Ivan Tedesco’s time away from victory lane followed an all-too-familiar path. After three 125 Championships, (Tedesco was actually the last-ever titlist when the class was still called 125), the man from New Mexico moved up to the big class. He worked on learning and putting in solid finishes, but then got injured, starting a downward spiral of lost confidence, leading to more injuries, sub par results, and then, eventually, a whole lot of people talking about a whole lot of other riders.
The transition from small-bore champion to big bike success has always been slippery, and Tedesco looked to maybe be just another victim—joining names like Matiesevich, Lamson, Swink, Huffman, Roncada, Pastrana and perhaps even his own current teammate Davi Millsaps as those who won titles on the smaller bikes, but could never find the same mojo after graduation.
But Tedesco had a special trick up his sleeve. He’s used to fighting for it. Many of the past dominant small-bore pilots came through the amateur ranks with their prodigious talent on display. They dominated at every level they competed in, and the rough road in the big class came as a shocker. These men were not used to losing.
Tedesco’s path is different. Never a dominator on minibikes, he entered the pro ranks quietly with a few support rides. In fact, his brother Gio was thought to be the faster one in the family for a while. Ivan built his speed steadily, never an overwhelming favorite, but never doubting himself. Few expected him to dominate the 2004 125 West SX campaign, and even fewer predicted he would emerge the 2005 AMA 125 Motocross Champion. But Tedesco didn’t need to start those series with a heap of momentum. He was used to winning uphill battles.
Tedesco’s last few seasons would have been enough to extinguish the fire for most men. But not Hot Sauce. He kept doing what he did to climb the mountain the first time: training, working, believing. When he found himself leading laps for the first time in years at Hangtown, he tightened up a bit, and the same thing happened while out front at High Point. But those races made Ivan comfortable with riding out front again. Using those lessons, he delivered a dominant 1-1 ride at Colorado.
After crashing out of the season opener at Glen Helen last month, Tedesco found himself 50 points away from the series’ lead. He’s just 35 points down now. If he wins the series it will look like an upset, but for Tedesco, this fight back from the bottom will look very, very familiar.