We have to start with a necessary double name drop: On the podium during the first 250 moto at RedBud were Jeff Stanton and Chad Reed, watching the second turn as GEICO Honda's Justin Barcia came full-throttle into the corner on the third lap, manipulating his clutch more than his throttle, his CRF250R absolutely screaming for mercy. Right behind him was Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Blake Baggett, going maybe even faster, but also a little wider, the two of them blasting out of the corner and around the next bend in the blink of an eye. Stanton and Reed, both living legends, just looked at each other and laughed.
“It's just incredible how fast these kids are going,” Stanton told me as he watched the race unfold. “They are just going so fast now.” This from a six-time champion!
Baggett and Barcia pushed the level of intensity to new heights at RedBud.
Simon Cudby photo
Baggett and Barcia would of course rule the day at RedBud, especially Blake, who again went 1-1 and retained the red plate. And third would ride Eli Tomac, who already has two national wins in six tries so far, with Baggett holding three and Barcia one.
The trio has seemingly begun to break away from the Red Bull KTMs of Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin. K-Roc just didn't have his best stuff in the second moto, and Marvin lost third overall at the end when Tomac caught and passed him late. The German and the Frenchman have the speed of the leaders, but not the whole way. In fact, Roczen couldn't get past the third member of the GEICO Honda team, Wil Hahn, and ended up sixth in the second moto—his worst outing in twelve motos to date.
What gives? Are the kids in America just plain faster than the kids from Europe? In my personal opinion, not necessarily. But their level of intensity is much higher from start to finish. Having spoken to Reed after the race, I think he agrees. Overseas, young riders from all over Europe don't get together that often, whereas in the States we have Loretta Lynn's, the World Mini GP, the NMA Grand Nationals, the Mini Os, Ponca City, Texas, etc. Baggett and friends know each other well enough to know what they need to do to win in a 30-minute moto, and that's not only to pin it from start to finish, but also to be able to drop the hammer when the time comes to go harder, go faster, be meaner... It took Reed a couple of years to find that cadence, just as it did Jean-Michel Bayle. But once they had it, they had the chops to win major championships here (both won the AMA Supercross title in their third season in America).
It's a steep learning curve, and while Roczen seemed to lose a step this week, Musquin looked his best yet. Once both learn this new way of racecraft—“win or perish,” to quote Jeff Emig quoting Winston Churchill (yes, another double name drop)—then we're going to see even more incredible action in this class.