When Chad Reed hit the ground at San Diego on the last lap of Saturday night’s race while trying to pass Ken Roczen, the sound everyone heard was not just that of a body crashing on to hard dirt—that familiar thud!—but also the collective groan of disappointment rising from the jam-packed grandstands. To that point in the 2014 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, Reed was the feel-good story of the season. At an age that puts most riders past their prime, Reed rocketed to a surprising win at Anaheim 2 and followed it up with a resounding win at Anaheim 3. The man from Kurri Kurri had turned back the clock, challenging the younger Ryan Villopoto and the even younger Ken Roczen for the points lead and the coveted red plate they’d been passing back and forth. Now Chad was down and out, Roczen there to check on him in a move of sporting respect and concern, and it appeared that his unlikely run at stopping Villopoto from a fourth straight title had vanished in the blink of an eye. Reed was seen leaving the stadium in an ambulance shortly after that other veteran contender—James Stewart—had sealed his first win of the season over RV.
That sound I mentioned was the same sound we heard when Reed crashed in Dallas in 2012, stopping another title run in its tracks. It was also the sound we heard back in St. Louis in 2010 when Villopoto went down while chasing Ryan Dungey: the air of excitement being sucked right out of the series after a title contender goes down hard.
But maybe it isn’t over just yet. Reed posted a photo of himself stepping out of the hospital on Sunday morning after checking out, three broken bones be damned. He also shared the words of encouragement his wife, Ellie, texted telling him to be brave, be strong, and just be Chad Reed: “We have a championship to win and I’ll b damned if I’m going to let anything stop u or put u on the couch this season!”
Now we’re all in a waiting pattern to see if Reed really can answer the bell for this weekend’s Dallas race. His Discount Tire Kawasaki truck is already on the road to Texas, and he’s rehabbing his injuries as best he can. But broken bones in your shoulder and neck make riding motorcycles a painful prospect, and it may be impossible for even Reed to get back out there so soon. He did post a note yesterday with the now-famous image of young Roczen checking on him after their collision in the whoops: “Human 1st, athlete 2nd #respect. Just a racing move if I have the same opportunity this weekend or any other weekend I’d try the same pass. Love this kid.”