When Jean-Michel Bayle won his first national in America twenty years ago in Gainesville, Florida, it sent shock waves through the U.S. motocross ranks. Here was a practically unknown French kid who may have had a 125cc world title already, but the idea of him winning an AMA Motocross over the likes of Rick Johnson, Jeff Ward, Ron Lechien, Johnny O/Mara and Jeff Stanton seemed far-fetched. But the quiet, somewhat quirky Honda rider with the elegant riding style won the ’89 season-opener, and set forward a chain of events that would lead to a long exodus of top international talent that would follow him to America, including Greg Albertyn, Mickael Pichon, Sebastian Tortelli, Shayne King, Stephane Roncada, David Vuillemin, Chad Reed, Ben Townley, and finally today’s plethora of visiting stars that is currently on the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship: Tyla Rattray, Tommy Searle, Brett Metcalfe, Cody Cooper, Micheal Byrne, and Christophe Pourcel.
Of all those fine riders, it is Pourcel who has the most Bayle-like qualities, including the quirky nature and the elegant, fast riding style that deceives just how fast he’s really going. On Saturday, under some blue skies and a track jam-packed with American motocross fans, Pourcel cemented his growing reputation as a force to be reckoned with. He added the first outdoor win of his U.S. adventure, besting top young Americans like Trey Canard, the mercurial Justin Barcia, and points leader Ryan Dungey. He did it with decent starts, smart race craft, and solid fitness (even though he was said to be dueling some flu-like symptons) Pourcel, who was recently spotted in a Superman outfit for some magazine shoot, would have the points lead and the red plates right now if not for a one-position penalty for jumping under the new red-and-yellow “wheels-on-the-ground” flag when his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki teammate Austin Stroupe was laying on the track after finish line jump with injuries.
Pourcel has been through hell and back to get here. He was out for almost a year and a half with a serious hip injury and subsequent complications. But he’s found his speed again – speed few American fans knew he possessed outdoors, as he’s already got himself a #1 plate in East Region Supercross Lites. The championship is shaping up as a battle between he and Dungey, his fellow ’09 SX Lites (West) title winner. It’s obvious to see that he’s the rider Kawasaki has their eye on as a future 450 rider alongside Ryan Villopoto, and after his performance at the 41st Annual Hangtwn Motocross Classic, he’s looking like he could be the man for the job – once he completes the task at hand, which is to keep doing what Jean-Michel Bayle did some two decades ago.