Opening ceremonies are revving up here in Oakland, so let's bench race before the heat races begin:
Ryan Villopoto is standing as the man to beat after the afternoon practice sessions (and his win last week in Los Angeles). RV logged the fastest time in both sessions, but his time from session one was pulled after he stopped on the track to look at the whoops on the last lap. The rules prohibit stopping on the track in practice, and Kevin Windham and Kyle Chisholm suffered the same fate.
No big deal. RV2 returned in session two to log the fastest time. He'll have first gate pick tonight. Last week he even won without a good start, so what's stopping him here?
The track could be a factor, as it's much tougher than the previous three rounds, and one mistake by anyone could change the whole evening.
Certainly James Stewart would like to challenge RV, but he's had a rough day. Stewart crashed on a triple in free practice, then crashed in a rhythm section in the first timed session. He did return to the track to log the fastest lap (after RV's fast time was pulled) but then elected not to ride the second session. Stewart will be racing tonight, though.
Stewart's not the only one who took some lumps on this super technical track--Ivan Tedesco and Austin Stroupe hit the deck hard, too. Both are going to give it a go, but Stroupe has a sore shoulder and Tedesco has a sore back.
In Lites, the talented pack will take another shot at Josh Hansen. Last week Hanny bashed into Cole Seely on the first lap and came out on the short end of the stick. It opened the door for a bunch of riders to win, and Seely held on for career victory numero uno.
Hanny was fastest in practice, so he's the man to beat again. But Kyle Cunningham has shown great speed this afternoon, and the usual suspects like Tickle, Rattray, Tomac, Davalos and Roczen were in the mix. Seely wasn't lighting it up, but in this class, starts matter more than anything else, and if any of those guys get one, they could win.
And weather is always the X factor here in NorCal, but a slight drizzle throughout the day has not damaged the track much. Rain is expected right around the time the main events start, meaning it will be a guessing game for the teams on running the dry or mud setup. Just what we need to shake this series up some more!