fourth rider on the squad? Jake Weimer has been struggling so far this year after wining the West Coast Supercross Championship. Last weekend he went down in Moto 1, but rebounded with a seventh in the second moto. If Weimer could catch a start we could see him up on the podium as he won this race last year.
Another 250cc rider to be on the look out for is Honda’s Trey Canard. So far this season Ice-Trey has been lurking right around the top-five. With a field that is so stacked, Canard needs to get better starts in order to give himself a chance at a win. Look for the GEICO Powersports racer to make a move, as he sits only 23 points out of the top-three.