450 Words:   Hangtown

450 Words: Hangtown

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There were a lot of questions floating around in the weeks leading up to the first round of the 2011 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, and now that the season opener at Hangtown has come and gone, it seems as though very few of those questions have been answered.

At first, it looked as though Ryan Dungey was going to pick up where he left off last year, when he ended the year as the dominant new champion. He methodically worked his way through several riders and checked out to take the first moto win by over 14 seconds. Behind him, Kevin Windham, who holeshot and led for six laps, was fading after experiencing a mechanical problem. His issues allowed Chad Reed and Ryan Villopoto to get past and put on a battle of their own. They went back and forth, with Reed eventually taking second.

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Dungey took the win in moto one, but fell to overall winner Chad Reed in moto two.
Photo: Simon Cudby

In the second moto, it was beginning to look more and more as though the competition was in for another long summer of Dungey domination when he passed Villopoto for the lead and started to check out again. Reed had other ideas, however, and put on a charge that would hand him the moto and overall wins. After watching Reed at the opener, it’s obvious he’s got the speed to give Dungey some stiff competition. In the post-race press conference, Dungey even admitted that he was riding so close to the edge while chasing Reed that he was forced to back down a bit. Of course, we can’t forget that Reed came out swinging and took the win at Hangtown last year before struggling and eventually pulling out of the series altogether with Epstein Barr Virus. We also can’t forget that Dungey went 10-6 for eighth overall last year at Hangtown before going on a rampage that would see him win ten of twelve races. Then there’s Ryan Villopoto, who had been battling a fever in the week leading up to Hangtown. His 3-3 finishes earned him third on the day, which is a good result, but a guy like Villopoto races to win, and on Saturday, he simply didn’t have the speed to challenge the leaders.

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Reed outlasted Dungey to win the overall at Hangtown.
Photo: Simon Cudby

So where does this leave us? If Villopoto is at 100 percent, will he have the speed to hang with Dungey and Reed? If Windham hadn’t experienced mechanical issues, could he have hung on to battle for the lead? Will last year’s 450 runner-up, Brett Metcalfe, who finished fifth (5-5) at Hangtown, join the fight at the front of the pack? Can Christophe Pourcel rebound from his eighth place (7-11) finish and challenge for wins?

As we learned from Hangtown last year, when Reed and Mike Alessi won motos while Dungey struggled, the opener usually does a poor job of answering the big questions. Which means we’re in for a fun time figuring out the real answers over the next few weeks.

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