Michael Antonovich caught up with the top-three contenders in the 250 and WMX classes at yesterday’s Pala MX Press Day.

DEAN WILSON

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After 11 grueling rounds, Dean Wilson was able to clinch the 250 National Championship one round early at Steel City. While many would take these next few weeks as an extension on the off season vacation and just phone it in at the finale in Pala and the MX des Nations in France, Wilson would rather give it his all and chase down another win. While 2011 was only his second full season as a professional, Dean displays a maturity and consistency on the track that is unrivaled in his class. With virtually nothing to lose Saturday, Wilson was even more lighthearted than usual at the Pala Press Day, and we caught up with the newly crowned champion to look back at both the year that has passed and also the coming weeks.

How does it feel to be 2011 250 National champion?

It feels absolutely great, over the moon. It is a dream come true is what it is. I honestly wanted to win it in Pala, but beggars can't be choosers. And when you can wrap it up a round early? That's even better. It was just amazing.

How do you feel coming into this weekend? There is no pressure on you, but you would still like to go out on a high note.

I want to go off on a high note and take that into the des Nations. I'm feeling really good and I like this track, so I think I can do good.

Going into this des Nations, this will be your second time competing for Great Britain. Do you feel pressure from the team or is it different now that you are a seasoned veteran, especially for someone your age?

I don't think there is pressure for me going in to it. I am just excited to race those guys and I think it will be fun and exciting. I have two great teammates, so it will be good and I am looking forward to it.

What are your plans for the off season this year?

After the des Nations I am hopping a plane back to here and getting on a 450 to prepare for the Monster Energy Cup in October. That will be really fun, but once I am done with that I am flying from Vegas to Scotland to chill out there for a month and take some time off.


BLAKE BAGGETT

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The oppressive heat at many rounds of this year's  Nationals took its toll on more than just handful of riders. East Coast rounds and the accompanying humidity are torture to racers from the West Coast's arid desert weather, but for California-born-and-raised Blake Baggett, it never seemed to be an issue. While most competitors’ lap times grew longer in the waning moments of a moto, it was at that time that Baggett was setting his quickest of the day, a true testament of his stamina. Bad luck and mistakes have pulled Baggett farther back into the points chase than desired, as the one time leader has fallen to third in points as we conclude the season this weekend. But all hope is not lost, because the valiant rides after errors have earned Blake a spot on the American MX de Nations team.

Looking back on your year, how do you feel it went?

I would say it decent. There were a lot of ups and downs throughout the year, so I will try to fix those for next year so we just have ups (Laughs). We will go back to work and look at what we did when we made mistakes. All in all it was a good year and we will look at what we did in making mistakes and stuff.

What are your plans for this weekend? Just trying to go out with a bang?

I'm just trying to win. That is all I can do.

Are you looking forward to next week in France, this being your first time on the des Nations' team? And is there a lot of additional pressure or are you more excited about it?

Yeah, I am excited. There is a little bit of added pressure but I'm going to try to do my best.

Is this your first time racing out of the country professionally?

Yeah, for sure. This is my first time going anywhere, so it will be an experience. And also to race with guys that you don't really know too much about.

Looking on to next year, will you be staying here at Pro Circuit?

Yeah, that's the plan.

TYLA RATTRAY

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After next weekend's MX des Nations in southern France, Tyla Rattray's tenure aboard a Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki will come to an end. Since coming stateside in 2009 Rattray has been seen as a threat for the 250 outdoor title more than he has been for Supercross, as it was the South African's speed in the European GPs that caught the attention of Mitch Payton. After three solid seasons, most recently an eighth-place in his rookie Supercross season and currently second in points heading into this weekend's finale at Pala, Rattray has pointed out of the 250 class is will be forced to move to the 450 for next year. We caught up Tyla and looked back on this past season and also on what the future holds for the likeable 26 year old.

With Saturday being the last "official" race of the year, how do you feel your season went?

It went pretty good. I felt good this season in motocross, and obviously Dean (Wilson) was able to wrap the championship up, which was disappointing. I was working hard to win this championship, but it is what it is. He was the most consistent rider and he deserved to win this championship. I'm looking forward to this last race. I always like coming to California and I think there will be a lot of people out here cheering for me, and I have friends and family coming over here from South Africa. It's been a good year for our team, with Broc (Tickle) winning the Supercross championship, and me, Blake, and Dean first, second, and third in points. It shows how hard everyone at the team works.

With the des Nations coming up in France next week, how do you feel? Are you familiar with the track and do you high expectations for yourself?

Yeah, I raced at that track quite a bit when I was racing in Europe. It is a very cool track, it reminds of Steel City but a little rockier. I will be racing a 450, which is awesome. I made a lot of fans when I was there racing in Europe and I am looking forward to going back.

With these being the last two weeks of your contract with Pro Circuit, what are your plans for next year?

We are in negotiation now with teams for next year. We haven't signed anything yet, and my agent is still working on a couple of things. So as of right now I don't really know what I am doing but I think within the next week or two weeks, hopefully before the des Nations, I will have signed. I just want to see what the best situation is for me.

Would you like to stay here in America or have you considered going back to Europe?

No, I definitely want to stay in America, for sure. My plan is to finish my career here in America.

ASHLEY FIOLEK

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It seems that this year every championship in every class, indoors or outdoors, has gone down as "The Greatest Year Ever." The WMA Championship is no different, as the duels between Ashley Fiolek and rival Jessica Patterson have been nothing less than thrilling. The two have swapped moto wins since round one and has we approach the final round this weekend in Pala, CA, it is Ashley Fiolek with a commanding twenty-two point lead. After two 15-minute exhibitions at the Pala Press Day with Patterson and Tarah Geiger, we caught up with Fiolek to discuss the importance of this past summer and the title itself.

How do you feel that your season has gone thus far?

This season has gone really good for me. I have been consistent, stayed strong and healthy, and I am happy to come to Pala in a good position. I have been working hard this year and I am twenty-two points ahead coming in to the last round, so I want to stay up and safe and cross the finish line with the championship if I can. I just am going to try my best, but we will see what happens on Saturday.

With the title on the line, is there any added pressure this weekend?

It has been a long season. Jessica and I have been battling each other and we have been battling for a few years now, and we both been working hard, both trying to improve. Now we are at the final round and there is some pressure, but I am trying not to think about it and trying to be positive. I know I have worked hard, so that is all I can do. I just want to win the championship back if I can and try my best, but not think about the pressure.

How did you feel after the X Games, and did you feel back to normal quickly?

I was really bummed about the X Games. But everything happens for a reason, and I was bummed that I was out and couldn't be in it. The Honda team and I were trying to decide, and they said that we were ahead in points so not to worry about the X Games right now. I am happy and hopefully I can win this championship so it will equal out not winning X Games (laughs). I had to stay off the bike for ten days, but I've been okay now.

What are your plans for the off season and if you win the championship have you thought of a way to celebrate?

Well, it would be amazing if I win. I would drink some Mountain Dew and eat food that I normally can't have, that is what I look forward to. But I'm not going to relax because I have a busy schedule until October. I have to fly to different states to do events, a wedding to attend, an award show, Deaf Fest here in California, and I'll be 21 in October, so I am having a big party that will be my celebration.


TARAH GIEGER

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The record books may show that up until now, only two women have scored wins in the 10 motos that have been run. It is a shame that it may not mention how Tarah Geiger has been in the hunt each and every weekend, waiting to add her name to that small list. After watching her attack the Pala track during Press Day, it seems like this weekend may very well be her time. We caught up with Geiger to discuss a variety of topics, including this season, the competition, and the growth of Women's motocross.

How did your year go?

It has been alright. I have been consistent, on the podium most of the time and it has progressively gotten better throughout the year. I probably had one of my best rides at Steel City and I am looking to improve on that this week. But I am really just looking for that win before the season is over.

How did you like the schedule this year, as you were able to go to different tracks that you have not raced previously? Did you find tracks that you liked more than the ones that were replaced?

I enjoyed all the tracks pretty much. The few that we didn't get to do are the ones that nobody enjoys that much, so that is a plus that we don't have to go to those. All of the tracks were pretty fun and I enjoyed them all.

What are your expectations for this weekend after riding today?

I was just having a bit of fun out there, riding around. I know the track will be different this weekend, a little deeper and it will get really rough. I worked on a lot of starts, so I hope to keep getting them like I have the last couple of races. I just want to keep it up front.

You have quite a long off season between now and the start of the Nationals next summer. How do you plan to spend that time?

There is always stuff to work on, to get better and stronger for next year. I just have fun and keep it enjoyable so I don't get burned out come spring. I head out back to Florida next week and then to Puerto Rico for a bit, because I haven't gotten to be with them too much this summer.

After seeing how they have displayed Women's motocross this year, what would you like to see done for next year?

I think we are doing good. It would be nice to do the whole series so that we aren't there one week and not there for a few more. But I understand that most of the girls are doing it all on their own budget, and that is a lot of money. I'd like to keep it at eight races and maybe go to a few more. We are getting good coverage, but if we could get some TV time here and there, or online, that would be better. But we will see how it goes for next year.

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