They've done it again! Team USA, in what some might call an upset, successfully defended their Motocross of Nations title in an crowd-silencing performance. After a nail-biting day of racing, it came down to final final MX1/Open class moto, as it usually does, and just about everything that could happen, did happen. It really came down to three teams: Italy, France, and the U.S. of A. Since the teams get to drop a score at the end, it was actually quite difficult to predict any sort of outcome. But, when all was said and done, Ryan Dungey, Jake Weimer, and an veteran Ivan Tedesco held up the Chamberlain trophy alongside team manager Roger DeCoster. So, here is how it all went down at Autodromo di Franciacorta in Northern Italy:
On the world stage, 20 countries lined up for the first race of the 2009 Motocross of Nations. With the top gate pick and his home crowd cheering him on, Antonio Cairoli of Team Italy blasted out to an early lead with Australia's Chad Reed right on his rear fender. Reed proceeded to chase Cairoli the entire moto in what he later said was "a really fun race." Meanwhile, Spain's Jonathan Barragan and USA's Ryan Dungey moved in behind the two frontrunners. Dungey made relatively quick work of Barragan and ran the better part of the moto by himself; Cairoli and Reed had opened up a gap on the rest of the pack, and Dungey eventually dropped Barragan. More than once, it looked as though Reed would make the pass on Cairoli, but the Italian Stallion held him off with an excellent ride of his own. Clement DeSalle of Belgium got around Barragan as well and bared down a Dungey late in the race, but the 250 Motocross National Champion held his ground and came away with the third-place finish.
When the gates dropped for the second race of the day, Scott Columb of New Zealand narrowly won the holeshot, but it didn't last. France's Gautier Paulin hopped on a rail and took off. Ivan Tedesco hooked his line onto Paulin's rear fender and tried to reel him the entire moto. Tedesco rode an incredible race, but on the last lap, France's David Philippaerts reeled him in on the last lap and passed him for the second place spot... As you can imagine, the predominantly Italian crowd went absolutely nuts as Philippaerts threw his fist into the air like he jumped out of a scene from On Any Sunday. Estonia's Tanel Leok also put in a good ride holding off the MX2 phenom Marvin Musquin for fourth. Tedesco's partner-in-crime Jake Weimer didn't get a great start, but he was making up time and after two laps was reeling in eighth place. Then disaster struck for the Pro Circuit rider; he tipped over in the sand and pulled off for a time to nurse what he later said was his stomach. Apparently he had wahcked it while getting headshake and it was killing him. He did return to racing, however, in 35th position and eventually salvaged 25th.
The British announcer said it correctly when he claimed the third and final moto to be the "biggest race of the year." With the points spread so close, and one score still left to throw out, it really was anyone's game; and by anyone's, we mean the top three teams of Italy, France, and Team USA. So much was on the line for each team. For the U.S., it was reassurance that they, indeed, were correctly selected. The pressure of following the dominant performances of recent US teams only compounded after their showing in qualifying. For Italy, it was their opportunity to win the biggest prize in motocross in front of their countrymen. So needless to say, the stakes were high.
So when the gates did finally drop, all hell broke loose. Within a matter of seconds, three separate devastating crashes changed the course of everything before a half a lap. First, Antonio Cairoli and Antti Pyrhonen of Finland tangled up in the start straight wadding both of them up. Cairoli's bike looked like a pretzel when they picked it up off the dirt, but Cairoli did walk off the track with his own power. Then, in the first corner, three more bikes stacked up, including those of Chad Reed and Great Britain's Billy MacKenzie. And if that weren't enough, extreme disaster struck for France's speedster Gautier Paulin. Along with three or four other riders, Paulins stacked it up right after the first table top and could not get back off the dirt. With a reported severe back pain, Paulin was carried off the track on a stretcher.
Meanwhile, Ryan Dungey and Ivan Tedesco had miraculously avoided the pile-ups and instantly became the favorites to win. Dungey jumped out front and did not look back, while Tedesco found himself safely within the top ten. Tedesco, however, suffered the wrath of Italy's David Philippaerts just beofre the end of the first lap. Philippaerts parked him in the left turn right after the mechanics straightaway. Tedesco did remount relatively quickly and found himself 13th. From there he put his head down and raced all the way back to seventh. With Italy's and France's chances left in the dirt with Cairoli's and Paulin's misfortunes, the U.S. sealed the deal. After 30 minutes and two laps, Tedesco, Dungey, and Weimer stood tallest on the FIM podium. Congratulations Team USA!