10 Things to Watch: FreestoneFriday, May 25, 2012 | 11:00 AM
By Aaron Hansel and Chase Stallo
Last year Blake Baggett demonstrated mind blowing speed at some races, but seemed to struggle at others. “Last year I had some weekends that were good, or actually beyond good, I would win motos, and the next weekend just throw it away,” Baggett says. This weekend, the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship heads to Freestone, a track that has not been kind to Baggett in the past. In 2010, he took 17th (34-10), and last year he finished 9th, (7-16). Will Baggett buck the trend and start building consistency by taking the win at Freestone this year?
The Heat is On
Ask any rider what the first thing that comes to mind is when they think about Freestone, and they’ll tell you it’s the extreme heat and humidity. Triple digit temperatures are common, and often times leads to riders wilting and fading hard halfway through a moto. One of the more outrageous heat-induced gaffes came in 2010 from Dean Wilson. As he was approaching the finish line, he slowed to let teammate Tyla Rattray past, incorrectly thinking he was a lap down. The move, which also allowed Broc Tickle by, cost Wilson the first national victory of his career. Mental toughness and proper physical conditioning will be key, and riders that train regularly in intense heat should have a leg up on the competition this weekend.
The Throw Down
James Stewart threw down the gauntlet last week at the FMF Hangtown Motocross Classic, presented by Coors Light, and his perfect 1-1 score put to rest any doubts regarding his fitness and ability to win races. But the second moto wasn’t a runaway, as Ryan Dungey kept Stewart honest for most of the moto until getting hung up a bit by lappers as the moto entered its final stages. With the series now heading to Freestone, will we see Stewart take another victory?
Stewart looks to make it two in a row at Freestone.
Simon Cudby photo
Amidst the excitement of Baggett’s breathtaking ride and Stewart’s return to action, there were some great results that got a little overlooked. One of those performances came from Broc Tickle, who finished sixth by way of 6-7 moto finishes. A sixth place in the planet’s most prestigious motocross series is very impressive, but it’s downright remarkable and inspiring when you consider that it was Tickle’s first ever 450 National. Tickle’s results had been steadily improving throughout the final stages of the supercross season, and judging by his results from Hangtown, he’s carrying that momentum outdoors. Let’s see if Tickle can keep the party going this weekend at Freestone.
A ninth place finish at Hangtown by way of 5-14 moto scores isn’t exactly what you would expect from former MX2 World Champ Marvin Musquin, but then again, he does have a broken hand that’s full of plates and screws. The injury, and the fact that it’s kept Musquin off the bike for the better part of two weeks, caused him to fade especially hard in the second moto after running as high as third. With Musquin now back on the bike and able to train, expect his results to improve at Freestone.
For the past four years the WMX Class has been firmly controlled by Jessica Patterson and Ashley Fiolek. Their reign of terror has been unprecedented. Entering Hangtown the two had a combined record of 56-2 since 2008, Fiolek’s rookie season. The streak was primed to continue after Fiolek claimed the moto 1 win and Patterson lead early in moto 2 at Hangtown. But a crash derailed Patterson and Fiolek was buried mid-pack, giving Meghan Rutledge the early advantage. The Australian rookie would hold off a late charge from Patterson to capture her first career moto win. With her win Rutledge joined Sherri Cruse and Tarah Gieger as the only WMX riders to defeat the dynamic duo of Patterson and Fiolek. Has the WMX finally found parity or will the Patterson/Fiolek combination continue to reign supreme?
Other than motocross hotbeds California and Florida, Texas probably houses the most pro riders that either hail or currently live in the state. Freestone will mark a homecoming for Texas natives Kyle Cunningham, and the Rockstar Energy duo of Blake Wharton and Hunter Hewitt. Also benefiting from the lay of the land will be Andrew Short, Matt Lemione and the Hahn brothers, Wil and Tommy, who all currently reside in the Lone Star state. Will local knowledge pay dividends for this group of Texans?
Wharton looks to shine at his home state race.
Simon Cudby photo
Whoops, Sand, and the Rest
You’d be hard pressed to find two tracks as polar opposite as Hangtown and Freestone. The ruts and chop and hills from NorCal will be replaced with a much flatter track, with a sandier soil that will get rough in its own (totally different) way. With supercross just wrapping up and teams still getting their bearings together for outdoors, quick adjustments are going to have to be made in order to compensate for these two very different layouts.
Last week Troy Lee Designs Jessy Nelson made his pro debut at the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship opener at Hangtown. This week amateur sensation Vann Martin and rookie Cole Thompson will be joining the blood thirsty pro ranks. While Thompson was able to cut his teeth in supercross this will be Martin’s first career pro race. Can the rookies overcome their first race nerves and make a run at a top-ten?
Last year Ryan Dungey was on his way to a second moto win and the overall at Freestone. But under the boiling Texas sun, Dungey ran out of fuel, leaving the door open for Chad Reed to claim the overall. Dungey was dealt a major championship blow that fateful afternoon, but now looks to exact revenge. Can Dungey rebound and claim victory in the Lone Star state once again?
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