Tommy Hahn cruised his Canidae Motosport.com Kawasaki across the finish line at Steel City to take a fourth-place finish in the second moto – enough to give him the overall victory for the day when combined with his win in moto one. That made Hahn the seventh first-time winner this season an amazing feat in a 12-round series.
There are years when riders win races through overwhelming talent and speed. Last year James Stewart steamrolled through the tour, winning every single round. The 250 class displayed that this year, as Christophe Pourcel and Ryan Dungey came into the season with high expectations, and they delivered with speed that no one else could match consistently. In the 450 class, Ryan Villopoto, Mike Alessi and Chad Reed were the biggest starts, and high expectations led them to win the first four rounds of the tour.
But then things started getting crazy. Reed was solid all year, but he wasn’t quite dominant enough to crush the spirit of his competition. Soon, other riders began to see themselves as potential race winners. And you know the old adage; you have to believe you can do it before you can actually can.
Ivan Tedesco got his shot at Colorado. Then Josh Grant came to Red Bud thinking that day was his day, and he collected the overall. By then, Hahn had been rallying to solid top-five finishes. The rookie 450 rider on a rookie 450 team began beating top-name factory talent along the way, and it culminated with a solid second-place finish in a moto at Washougal, a career high. From there, Hahn had the belief that he could win, too. At Steel City, it finally came together for him.
With each of those wins, you could see the systematic approach to victory for each rider. Hahn and Grant first saw they had the speed, and then worked on finally putting together two solid motos in the same day. Tedesco needed to rebuild his confidence after a few off years with injuries – when he led early in the season at Hangtown he pumped up, but in Colorado, he was comfortable.
Matt Georke got the belief when Yamaha signed him to a factory ride. Jake Moss was ready to win, too, when Kawasaki signed him, but Justin Brayton was just able to outlast him to win the final moto of the season. For each of these riders, the belief that they could win built throughout the season—when the tour rolled into Glen Helen, Georke, Brayton, Moss and Hahn may not have come to the gate expecting that today would be the day they could do it. But by Steel City, it was all within sight.
The real question now is, can learning how to win boost these riders through 2010? Surely there are a lot more riders carrying confidence into 2010 that we had in 2009, after Stewart had taken everyone down.