Who’s Got The Goat? (29-15)

#29

Andre Malherbe

1980 500cc World Champion

1981 500cc World Champion

1984 500cc World Champion

Andre Malherbe is often overlooked, but being a three-time 500cc World Champion and multi-time Vice Champion doesn’t come by luck. “I think he was definitely underrated because of the era he was in,” JC Waterhouse said. “There was a super powerhouse team at HRC at that time, with Noyce and Malherbe. I think Lackey was just before them, and then it went into (Eric) Geboers, (David) Thorpe and Jobe. It was kind of like the American team at the time of (Rick) Johnson, Bailey and O’Mara, where even the guy who was third was really, really good. His accomplishments are understated because of that, but he was still very accomplished.” He overcame burns on his legs as a child, and many credit that experience for his drive as an adult.

#28

Tony Distefano

1975 250cc National Champion

1976 250cc National Champion

1977 250cc National Champion

2nd, 1972 Motocross des Nations

2nd, 1977 Motocross des Nations

Tony Distefano was a dominant figure in American Motocross in the ’70s. He was a member of the first and second American podium teams in the MXdN, and until Bob Hannah came around, he was unbeatable in the 250cc Nationals. “Tony came up the hard way,” Bevo Forte says. “He had just won the 250 championship on that CZ. We were at Snake River and he had no room, so he ended up sleeping in the back of our box van in between our Bultacos, with footpegs right by his cheeks. There was nowhere else for him to sleep. One thing he was noted for was how smooth he was. He was also really the first guy to beat the Europeans-except Roger. He was always ‘First American.'” Unfortunately for TonyD, he had a lot more injuries after his career than during. He was paralyzed while out trail riding, and he lost his eye when his screwdriver slipped while working on a Can-Am carburetor.

#27

Chad Reed

2nd, 2001 250cc World Championship

2002 125cc Eastern Regional Supercross Champion

2003 World Supercross Champion

2004 AMA Supercross Champion

2nd, 2004 250cc National Championship

2nd, 2005 AMA Supercross Championship

Since reaching the USA in 2002, Chad Reed has not ceased to amaze. “Chad rises to the occasion,” Rick Johnson says. “He’s one of the smartest racers I’ve ever seen. Somebody might swap in a gnarly rhythm section, and he won’t try it. Myself, it was hero or zero. Just wide open. Danger is foggy, success is clear-then all of a sudden success is very foggy, and danger is very clear. Chad has the ability to make that split-second decision. Chad has evolved the sport with his leg positioning, as well as with his knee versus ankle position. Everyone thinks Bubba’s going to dominate. It’s not going to happen. Wherever that bar gets raised to, Chad will go there. He’s not going anywhere.” In other words, expect to see him higher on this list in its next incarnation.

#26

Jeff Emig

1992 125cc National Champion

1996 250cc National Champion

1996 World Supercross Champion

1997 250cc Supercross Champion

1997 250cc National Champion

1997 AMA Athlete of the Year

1992 Motocross des Nations Champion

1993 Motocross des Nations Champion

1996 Motocross des Nations Champion

The fact that Jeff Emig ended up 26th on this list is hard to fathom. He won four National Championships, and was part of three championship MXdN teams-including the infamous “B” team in 1992 with Mike LaRocco and Billy Liles. “One minute, Emig was back in third or fourth or fifth, and the next minute he’s winning championships,” Bevo Forte said. “No one could ever beat him at Red Bud. He’s won so many races there, it’s crazy. He just needed a little confidence. Once he got that, he came into his own.” His tactics weren’t always appreciated, though. “I never really liked racing with him because he would get a good start and race to keep you behind him,” Mike LaRocco said. “He’d jump over in front of you and just do things thatot under my skin. But he got starts, and every race I had to catch him. He did what he had to do.”

#25

David Thorpe

1985 500cc World Champion

1986 500cc World Champion

1989 500cc World Champion

David Thorpe is one of the greatest Brits in modern MX history. “David was one of the first guys who you can say came from Schoolboys. They had all ridden when they were young, but he was a Schoolboy racer in England, and he and his dad worked really hard at racing from an early age,” Steve Whitelock said. “Jody Weisel had written that he was the worst World Champion in the world, but Thorpe was young when we got him and he was a very strong racer. His style was close to a David Bailey. They were both big, tall fellows. One of the funniest things I ever watched was when we were doing preseason testing with the American Honda guys in Simi Valley. We were running our works 500s, and they had production-based 500s. Bailey asked Thorpe if he could ride his bike. Bailey took it out onto the Supercross track, and Thorpe turns to me and says, ‘That’s the fastest my bike will ever go through the whoops.’ But when they faced each other at the Motocross des Nations, Thorpe’s whole goal was to beat Bailey-and he did.”

#24

Doug Henry

1993 125cc Eastern Regional Supercross Champion

1993 125cc National Champion

1994 125cc National Champion

1998 250cc National Champion

Doug Henry has achieved legendary status in the short time since his retirement. He overcame life as a privateer to eventually become a two-time 125cc National Champion, and he overcame horrible injuries to win a 250cc National Championship-the first ever on a four-stroke. He also won the first 250cc Supercross on a four-stroke at Vegas in 1997. “He was a hard worker, and I think all of us go through a point where we peak. He put in a lot of years and got to where he was the most comfortable, and then excelled,” Mike LaRocco said. “He was always a great guy, and he was a good, hard racer. He was the type of guy who just went for it, though, so he was kind of sketchy to be around sometimes. I didn’t like being around him, because if there was two options-on the gas or off of it-he always chose the first one.”

#23

Kent Howerton

1976 500cc National Champion

1979 Trans-USA MX Champion

1980 Trans-USA MX Champion

1980 250cc National Champion

1981 250cc National Champion

Kent Howerton was a quiet, unassuming Texan who did all of his talking on the racetrack-three National Championships’ worth. “Those flamboyant guys got all the attention, which happened to be Hannah at that time, and Kent was more of a quiet Texas guy. If you could get 10 words out of him, you were doing well,” Bevo Forte said. “Kent and Bob were great friends before they started racing. There were a few guys back then who knew what motocross was about, and he knew. He trained, like Bob, and many guys didn’t train. At that time, Texas had a lot of good riders, like Steve Stackable, Steve Wise and such. They made each other good.”

#22

Brad Lackey

1972 500cc National Champion

2nd, 1978 & 1980 500cc World Championships

1982 500cc World Champion

Brad Lackey was a man of firsts. He was the first AMA 500cc National Champion, and he was the first and only American 500cc World Champion-although those championships came a full decade apart. “It seems easy now to go over to Europe and win the championship, but it’s not,” Roger DeCoster said. “Especially when you come from the U.S. It’s a completely different lifestyle. He put in the time. I remember seeing Brad the first time when he was about 15 at the CZ factory in Czechoslovakia, and there’s this young, long-haired kid from California hanging out. He wasn’t even of legal age to drive, and he was there by himself. He ended up staying a lot with me in Belgium later on. I think with the dedication and the years that he put in, to finally do it, it’s quite an accomplishment. He was dedicated enough, followed his dream, put in the work, and he did it.”

#21

Eric Geboers

1982 125cc World Champion

1983 125cc World Champion

1987 250cc World Champion

1988 500cc World Champion

1990 500cc World Champion

Eric Geboers-younger brother of Sylvain-was the first rider to win all three World Championships-125, 250 and 500cc classes-a mark that was only matched recently by Stefan Everts. “It seems like younger brothers seem to try harder than older brothers,” Bevo Forte said. “Nothing ever rattled him. One time, we went to a Supercross 100 miles from his house. I kept saying that we should be leaving an hour before we need to be there, and he keeps going, ‘We’ll get there.’ At that time Insbroeke, an ice cream company, sponsored him, and he stopped by there to get ice cream for the kids, because he loved the crowd. He was just calm, cool and collected all of the time.”

#20

Ron Lechien

1983 AMA 125cc Rookie of the Year

1985 125cc National Champion

1985 Motocross des Nations Champion

1988 Motocross des Nations Champion

Ron Lechien was an enigma. Hailing from the “El Cajon Zone,” along with Broc Glover and Rick Johnson, he was the youngest of the three-and probably the most naturally talented. “Ronnie was a very natural talent, but unfortunately, I think Ron had a little bit of a problem with authority in his life,” Glover said. “It caught up with him later in life. I don’t know why he was like that, but it was like that with his parents, policemen, security or the guy at the airport. It didn’t matter. The surest way to get Ronnie to do something was to tell him not to do it. But the one thing I always respected about him, besides his pure riding talent, is he was always very, very honest. If he messed up, he messed up. He didn’t come up with a bucket of excuses. In 1985 during the Supercross series, there was a big break of about two months before the last round. Wardy, Ron and I all had a chance for the title. He hired a trainer, practiced and left no stone unturned, but when he got to the race, he just fell apart. He rode tight, and he crashed five times in practice. When he didn’t care so much, he rode really well. That was Ronnie.”

#19

Mike LaRocco

1992 Motocross des Nations Champion

1993 500cc National Champion

1994 250cc National Champion

Mike LaRocco is the MX equivalent of the Energizer Bunny. He has had more than 80 podium finishes since his rookie season in 1987, and he’s still going. He was another part of the 1992 MXdN “B” team that won the title along with Jeff Emig and Billy Liles, and he really should’ve won the 1992 125cc National Championship, if not for a string of freak mechanical failures at the end of the season. “I remember going to the amateur races when my family and Mike’s family would park together in motorhomes, and he’s still plugging away today,” Jeff Stanton said. “He just keeps going. I was a little further along when Mike was younger coming up, but when I was on my way out and he was on the Kawi, he started winning. We had some great races, and we’ve been friends since we were young, racing amateur races at Red Bud. It’s great to see him still going. He’s amazing.”

#18

Mark Barnett

1980 125cc National Champion

1981 125cc National Champion

1982 125cc National Champion

1981 250cc Supercross Champion

1983 Motocross des Nations Champion

Mark Barnett was the most dominant 125cc motocrosser around during his time. Despite the fact that there were only between seven and eight 125cc Nationals per year during his reign-as compared to 12 now-he still held the record for most 125cc National wins until Ricky Carmichael knocked him off in 2001. “The Bomber wasn’t a real flamboyant rider, which is why people don’t keep him in mind so much,” Bevo Forte said. “He just went to the race, did his job and left. There was nothing exciting about it. He didn’t do cross-ups, he just went out there and did what he had to do. He was just a little guy, and he looked like a 125 was built in the work, and he did it.”

#21

Eric Geboers

1982 125cc World Champion

1983 125cc World Champion

1987 250cc World Champion

1988 500cc World Champion

1990 500cc World Champion

Eric Geboers-younger brother of Sylvain-was the first rider to win all three World Championships-125, 250 and 500cc classes-a mark that was only matched recently by Stefan Everts. “It seems like younger brothers seem to try harder than older brothers,” Bevo Forte said. “Nothing ever rattled him. One time, we went to a Supercross 100 miles from his house. I kept saying that we should be leaving an hour before we need to be there, and he keeps going, ‘We’ll get there.’ At that time Insbroeke, an ice cream company, sponsored him, and he stopped by there to get ice cream for the kids, because he loved the crowd. He was just calm, cool and collected all of the time.”

#20

Ron Lechien

1983 AMA 125cc Rookie of the Year

1985 125cc National Champion

1985 Motocross des Nations Champion

1988 Motocross des Nations Champion

Ron Lechien was an enigma. Hailing from the “El Cajon Zone,” along with Broc Glover and Rick Johnson, he was the youngest of the three-and probably the most naturally talented. “Ronnie was a very natural talent, but unfortunately, I think Ron had a little bit of a problem with authority in his life,” Glover said. “It caught up with him later in life. I don’t know why he was like that, but it was like that with his parents, policemen, security or the guy at the airport. It didn’t matter. The surest way to get Ronnie to do something was to tell him not to do it. But the one thing I always respected about him, besides his pure riding talent, is he was always very, very honest. If he messed up, he messed up. He didn’t come up with a bucket of excuses. In 1985 during the Supercross series, there was a big break of about two months before the last round. Wardy, Ron and I all had a chance for the title. He hired a trainer, practiced and left no stone unturned, but when he got to the race, he just fell apart. He rode tight, and he crashed five times in practice. When he didn’t care so much, he rode really well. That was Ronnie.”

#19

Mike LaRocco

1992 Motocross des Nations Champion

1993 500cc National Champion

1994 250cc National Champion

Mike LaRocco is the MX equivalent of the Energizer Bunny. He has had more than 80 podium finishes since his rookie season in 1987, and he’s still going. He was another part of the 1992 MXdN “B” team that won the title along with Jeff Emig and Billy Liles, and he really should’ve won the 1992 125cc National Championship, if not for a string of freak mechanical failures at the end of the season. “I remember going to the amateur races when my family and Mike’s family would park together in motorhomes, and he’s still plugging away today,” Jeff Stanton said. “He just keeps going. I was a little further along when Mike was younger coming up, but when I was on my way out and he was on the Kawi, he started winning. We had some great races, and we’ve been friends since we were young, racing amateur races at Red Bud. It’s great to see him still going. He’s amazing.”

#18

Mark Barnett

1980 125cc National Champion

1981 125cc National Champion

1982 125cc National Champion

1981 250cc Supercross Champion

1983 Motocross des Nations Champion

Mark Barnett was the most dominant 125cc motocrosser around during his time. Despite the fact that there were only between seven and eight 125cc Nationals per year during his reign-as compared to 12 now-he still held the record for most 125cc National wins until Ricky Carmichael knocked him off in 2001. “The Bomber wasn’t a real flamboyant rider, which is why people don’t keep him in mind so much,” Bevo Forte said. “He just went to the race, did his job and left. There was nothing exciting about it. He didn’t do cross-ups, he just went out there and did what he had to do. He was just a little guy, and he looked like a 125 was built around him.” Carmichael remembers chasing his title down. “Barnett’s an amazing man. I was proud when I eventually broke his records.”

#17

Heikki Mikkola

1974 500cc World Champion

1976 250cc World Champion

1977 500cc World Champion

1978 500cc World Champion

Roger DeCoster’s biggest rival was undoubtedly Heikki Mikkola. The “Flying Finn,” as he was known, was a constant nuisance, and he beat DeCoster probably more than anyone. “Heikki-you could never count him out,” DeCoster said. “He was always there. He was physically fit, and he could ride any track-sand, hard, whatever. He was good. Of the European guys I raced against, he was the best over a long period. There were other guys who were really good for one or two years, but Heikki was good for 10 years.”

#16

Johnny O’Mara

1981 Motocross des Nations Champion

1982 Motocross des Nations Champion

1983 125cc National Champion

1984 250cc Supercross Champion

1984 Motocross des Nations Champion

1986 Motocross des Nations Champion

Johnny O’Mara is a legend. He’s widely regarded as the most stylish rider around, from his days on his white Mugen to his ride at the 1986 MXdN in Maggiora, Italy, where he rode his CR125 past all but CR500-mounted David Bailey on the way to the 125cc overall. He was also a member of the very first winning American MXdN team. “Johnny was the king of Indian Dunes, and I was one of the top guys at Carlsbad,” Rick Johnson said. “Johnny was one of those guys who when you ride and you really think you look bitchin’, you think you look like Johnny O’Mara. Your goggle strap was perfect, your Jofa sat perfectly… He had the leg gators, the white clothes, the Mugen, and his technique was just bitchin’. He looked great on a bike. The way he cornered and hunched his back and leaned his head; he was just one of the most stylish riders of all time.”

#15

Damon Bradshaw

1989 AMA Rookie of the Year

1989 125cc Eastern Regional Supercross Champion

1990 Motocross des Nations Champion

1991 Motocross des Nations Champion

Damon Bradshaw was the flat-out fastest rider around when he wanted to be. He was the epitome of raw speed and sometimes reckless abandon. He won his first 250cc Supercross in 1990 at 17 years old, and he set the record for most SX wins in a season with nine in 1992-although only a year later, rookie Jeremy McGrath scored 10. “I liked Damon because he was really flashy,” James “Bubba” Stewart says. “The gear he chose and the way he rode, he kind of rode like me-just really fast. He came into the 250s and I think he won his first race. I just like everything-how fast he went, and how cool his style was. He reminds me of me, I guess.” Jeff Stanton battled with him the most. “I had the confidence in Damon that we could battle and we wouldn’t take each other out, but we would pass each other 15 times in a race, and that was fun,” Stanton said. “That was racing. He had some weaknesses. I knew I was physically stronger than he was, and he wasn’t as mentally tough as I was, but he made up for it in raw talent.”

ilt around him.” Carmichael remembers chasing his title down. “Barnett’s an amazing man. I was proud when I eventually broke his records.”

#17

Heikki Mikkola

1974 500cc World Champion

1976 250cc World Champion

1977 500cc World Champion

1978 500cc World Champion

Roger DeCoster’s biggest rival was undoubtedly Heikki Mikkola. The “Flying Finn,” as he was known, was a constant nuisance, and he beat DeCoster probably more than anyone. “Heikki-you could never count him out,” DeCoster said. “He was always there. He was physically fit, and he could ride any track-sand, hard, whatever. He was good. Of the European guys I raced against, he was the best over a long period. There were other guys who were really good for one or two years, but Heikki was good for 10 years.”

#16

Johnny O’Mara

1981 Motocross des Nations Champion

1982 Motocross des Nations Champion

1983 125cc National Champiion

1984 250cc Supercross Champion

1984 Motocross des Nations Champion

1986 Motocross des Nations Champion

Johnny O’Mara is a legend. He’s widely regarded as the most stylish rider around, from his days on his white Mugen to his ride at the 1986 MXdN in Maggiora, Italy, where he rode his CR125 past all but CR500-mounted David Bailey on the way to the 125cc overall. He was also a member of the very first winning American MXdN team. “Johnny was the king of Indian Dunes, and I was one of the top guys at Carlsbad,” Rick Johnson said. “Johnny was one of those guys who when you ride and you really think you look bitchin’, you think you look like Johnny O’Mara. Your goggle strap was perfect, your Jofa sat perfectly… He had the leg gators, the white clothes, the Mugen, and his technique was just bitchin’. He looked great on a bike. The way he cornered and hunched his back and leaned his head; he was just one of the most stylish riders of all time.”

#15

Damon Bradshaw

1989 AMA Rookie of the Year

1989 125cc Eastern Regional Supercross Champion

1990 Motocross des Nations Champion

1991 Motocross des Nations Champion

Damon Bradshaw was the flat-out fastest rider around when he wanted to be. He was the epitome of raw speed and sometimes reckless abandon. He won his first 250cc Supercross in 1990 at 17 years old, and he set the record for most SX wins in a season with nine in 1992-although only a year later, rookie Jeremy McGrath scored 10. “I liked Damon because he was really flashy,” James “Bubba” Stewart says. “The gear he chose and the way he rode, he kind of rode like me-just really fast. He came into the 250s and I think he won his first race. I just like everything-how fast he went, and how cool his style was. He reminds me of me, I guess.” Jeff Stanton battled with him the most. “I had the confidence in Damon that we could battle and we wouldn’t take each other out, but we would pass each other 15 times in a race, and that was fun,” Stanton said. “That was racing. He had some weaknesses. I knew I was physically stronger than he was, and he wasn’t as mentally tough as I was, but he made up for it in raw talent.”