Whether he admits it or not, expect Eli Tomac to have a lot on his mind on Saturday.
Thunder Valley National is the site for Round 3 of the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship series in Lakewood, CO and it's where Tomac's season ended a year ago, also Round 3, when he hit the dirt, causing enough damage that both shoulders needed surgery.
At this time last year, talk of an undefeated season already ensued as Tomac crushed the competition and went 5-0 in Motos before that fateful crash in Moto 2. This year, he's a bit behind. He has not displayed the raw speed and domination that left riders like Ryan Dungey, Justin Barcia and Ken Roczen in the dust. But he's getting there.
To say he's still finding his bearings seems rude, he's in third-place in the standings along with two straight trips to the podium. It's just that, the other thing on his mind, is Roczen.
Like Tomac last year, no one has an answer for Roczen this year. If not for an added sensor to the forks that required a modified fork cap which leaked, talk of a perfect season would likely be underway about Roczen this year. Instead he's won three of four Motos and led the other, before that forking sensor leaked, all in dominating fashion. Maybe not as soul crushing as Eli's Tomination from last year but defending Champion Dungey has, like last year with Tomac, no answers this year for Roczen.
So far this year no one has an answer for Ken Roczen
Tomac said after Glen Helen that he and his team, have made a step in the right direction, he was close and he hopes to "be there sooner than later." That might come this weekend in his home state where he'll need to relive the past in order to fight for his future. If he steps on the podium or even wins on Saturday erasing that awful day that ended what surely looked to be a dream Championship season, Roczen and Dungey can expect a long summer as they fight for another Motocross Championship.
Eli Tomac said he's "close" and what better way to take another step than at Thunder Valley on Saturday
But don't expect any other riders wondering about Tomac's state of mind. A title is at stake and the season is early.
Dungey is where he always seems - near the front landing on the podium waiting for the other guy to make a mistake so he can capitalize. He's gone 2-2-1-2 so far this year. Expect more of the same on Saturday.
Jason Anderson has two straight fourth-place overalls but got smoked by a charging Tomac in Moto 2 at Glen Helen which left him in fifth-place. But he took second in Moto 1 after passing the slow-rolling Roczen and also has a third-place finish from the opening round.
Trey Canard finally got a holeshot then crashed dropping him a few spots in Moto 1 last week. He too got smoked by Tomac, dropping to fourth-place which gave him a fifth-place overall for the second straight week. Another start while staying upright the whole Moto puts Canard in the mix.
Jason Anderson and Trey Canard have finished fourth- and fifth-place, respectively, in the opening rounds
These are you're likely podium contenders for the typically deep rutted Thunder Valley track. Blake Baggett, who placed third-overall last year for this round, should be there too as he started 2016 with a third-place but followed that with a broken collarbone. Less than a week post-op he finished Moto 1 at Glen Helen but called it a day after that. His status is unclear for Saturday, so is James Stewart who dislocated his shoulder in Round 1 causing a crash which popped his shoulder back in. He called it a day after practice and did not compete at Glen Helen.
Alex Martin gets the red plate this weekend but his brother wants it, so does Cooper Webb
The 250 class boasts even more parity as eight riders have finished third-place or higher in a Moto and the points leader has yet to win one.
Alex Martin comes in hot holding the red plate with three straight second-place Moto finishes. His dual runner-up spots at Glen Helen gave him the overall by a hair as his brother, teammate and two-time defending Champion Jeremy Martin won Moto 2 but finished fourth in Moto 1 and Cooper Webb did the reverse for third-place, losing the tie-breaker.
Joey Savatgy cooled off after sweeping the opener and leaving with a 15 point lead. He also got wrangled into a controversy last week involving post-race win rowdiness at a restaurant that might have affected his performance at Glen Helen because the Savatgy that showed up at Hangtown wasn't the same one at Round 2. Thus, he lost the red plate and dropped from first to third-place though he's just three points behind the leader.
Jeremy Martin started slow this year but got a win last week and brings past success to Thunder Valley
Expectations were high that Jeremy Martin would be well on his way to a third consecutive title but he's in fourth-place after a disappointing start. He's got a Moto win now, which might just be the answer, and he brings success into Thunder Valley as he swept here last year winning both Motos by more than 18 seconds.
Webb's wrist injury (should injury be in quotes?) is clearly a non-factor up until now as the two-time 250 West Supercross Champion got his first Moto win at Glen Helen and sits in second-place just two back from Alex Martin.
Aaron Plessinger is looking for his first win since ending the 2015 season with one but he's got a third-place finish and two-straight fifth-place results which puts him further back in points but within reach of the Top 3.
However he's got to look out for, and apparently so does everyone else, Austin Forkner. The rookie came in with lots of anticipation and loads of accomplishment in the amateur ranks and has not disappointed. Forkner took third in Moto 1 at Glen Helen and was running in second until a crash dropped him to sixth place in Moto 2. He recouped a spot and finished fourth overall. He'll get a podium this year, just a matter of when.
Should be another warm and sunny day, in other words, perfect riding conditions.
Unlike Roczen, our podium picks have not dominated. Last week we tapped Tomac to come through with the win, Roczen in second (we were right) and Josh Grant to enjoy his home track.
In the 250 class, we pick the wrong Martin to win and expected Savatgy to continue his hot streak and Plessinger to grab third.
So, who steps on the podium for Thunder Valley? We'll make our guess, leave us yours:
- Ken Roczen
- Eli Tomac
- Ryan Dungey
- Jeremy Martin
- Cooper Webb
- Alex Martin
Gates drop for Round 3 of the 2016 Motocross season on Saturday at the Thunder Valley National in Colorado.
2016 Motocross Season Standings
450 Class Standings
- Ken Roczen (93)
- Ryan Dungey (91)
- Eli Tomac (76)
- Jason Anderson (73)
- Trey Canard (62)
- Josh Grant (56)
- Cole Seely (54)
- Marvin Musquin (48)
- Phil Nicoletti (45)
- Justin Barcia (39)
250 Class Standings
- Alex Martin (79)
- Cooper Webb (77)
- Joey Savatgy (76)
- Jeremy Martin (75)
- Aaron Plessinger (63)
- Austin Forkner (58)
- Jessy Nelson (57)
- Zach Osborne (45)
- RJ Hampshire (41)
- Tristan Charboneau (36)