Staging Area: Thunder Valley

Staging Area Thunder Valley

June 1, 2017 10:00am

Thunder Valley Motocross Park is located just outside the city limits of Denver and is by far the most convenient track on the series. The track is literally right off the side of a major highway and the facility is one of the most modern. The pits are all flat gravel and very easy for the teams to navigate.

Thunder Valley was also the site of the only nighttime National that I can remember, holding their motos under the lights in both 2008 and 2009. David Clabaugh, the track’s owner and promoter, took a big risk and spent big bucks to bring in Musco temporary lighting. I raced the 2009 event and while the idea is great and I liked the schedule, the temporary lights were not even close to bright enough and with them lining the outsides of the track, it caused dangerous shadows from the ruts and bumps. If it were possible to have the lights directly above the track, the night event could have been really cool for the riders. In that situation, though, it was best to move it back to a day event.

MX Sports

The Thunder Valley track is a very different animal on National weekend than any other time during the year. It’s incredibly hard and slippery during the normal racing year but for the National, the track crew brings in an incredible amount of sand in an effort to soften the surface and create good racing. I’ve heard horror stories about track conditions on other weekends but for the National, they seem to have it figured out. They disc it deep, get the moisture into the dirt, and generally have a good soil make-up for the motos. As for the layout, being in Colorado certainly helps. There are long uphills and downhills, off-camber turns, and all sorts of variation thanks to the hillside. The infamous downhill in the middle of the course has been a huge factor over the years, taking out James Stewart in 2012 and Eli Tomac in 2015. Will it reach up and grab a 2017 contender?

One of the biggest storylines for teams and riders entering the weekend is the altitude. The track hovers at around 6000 feet, wreaking havoc on the motorcycle and rider. The first thing riders will notice is the lack of power. The low oxygen levels make power output difficult and team engineers will be working their magic all day to pump up the engine’s capabilities. The teams with the best fuel map and power to burn will be smiling as the gate drops. For the riders, the first thing noticed is how hard it is to breathe while doing simple tasks. In my case, while walking up the start straight on Friday, I would always be shocked that my heart rate was much higher than it should have been. The altitude simply makes the body work harder. It is a true test of cardiovascular fitness. Most riders will fly in as late as possible and fly out as quickly as possible in an attempt to minimize the altitude’s drain on the body. For Jason Anderson, in particular, his difficulties with altitude sickness will be something to watch. He’s had trouble in the past—he pulled off last year and didn’t race moto two—but to be a title contender in the outdoors, he will need to find a solution.


Questions I Want Answered:

Can Marvin Musquin capitalize on the momentum he picked up last weekend?

How will Jason Anderson fare in the scarce air of Colorado?

Jeremy Martin sent a warning shot across the bow of the 250 Class in that first moto. Is he officially back?

What’s going on with Cooper Webb?

Can Josh Grant steal a moto win?

Will I be able to wake up at 3:45 a.m. in Japan to catch the start of the first moto?

What’s up with all of the 250 Class DNFs?

Can Musquin continue to build on his newly acquired points lead?
Can Musquin continue to build on his newly acquired points lead? Jeff Kardas

Who’s Hot:

Zach Osborne is two-for-two in overalls. He has a 21-point lead going into round three.

Musquin won his first ever 450 Class overall and carries a 15-point lead into round three.

Anderson won his first ever 450 moto and bounced back after a horrific opening round.

Blake Baggett was off his game at Hangtown, but came back strong with a podium finish at Glen Helen.

J-Mart won the first moto and was leading the second moto before a mistake. He looks ready to be a factor all summer.

"I wanted to get out of California with two top fives and I got two overalls and a 21-point lead." Osborne is happy to be leaving the California rounds in his rear-view mirror.  Jeff Kardas

Who’s Not:

Cooper Webb had a mysterious DNF at Glen Helen and I still have no idea what happened.

Eli Tomac lost the points lead after his second front brake failure of the year.

Christian Craig was riding incredibly well before a big get off left him with a boxer’s fracture.

Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki has had a couple of issues thus far. I’ll leave it there because I don’t really know what went wrong with the bikes, but they will figure it out.

Bold Predictions:

Cole Seely holeshots one of the motos this weekend.

Tomac goes 1-1.

Japanese hotel manager politely asks me to quiet down after I scream at my fantasy team in 35-minute sessions of irrational outburst.

Kawasaki uses a different front brake assembly.

Ken Roczen’s bunny is mourned by millions.

Joey Savatgy qualifies on pole.

My Picks

250

Jeremy Martin
Zach Osborne
Dylan Ferrandis

450

Eli Tomac
Marvin Musquin
Josh Grant