Team USA 2012 from left to right: Justin Barcia, Blake Baggett, Ryan Dungey and Team Manager Roger DeCoster.
The 66th annual Motocross of Nations competition is set to run this week in Lommel, Belgium and the Americans are coming with a team of motocross heavyweights in hopes of claiming an eighth consecutive title. 2012 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross 450 champion Ryan Dungey heads-up the team in the MX1 class, with 2012 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross 250 champ Blake Baggett leading the charge in MX2 and 2012 SX Lites champ Justin Barcia contesting the MX3 division. KTM’s Roger DeCoster returns as Team Manager and is joined by supporting players Mitch Payton, Chris Onstott, Jeff Canfield and Doc Bodner, just to name a few. The USA earned its first MXoN title in 1981 and has since hoisted the Chamberlain Trophy an impressive 22 times.
In last year’s battle at Saint Jean D’Angely in France, Dungey, Baggett and Ryan Villopoto took home the Trophy by 13 points, thanks in large part to a one-two finish by Dungey and Villipoto in the final round of competition. This year RV is out nursing an injury sustained during the 2012 Supercross season, patiently awaiting his return during the 2012 Monster Energy Cup in October.
Dungey is the MXoN veteran of the group, arriving to compete for the fourth consecutive year, and Baggett will mark 2012 as his second MXoN in a row. Barcia comes in as the rookie to the event, but his recent showings in both the 2012 Supercross and Motocross seasons, as well as being selected by Honda to move up to the 450cc ranks in 2013, makes him a potentially lethal opponent.
Including the US, 33 teams will be hitting the sandy track in Lommel and a number of them may have the potential to dethrone the defending champs. Team France has Gautier Paulin (MX1), Marvin Musquin (MX2) and Xavier Boog (MX3). Paulin took a big win in the MX2+Open contest in 2011, giving the French their only victory of the competition. The win also put the French team nine points ahead of the Americans heading into the final round. Musquin recently contested the AMA Pro Motocross series, where he finished fifth overall.
Team Australia earned their first ever podium finish at an MXoN event in 2011 in third, though they came with world-class riders Chad Reed, Brett Metcalfe and Matt Moss. This year all three riders are out with injury, leaving the Aussies with a green team of MXoN rookies for 2012 with Lawson Bopping, Luke Styke and Todd Waters. Great Britain followed Australia in fourth in 2011 and returns with Tommy Searle running in MX1. Jake Nicholls will take the reigns in MX2 and Max Anstie will ride the MX3 class. Dean Wilson contested the MXoN with Great Britain in 2011, but he remains out of contention with injury.
Italy failed to be a force in 2011, finishing in 16th, but comes to the table in 2012 with some heavy-hitters. Leading the team is Antonio Cairoli (MX1) winner of the 2012 FIM World Motocross Championship in the MX1 class. His teammate Alessandro Lupino (MX2) took 11th in the 2012 FIM MX2 series and finished ninth in the MX2 event run in Belgium this year at Bastogne. Davide Guarneri (MX3) was outside the top ten in FIM MX1, but posted a fifth and eighth place finish in last year’s MXoN in Franch and is expected to be an integral part in Italy’s attempt to break a streak of MXoN bad luck. Cairoli has had multiple crashes at the MXoN over the years, but is positive heading to Lommel.
“I’ve always made some mistakes at the MXoN, but if you crash in Lommel you can still win the race,” said Cairoli. “My goal is to finish in the top five and I believe we can do it.”
Belgium took home fifth in 2011 and will be looking to improve on that result in front of their home crowd. Clement Desalle (MX1), Jeremy van Horebeek (MX2) and Ken de Dycker (MX3) replace last year’s Belgian team and will fight to bring the Chamberlain home for the first time since 2004. They have the added benefit of a legendary rider as Team Manager, Joel Smets, who’s earned MXoN victories of his own in 1995, 1997 and 2003.
The Germans are hoping that Max Nagl (MX1), Ken Roczen (MX2) and Marcus Schiffer (MX3) can bring home their country’s first MXoN title. Last year, owing to Nagl’s absence, Roczen was forced to pick up a fair amount of slack, and though he posted some impressive results, it wasn’t enough to get the Germans close to the podium. The 2012 line-up contested the 2010 MXoN in Colorado and nearly beat out the Americans, so will be a team to watch as competition gets under way.
The 2012 MXoN Team stopping for a photo op after the final motocross round at Lake Elsinore in California.
The Americans aren’t looking to give up any ground though, and have already arrived in Belgium to run test laps on the track at Lommel to dial in their machines before race day. DeCoster isn’t too worried though, explaining recently that, “This is a great team. They have proven that they are solid riders, especially in the sand, and the Lommel track is a very deep sand track.”
Lommel also holds a special place for the American team since it’s the site of the very first US win in 1981. That year, Donnie Hansen, Danny LaPorte, Johnny O’Mara and Chuck Sun, managed by DeCoster (a Belgian native), upset the Belgian team in what would become the first in string of 13 consecutive victories for the US, the longest streak in MXoN history.