Sign of the (Lap) Times: Thunder Valley

Sign of the (Lap) Times Thunder Valley

June 2, 2015 4:05pm

Eli Tomac’s crash while leading the second 450 moto going away was the big story from Thunder Valley. Charting his injury status will be the next big thing. Tomac’s right shoulder popped out of its socket in the crash. MRI results are coming today (Tuesday), but so far the shoulder apparently doesn’t hurt that badly. The bigger issue is the left shoulder, which smashed the ground hard. Eli’s experiencing pain and reduced range of motion in that shoulder, and it could ultimately determine if he can race this weekend. 

A front flat tire late in the second moto cost Ken Roczen the 450 win. “I struggled in the first moto with bike setup, big time,” Roczen said in a team statement. “We made a good change in the second one, and that seemed a lot easier for me. I think you could tell by my riding, too. I had a flat with two laps to go, so that’s why I went down twice. I was really bummed because that win should have been mine and it’s unfortunate. It is what it is. I’m happy to be on the podium. We’ll work on it from here. I’ll try to get stronger. It’s just good to be back in the hunt a little bit.”

Broc Tickle excelled in the tough conditions at Lakewood. 
Broc Tickle excelled in the tough conditions at Lakewood.  Photo: Cudby

Roczen’s RCH/Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s Suzuki teammate Broc Tickle was also damned good at Thunder Valley, taking fourth overall with 5-5 scores. Tickle always seems to excel in tough, rutted conditions, and with the Thunder Valley track taking on rain for twenty-eight straight days before the race, the softer conditions fell right into Tickle’s hands. “Today was really, really good,” Tickle explained in a team statement. “I was able to ride on Thursday for press day and I felt like it was good for me to get acclimated to the track and, obviously, the altitude. It came really easy to me when the track got gnarly, and it was really gnarly for both motos. I’m stoked with the weekend. I’m glad I bounced back from Glen Helen. Hopefully, we can turn in the same kind of performance next week at Muddy Creek.”

Also happy with his 450 ride was Honda HRC’s Cole Seely, who went 8-4 for fifth overall. “I think today went really well,” Seely said in a team PR. “We did a lot of testing after last weekend and found some good settings that made racing a lot easier for me. With outdoor testing, I’m still not too sure exactly what I’m looking for or what direction to go, so I’m lucky to work with such a knowledgeable crew. I felt like the bike was handling and turning so much better and I wasn’t getting as beat up out there, so I’m really happy with that.” Seely said he raised his RPM off the line for moto two, while handling the tricky first-gear start at altitude, to holeshot the second moto. “I led for a little bit, but the front three guys are going so fast, I couldn’t hold them off long. It’s going to be hard to run their pace, but I definitely feel like I’m getting closer.”

Fredrik Noren was back under the Honda HRC tent as a replacement for Trey Canard, but he twisted his knee and had to soldier to fourteenth overall. “My first ride back with factory Honda went pretty good, but I feel like I could’ve done better,” Freddie said in a team PR. “I hurt my knee on press day, so heading into practice I wasn’t sure if I was even going to be able to ride. With the help of the Asterisk Mobile Medical Center, I was able to get it wrapped up and felt pretty decent. I’m going to get it checked out on Monday, but hopefully it’s nothing too serious and I can be ready for action at Muddy Creek. I’m really grateful for the opportunity Honda has given me, so I want to make them proud.”

“It was a bummer that he tweaked his knee on press day because I don’t feel like he was at 100 percent, but he still rode well,” Brent Presnell, who handled the mechanic work for Noren, said. “We made a few clicker changes here and there, but he didn’t want to change too much stuff on the bike because he knew he wasn’t riding that well and the few spots he had trouble with he thought were because of his knee.” 

Fredrik Noren is back under the factory tent again. 
Fredrik Noren is back under the factory tent again.  Photo: Cudby

Blake Baggett keeps making changes to his Yoshimura Suzuki, and he told us “We’ll keep changing it until we’re up there.” Team manager Mike Webb told us this was the third straight Thursday where Blake was happy with the progress and looking forward to the race. This one ended up better, as Tomac’s crash opened up a podium spot, and Blake took it. “It was definitely a good week,” Baggett said in a team PR. “Practice went well, got a fourth in the first moto, and then in the second moto I was fortunate enough to get a little bit of a gift when the leader went down and I was able to finish third. I’m just plugging away and each week is getting better and better. I got third overall, so my first podium on the 450. I’m just excited to keep improving and I’m looking forward to next weekend.”

"My weekend in Colorado was not the greatest,” said Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson, who went 6-14 for eleventh. “My first moto I got a good start and was running up front, and ended up falling out of the top five on the last lap. In the second moto I was trying, but I just kept getting passed. You can't blame the track, but I think it's the reason I wasn't riding to my full capability. I don't think I was over-riding the track. I just couldn't figure it out. I felt like I was going at 20 percent speed even though I was trying.  I'm just going to go back this week and try and ride better next weekend and keep at it." 

Fellow Rockstar Husqvarna rider Christophe Pourcel was eighth overall. "This morning I had top-five speed, then the track got really, really rutty,” he said in a team PR. “The riders in front of me and behind me from third or fourth place to eleventh or twelfth were pretty much just following each other. We're all fighting the track; it's so rough and we're all just going so slow. My second-moto start was a lot better. I was around the top five, and I just kind of stayed in that front group trying to find my groove. Overall it was an okay weekend. I wish I was in the top ten in the first moto, but I got a bad start and was fighting the roost and rode tight. We finished in the top ten overall again, which is the plan, but sooner than later we need to improve. I'm not too far off of the guys in front of me, so I'm learning, and once my speed gets there it will be better racing for me." Pourcel and the team maintain the goal is to be top-five by around the fifth round of the series.

Pourcel finished the day eighth overall via 11-7 scores. 
Pourcel finished the day eighth overall via 11-7 scores.  Photo: Cudby

Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Wil Hahn fought for top ten in the first moto and overcame a big crash in the second moto to finish 12-20 for eighteenth overall. It was a rough day all around for the Kawasaki 450 riders, as Chad Reed was down early in the first moto and went 18-12 for fifteenth. His Discount Tire/TwoTwo Motorsports teammate Josh Grant was thirteenth in moto one but twisted his knee in moto two and didn’t finish. We’ll check on Grant’s injury status moving forward to Muddy Creek.

Kyle Cunningham switched from a Kawasaki to a Suzuki for the race, as he and the Privateer Journey team are picking up some help from the brand. He finished sixteenth with 17-15 scores. We’ll have more on Cunningham later in the week. 

We mentioned all the rain leading up to the race. A lot of the mud was pushed off to the side of the facility to get down to dry dirt, but the water underneath still made a difference. Red Bull KTM Team Manager Roger DeCoster summed it up. “You can see, the water comes out of the ground because they had so much rain during the last few weeks here and it’s like springs almost. It was really tough to set up your bike and for the riders to ride with confidence.” 

450 Class Moto 1

Lap Rank Finish Best Lap In Lap Avg Lap Time Rider
1 1 2:10.381  2:14.060  Eli Tomac
2 2:11.680  2:15.521  Ken Roczen 
3 2:12.631  2:14.623  Ryan Dungey 
4 2:15.118  2:19.742  Jason Anderson 
5 2:16.422  2:18.944  Blake Baggett 
6 2:16.730  2:20.167  Justin Barcia 
7 2:17.573  2:18.858  Broc Tickle 
8 10  2:17.992  2:21.467  Phil Nicoletti 
9 2:18.023  2:20.911  Justin Brayton 
10 2:18.206  2:20.601  Cole Seely 

We now know the title picture has changed completely in the 450 Class, but a look at the lap times still means something. In last week's second 450 moto, Ken Roczen was only three-tenths off of Tomac's best time. Here, he was 1.3-seconds off, but that's better than that epic second Hangtown moto, where Tomac outpaced everyone's best by nearly five seconds. Also, note that Dungey's average time was just six-tenths off of Eli. Dungey finished 14.5 seconds behind Tomac, which is still a large gap, but closer than any previous moto this year. It appeared Dungey was getting better and Roczen was back on the gas, but now everything has been blown up.

450 Class Moto 2

Lap Rank Finish Best Lap In Lap Avg Lap Time Rider
1 33  2:13.391  2:14.243  Eli Tomac 
2 2:14.650  2:19.044  Ken Roczen 
3 2:15.465  2:17.543  Ryan Dungey 
4 2:17.617  2:22.671  Justin Barcia 
5 3 2:18.935 2:20.821  Blake Baggett
6 2:19.042  2:21.817  Cole Seely
7 2:19.321  2:24.010  Phil Nicoletti
8 2:19.891  2:21.290  Broc Tickle 
9 2:20.102 2:23.004  Christophe Pourcel
10 2:20.317  11  2:22.720  Weston Peick

Again, Tomac posted the same 1.3-second gap over Roczen with his best time. Ignore the average times here, as Eli was out of the race before the final laps, when things usually slow down.

250 Class Moto 1

Lap Rank Finish Best Lap In Lap Avg Lap Time Rider
1 2:13.707 3 2:17.426  Jeremy Martin 
2 14  2:14.380  2:19.482  Marvin Musquin
3 2:14.886  2:18.724  Jessy Nelson 
4 2:15.175  2:19.916  Joey Savatgy 
5 2:15.396  2:19.739  Jordon Smith 
6 2:15.608  2:18.405  Zach Osborne
7 5 2.16.001 2:19.435  Adam Cianciarulo 
8 2:16.538  2:21.007  RJ Hampshire 
9 2:17.250  2:18.994  Christian Craig 
10 10  2:17.617  2:20.826  Matt Bisceglia 

Zach Osborne with the sixth fastest time but second in the moto, showing once again that starts and steady riding can mean just as much as raw one-lap speed.

250 Class Moto 2

Lap Rank Finish Best Lap In Lap Avg Lap Time Rider
1 2:15.776  2:17.979  Jeremy Martin
2 2:16.321  2:19.080  Marvin Musquin
3 2:18.652 2:21.968  Christian Craig 
4 3 2:19.005 2:21.095  Zach Osborne
5 7 2:19.024 2:23.199  Jessy Nelson
6 21 2:19.142 2 2:29.539 Alex Martin 
7 5 2:19.160 2:21.071  Jordon Smith
8 4 2:19.849 2:21.320  Adam Cianciarulo
9 13 2:20.343  16  2:22.590  Matt Bisceglia
10 25 2:20.945  2:33.865  Chris Alldredge

Alex Martin was running in third on lap two when he logged that fast lap. Then his rear brake locked up, sending him to the mechanic's area, and putting him in last. He didn't have a rear brake for the rest of the moto. Shoutout to Matt Bisceglia, who logged his fast lap later in both motos compared to everyone else.

More News and Notes:

GEICO Honda’s Christian Craig was a revelation in his return to racing, taking the Bud Light Fast Qualifier Award and nearly pulling off a podium with 4-6 scores for fifth overall. "I went into the motos not knowing where I was going to be,” said Craig. “I got a bad start on the first moto, and I really didn't know where I was until about three laps left in the moto. I got the sign from my mechanic, and I was like, 'Whoa!' It kind of surprised me, but I’ve been training really hard and riding every day, so I did expect to be in the top ten."

Craig was actually not expecting to be back in action until RedBud, but he got the call to fill in for Justin Bogle. He admitted he got a little tired in the second moto. "I got a bad start, and then towards the twenty-minute mark I was getting tired, so I put it on cruise control and rode it out to a sixth," Craig said. "I wasn't feeling the elevation; it was just that my body didn't have a lot of time to recover. I can't complain with a 4-6 finish; that was pretty great." 

Hampshire's eighth overall is a career high for the GEICO Honda rider. 
Hampshire's eighth overall is a career high for the GEICO Honda rider.  Photo: Cudby

Suddenly, Craig wasn’t the only one with a strong performance under the GEICO tent. Team rookies Jordon Smith and RJ Hampshire really stepped up, both scoring top-ten overalls. Smith was just edged in a second moto battle by Adam Cianciarulo; he ended up fourth in the race and sixth overall, but had he beaten AC, he’d have made the box overall. Hampshire was also in the hunt, and also scored his career-best with eighth. "I got a pretty good start in the first moto and was sitting fifth for about twenty-six minutes,” said Hampshire in a team statement. “I actually started catching the leaders, but I had a stupid little mistake and went down and it cost me a lot. I felt good through that moto, though.  

Bisceglia remains as the highest-ranked GEICO Honda rider in the points standings—ninth—after going 10-13 in Denver. "The first moto I was in eighth place and came up on a group of riders, the guys that were from about fourth to seventh place, and I got hung up," Bisceglia said. "My fitness is really good, so I reeled them in coming up on the last couple laps. I got close to that pack but made a mistake and went down in the corner, so I lost a couple positions. The second moto I came up in the first corner and one of the Kawasaki riders crashed right in front of me, and I had nowhere to go. I did come from last and ended up twelfth. Overall I rode well, but I’m disappointed because my results are not reflecting how hard I work during the week. I need to minimize the mistakes.”