THE CALM AFTER THE STORM: A1 In My Eyes

By Ryan Cooley Photos by Milan and Maeda

Like most of you reading this, I am a huge Supercross fan. I’ve been to a ton of Supercross events in my day, and as a SoCal native, the vast majority of them have been right here in my own backyard at “The Big A,” or Edison Field, depending on what you choose to call the joint. In fact, now that I think about it, I’ve been to every season opener at Anaheim since they started the most recent streak of six openers in a row back in 1999. I know… Big deal, right? The point I am trying to make is that I am no stranger to the sport, and I’ve seen a lot of what the sport has to offer over the years right here at Anaheim. From new teams, big stars changing brands, rookie seasons, track progression, number changes, and on and on, I’ve been there. And regardless of how many times I’ve seen it, there’s something about the start of a fresh new season that seems to get more exciting for me every year. With my sights set on Anaheim 1, the holidays are always a blur. I guess you could go so far as to say I am a junky. And to tantalize my addiction even more this year, a whole new element was thrown into the mix. The 2004 season opener marked my first Supercross event as a full-time editor for TransWorld Motocross, and I was stoked!

For those of you that dig Anaheim 1 as much as I do, you no doubt understand the excitement I went through just thinking about covering the event for the mag. I was ready for big things, and with all of the preseason hype about to turn into reality, I prepared for what I thought would be the most exciting Supercross of my life. Well… When all was said and done it didn’t exactly turn out that way. In fact, Anaheim 1 was the first of 16 races that could prove to make up one of the most lackluster seasons in recent history. With preseason injury, one in particular, and one man’s potential for total domination, the 2004 AMA Supercross series might be a yawner. Nevertheless, I am holding out hope for good things to come. A lot of questions were answered, and a lot of preseason hype was put to bed at A1. The racing may not have been the best I’ve ever seen, but with the new season came new excitement, and for me, a new way to lose money. Here’s how I spent the 2004 season opener. I hope you enjoy!

THE HUNDRED-YEAR STORM

With the Thursday before Anaheim falling on New Year’s Day this year, the usual Thursday Press Day events were postponed and coupled together with Friday’s practice. “Fine! I’ll wait one more day,” I said to myself, “but tomorrow had better be good.” As I awoke on Friday morning I jumped in the shower and quickly got ready to meet the rest of the TWMX crew for breakfast. I was stoked! The Friday morning before Anaheim and there was no stuffy office job to head off to, just a day at the stadium with my boys. “This rules!” I bounced out of the shower and took a peek through my blinds to see if it would be a shorts or a pants kind of day, but woe was me at what I’d discovered… Rain! “Rain,” I said to myself. “It rains here once every six months, and today has to be the day? This is just great!”

We arrived at the stadium just in time to sit in on all of the press day activities. Ricky’s championship ring presentation, rider and team introductions, purse and award announcements, they covered it all. But I simply couldn’t concentrate. All I was able to do was gaze out of the Diamond Club window at the white plastic that covered the track, and sip on a cup of decaf. No need to ride the caffeine wave on a day like this, I thought. “Fine! I’ll wait one more day,” I said to myself, “but tomorrow had better be good.”

EL SABADO GIGANTE!

Saturday morning, same routine, only this time when I peeked out of the blinds the sky wasright blue and sunny. I knew there was a God! We arrived at the stadium in time for a track walk. After that I did some mingling in the pits with some of the riders and industry bigwigs, and then quickly headed back into the stadium to catch the first practice. Before the first group of 125 riders rolled onto Anaheim soil for their initial spin I sat in the bleachers and reflected on the rumors, speculation, and hype that had led to that moment. Despite the anticipation, there was a sense of calm in the stadium for a moment that accompanied the cool, crisp feel in the air. So cool and crisp, in fact, that I relocated to a section that was in the sun because I was freezing my ass off. Once settled in I set my sights on the group one, or “factory” 125cc practice, and studied intently. After a few awkward laps of breaking the track in, the pace quickened and by the end of the session it came as no surprise to see Tedesco and Preston sitting on top.

The track itself looked somewhat different than we’ve seen in the past. Dirt Wurx promised obstacles that we’d never seen before this season, and I’d say they delivered with some funky rhythm sections, and a gnarly high-speed left hand sweeper that doubled as the start straightaway. Whether the track would welcome passing and good racing action would remain to be seen until later in the evening.

P> Once the last group of 125s rolled off the track, I hooked up with TWMXs resident fashion icon, Marc Fiore, and Travis Wicks from Pro Circuit. The three of us sat together in awe as we watched Chad Reed and the rest of the factory 250 riders take to the track for the first time. Reedy has a speed and style so impressive that he makes this sport look easy. Nothing against the ability and style of the other guys, but Chad just stands alone. The untrained eye that knows nothing about Supercross can look down on the stadium floor and pick Reed out of the crowd. He’s that good! Watching him ride made it even more difficult to believe that he’d injured his shoulder playing pool just weeks before. His speed through the difficult whoop section was later said to be a half a second faster than his closest competitor. Not bad, considering his total lap time was only 60 seconds!

At this point in the day the reality of RC’s absence really set in. Having had a major surgery to repair a torn ACL just a couple weeks prior, Ricky will be sidelined for the entire Supercross season. Love him or hate him, his racing presence is certainly missed.

THE NIGHT SHOW

During the small window between the day program and the big show, Fiore and I grabbed a couple fine-looking fillies and headed off for a quick dinner and a couple of cocktails. Once we had our fill we cruised into the stadium and took our seats for the show. With the opening ceremonies just about to kick off, I started getting that nervous pit in my stomach. I was ready to go racing, and to be quite honest, I could’ve done without the cheesy introductions and fireworks, and gone straight to the action. After what seemed like an eternity they were finally past, and I was stoked! At the line was 125cc Heat Race number one.

Coming into the season I’d been looking forward to the 125 West Coast above all other classes, especially when I heard about Ricky’s injury. You see, thanks to James Stewart’s announcement that he’d be riding a 125 on the East Coast in ’04, the other 125 teams chose to assign their best weaponry to the West. How can you blame them? This naturally left the West Coast stacked with talent all shooting for that elusive title. Among those considered favorites to win the series are Travis Preston, Nate Ramsey, Ivan Tedesco, Stephane Roncada, Andrew Short, Chris Gosselaar, Brock Sellards, Josh Hanson, and the list goes on. If I forgot your favorite rider, insert name here__________.

When the gate dropped for heat one it was Tedesco who drew first blood. Preston struggled out of the gate and rode a conservative race to qualify in fifth place. Meanwhile, Tedesco rode like a hero and cruised to an impressive victory over Little Goose and Short.

It was 125 heat two when things began to get a little more interesting. Josh Hanson jumped out to an early lead aboard his Yamaha of Troy YZ250F, and I was pumped. I knew coming into the race that Little Hanny had been working his tail off to gain strength and speed on his bike, so I was looking forward to seeing how far along he’d come. Fiore saw my excitement, and pessimist that he is bet me 20 bucks that Hanny would crash. Nice guy, huh? Having faith in number 68 I gladly took the bet, and Fiore’s duckets ta boot. Hanny got passed by Roncada and Ramsey, but kept it upright for a solid third. Thanks Hanny! And thus the gambling began…

“THE CUP GAME”

After taking Fiore’s money, I introduced him to a game that some friends and I used to play while attending professional baseball games. I am not a huge baseball fan, so “The Cup Game” is right up my alley. Everybody antes up a buck and sticks it in an empty beer cup. Each person in the group holds the cup for one batter at a time. If the batter gets a hit while you’re holding the cup, you get the dough. If he doesn’t, you toss in another buck and pass the cup. But without boring you with all of the details, I’ll simply say that the cup game is a pretty simple way to keep you interested in every batter, on both sides of the ball, the entire game. It doesn’t matter if it’s the ninth batter on the visiting team, you’re guaranteed to be interested. The result… Good times, a ball game that’s not boring, and hopefully a few bucks in your pocket. Although the actual format of the cup game isn’t easily transitioned into betting on Supercross, it enticed us to partake in some friendly wagering for the night.

Now that the mood was set, Marc and I had our night in check, no matter what type of racing action came our way. At the line was 250cc heat one, which offered a refreshing change in sound, thanks to the actual presence of two-strokes. Both prior 125cc heats sounded more like a four-stroke national than a Supercross. Right out of the gate I was up a 20 spot on Fiore as Ernesto Fonseca grabbed the holeshot. It didn’t take long for Reed to get by though, and the race was on for second. Well…not really… Fonzy kept that pretty much in check, but Robby Reynard showed great comeback Supercross speed to hold down the final podium spot. My money-making heat went south, however, when LaRocco crashed in the whoops. Luckily for me, DV12 suffered from a poor start that kept him out of the top three. Fiore and I ended up breaking even in heat one, and Chad Reed looked superhuman on his way to proving why he’s the series favorite.

Marc went up 20 at the end of heat 2 after my boy Ezra finished in fourth, well behind the winner Kevin Windham. Fiore’s intuition was correct, and Windham put on a clinic in front of Nick Wey and Grant Langston. Grant’s third was hard-fought as he and Tyler Evans duked it out for a few laps, with GL eventually gaining the upper hand.

The KTM Junior race, semis, and last-chance qualifiers flew by as Fiore, our lady friends, and I got held up at the bar on our way to the restroom. After having a cocktail and catching up on some conversation, we made our way back to the seats just in time for the 125cc Main Event.

ALL BETS ARE IN

With so many guys looking good in the 125 class, Fiore and I had a tough time choosing our winners. Fair-weather fan that he is, Marc put his cash on heat one winner Ivan Tedesco. Don’t get me wrong, Ivan was no doubt a favorite after that impressive heat, but Fiore…well… I gu

When the gate dropped for heat one it was Tedesco who drew first blood. Preston struggled out of the gate and rode a conservative race to qualify in fifth place. Meanwhile, Tedesco rode like a hero and cruised to an impressive victory over Little Goose and Short.

It was 125 heat two when things began to get a little more interesting. Josh Hanson jumped out to an early lead aboard his Yamaha of Troy YZ250F, and I was pumped. I knew coming into the race that Little Hanny had been working his tail off to gain strength and speed on his bike, so I was looking forward to seeing how far along he’d come. Fiore saw my excitement, and pessimist that he is bet me 20 bucks that Hanny would crash. Nice guy, huh? Having faith in number 68 I gladly took the bet, and Fiore’s duckets ta boot. Hanny got passed by Roncada and Ramsey, but kept it upright for a solid third. Thanks Hanny! And thus the gambling began…

“THE CUP GAME”

After taking Fiore’s money, I introduced him to a game that some friends and I used to play while attending professional baseball games. I am not a huge baseball fan, so “The Cup Game” is right up my alley. Everybody antes up a buck and sticks it in an empty beer cup. Each person in the group holds the cup for one batter at a time. If the batter gets a hit while you’re holding the cup, you get the dough. If he doesn’t, you toss in another buck and pass the cup. But without boring you with all of the details, I’ll simply say that the cup game is a pretty simple way to keep you interested in every batter, on both sides of the ball, the entire game. It doesn’t matter if it’s the ninth batter on the visiting team, you’re guaranteed to be interested. The result… Good times, a ball game that’s not boring, and hopefully a few bucks in your pocket. Although the actual format of the cup game isn’t easily transitioned into betting on Supercross, it enticed us to partake in some friendly wagering for the night.

Now that the mood was set, Marc and I had our night in check, no matter what type of racing action came our way. At the line was 250cc heat one, which offered a refreshing change in sound, thanks to the actual presence of two-strokes. Both prior 125cc heats sounded more like a four-stroke national than a Supercross. Right out of the gate I was up a 20 spot on Fiore as Ernesto Fonseca grabbed the holeshot. It didn’t take long for Reed to get by though, and the race was on for second. Well…not really… Fonzy kept that pretty much in check, but Robby Reynard showed great comeback Supercross speed to hold down the final podium spot. My money-making heat went south, however, when LaRocco crashed in the whoops. Luckily for me, DV12 suffered from a poor start that kept him out of the top three. Fiore and I ended up breaking even in heat one, and Chad Reed looked superhuman on his way to proving why he’s the series favorite.

Marc went up 20 at the end of heat 2 after my boy Ezra finished in fourth, well behind the winner Kevin Windham. Fiore’s intuition was correct, and Windham put on a clinic in front of Nick Wey and Grant Langston. Grant’s third was hard-fought as he and Tyler Evans duked it out for a few laps, with GL eventually gaining the upper hand.

The KTM Junior race, semis, and last-chance qualifiers flew by as Fiore, our lady friends, and I got held up at the bar on our way to the restroom. After having a cocktail and catching up on some conversation, we made our way back to the seats just in time for the 125cc Main Event.

ALL BETS ARE IN

With so many guys looking good in the 125 class, Fiore and I had a tough time choosing our winners. Fair-weather fan that he is, Marc put his cash on heat one winner Ivan Tedesco. Don’t get me wrong, Ivan was no doubt a favorite after that impressive heat, but Fiore…well… I guess I am just pissed off that he ended up with my money. But enough of Fiore and his favorite; my dollars were on my boy Preston. Sure…he didn’t have the best heat of his life, but Presto’s got the skills and knows how to win a title. I was confident! The gate dropped, and not more than five seconds into the moto I was peeling off a 20 to pass down the row. The race was far from over, but my chances at this point were a long shot at best. My boy TP had entered the first corner in fourth place, but unfortunately exited in 20th. Yep, one slight miscalculation left Presto on the ground, and me with a near-empty wallet. Meanwhile, Tedesco snatched the holeshot and cruised on to win without a single challenge. In the later stages of the race Ramsey put on a hard charge to reel Ivan in, but he ran out of time and never posed a serious threat. Behind Nate Dawg came Roncada, and then Andrew Short. Preston spent the entire moto playing catch-up, and after a long, awkward battle with Greg Schnell could only post an eight-place finish. Tedesco had a relatively easy night at A1, but I think we’ll see some great battles before this sucker’s over.

“OK… Time to make my money back,” I thought. With the last race of the night in the gate, Marc and I decided in addition to picking the winner, we’d lay down a few side bets to make things more interesting. Having both agreed that Reed was the man, we quickly ruled him out. “No picking Reedy!” Quick with the math, it didn’t take us long to realize that we were now betting for second. Not the most exciting way to kick off the season, but life must go on, right? A lot of guys showed great speed, just not “Reed” speed. Hopefully somebody can step it up and make a season out of it, but on January 3, 2004, at Edison International Field, nobody had anything for Chad Reed. Period! Now… On with the show…

Fair-weather Fiore was quick to snatch up the other heat race winner, Kevin Windham, so I let K-Dub go and took Lusk. Ezra’s aboard an all-new Mach One Yamaha ride this year, and he’s motivated and focused on winning races. With that on my side, the gate dropped and I quickly collected my Marc Fiore sponsored, Ernest Fonseca $20 holeshot award. Why he gave me that bet again I’ll never know, but I think he’s learned his lesson now. Fonzy had a mishap in the whoops two straights into the race, however, and Reed blitzed by and continued on to post a 20 second winning margin by the time the checkers waved. Meanwhile, my bet with Fiore was looking pretty safe as Ezra was riding a strong race in third. Before I even got a chance to gloat, however, Yogi went down hard in the whoops. While on his dirt nap hiatus, Fiore’s pick cruised passed Ezra, and I could feel my wallet getting lighter. Fortunately for me, K-Dub had a rough main, and Ezra was able to remount and pass him, eventually finishing one place ahead in eighth, and just like that, I was 20 dollars richer.

Now rolling in dough and happy as hell…well… I wasn’t really “rolling” in dough, as my winnings were collected by the bartender throughout the evening. And I wasn’t really “happy as hell” as I’d liked to have seen a bigger challenge placed upon Mr. Reed, but still… A1 was a blast! A beautiful sunny day, that exciting round one vibe in the pits, racing action from the best riders our sport has to offer, and a good buzz to our heads, A1 was a fun time for all. Here’s wishing everybody involved a happy and healthy 2004 series. Cheers!

I guess I am just pissed off that he ended up with my money. But enough of Fiore and his favorite; my dollars were on my boy Preston. Sure…he didn’t have the best heat of his life, but Presto’s got the skills and knows how to win a title. I was confident! The gate dropped, and not more than five seconds into the moto I was peeling off a 20 to pass down the row. The race was far from over, but my chances at this point were a long shot at best. My boy TP had entered the first corner in fourth place, but unfortunately exited in 20th. Yep, one slight miscalculation left Presto on the ground, and me with a near-empty wallet. Meanwhile, Tedesco snatched the holeshot and cruised on to win without a single challenge. In the later stages of the race Ramsey put on a hard charge to reel Ivan in, but he ran out of time and never posed a serious threat. Behind Nate Dawg came Roncada, and then Andrew Short. Preston spent the entire moto playing catch-up, and after a long, awkward battle with Greg Schnell could only ppost an eight-place finish. Tedesco had a relatively easy night at A1, but I think we’ll see some great battles before this sucker’s over.

“OK… Time to make my money back,” I thought. With the last race of the night in the gate, Marc and I decided in addition to picking the winner, we’d lay down a few side bets to make things more interesting. Having both agreed that Reed was the man, we quickly ruled him out. “No picking Reedy!” Quick with the math, it didn’t take us long to realize that we were now betting for second. Not the most exciting way to kick off the season, but life must go on, right? A lot of guys showed great speed, just not “Reed” speed. Hopefully somebody can step it up and make a season out of it, but on January 3, 2004, at Edison International Field, nobody had anything for Chad Reed. Period! Now… On with the show…

Fair-weather Fiore was quick to snatch up the other heat race winner, Kevin Windham, so I let K-Dub go and took Lusk. Ezra’s aboard an all-new Mach One Yamaha ride this year, and he’s motivated and focused on winning races. With that on my side, the gate dropped and I quickly collected my Marc Fiore sponsored, Ernest Fonseca $20 holeshot award. Why he gave me that bet again I’ll never know, but I think he’s learned his lesson now. Fonzy had a mishap in the whoops two straights into the race, however, and Reed blitzed by and continued on to post a 20 second winning margin by the time the checkers waved. Meanwhile, my bet with Fiore was looking pretty safe as Ezra was riding a strong race in third. Before I even got a chance to gloat, however, Yogi went down hard in the whoops. While on his dirt nap hiatus, Fiore’s pick cruised passed Ezra, and I could feel my wallet getting lighter. Fortunately for me, K-Dub had a rough main, and Ezra was able to remount and pass him, eventually finishing one place ahead in eighth, and just like that, I was 20 dollars richer.

Now rolling in dough and happy as hell…well… I wasn’t really “rolling” in dough, as my winnings were collected by the bartender throughout the evening. And I wasn’t really “happy as hell” as I’d liked to have seen a bigger challenge placed upon Mr. Reed, but still… A1 was a blast! A beautiful sunny day, that exciting round one vibe in the pits, racing action from the best riders our sport has to offer, and a good buzz to our heads, A1 was a fun time for all. Here’s wishing everybody involved a happy and healthy 2004 series. Cheers!