Monday Kickstart – Thunder Valley 2012

Mountain weather reared its ugly head this weekend in Lakewood, Colorado, threatening to put a stop to the Thunder Valley National, but after an hour delay in between the first 450 and 250 motos, the show resumed in front of a brave and diligent crowd, who toughed out the weather to watch their favorite riders tear up the hillside track.
James Stewart topped the noteworthy buzz, but unfortunately it wasn’t because he continued his moto win streak. Instead, a get-off in the deeply rutted straightaway coming down the hillside forced Bubbs to the sidelines, ending his race day and, thus, forfeiting his lead to Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey.

Yikes. What started as a sunny, warm day quickly turned dark, cold, and wet by the time racing started. At 6,000 feet above sea level, the Lakewood area commonly sees drastic shifts in weather in a short time.


Yoshimura Suzuki's James Stewart came into Thunder Valley with four straight moto victories and the confidence that stems from winning grueling motos in the heat. He started his day on Saturday right where he had left off the week before by posting the fastest qualifying lap and took the first gate pick. Both he and Red Bull KTM's Ryan Dungey were over two seconds faster than the third qualifier.

James Stewart's day ended after he stacked it up in the deep ruts of a downhill straightaway. He hurt his wrist badly, and was forced out of racing the rest of the day. Check out his explanation of the crash here:


We are extremely bummed—as are all moto fans—that this budding rivalry may be cut short. Hopefully, James will bounce back from his crash this weekend and return to dicing with Dungey very soon.

Tyla Rattray's mechanic and stepfather Wayne Lumgair has taken over wrenching on Ivan Tedesco's bike. Tyla made the fill-in move to Monster Energy Kawasaki but his racing ended nearly before it started. He has been sidelined since the opening round at Hangtown. Dean Wilson is also on the couch with injury, so Tedesco and Lumgair have found each other in the shuffle.


Monster Energy Kawasaki's Jake Weimer enjoyed his best-ever 450 National finish at Thunder Valley, earning second overall via 2-4 moto scores. Weimer coughed and hacked his way through the day, suffering from a chest cold he came down with a couple days before the National, making his performance even more impressive. Sadly, Jake didn't get to share it with his regular mechanic Dana Wiggins, as he was home with his expectant wife. Ryan Villopoto's mechanic, Mike Williamson, will be filling in for Wiggins for the next few races.


JDR/J-Star/KTM's Malcolm Stewart seems to be settling into his outdoor groove. After rough two rounds of racing, Mookie stayed consistent at Thunder Valley with 8-6 moto scores and now has some added confidence and momentum going into High Point. Expect the younger Stewart to dice it up with the Geico Honda, Red Bull KTM, and Pro Circuit guys next week.


Jimmy Albertson's Shades of Gray-painted lid is amazing! Showing his love for the Oklahoma City Thunder who are tied 2-2 in the NBA conference finals with the San Antonio Spurs, Albie proved that moto and basketball are kindred sports…maybe.


Another look at Top Jimmy's Fly helmet.

Geico Honda's Justin Barcia gave the Thunder Valley crowd a sneak peek at the all-new 2013 Honda CRF450R with a parade lap before the first 450 moto. American Honda's Bill Savino added a brief overview of the machine over the PA system while Barcia flicked a few whips for the fans.


Honda Muscle Milk rider Tommy Hahn suffered a broken finger in the first 450 moto when a rock struck his throttle hand. "It's a clean break that will heal without surgery, as long as I keep it splinted," said a dejected Hahn. "I'm over it. I'm going to be a pilot. Let me know if you need a private jet…" Get well soon, Tommy!


Star/Valli/Rockstar/Yamaha rider Nico Izzi turned in a pair of great rides that netted him fourth overall. Izzi has slowly but surely been turning in some impressive rides, and he was stoked with his finish, especially considering the weather and track conditions. "It was so gnarly out there," he said. "The wind was crazy, too. When it's a steady wind, you can whip it with the wind, but the gusts out there would just catch you off guard. One time in moto one over the big table in back, I got blown off the track and landed on one of those black timing boxes. I thought I was going to eat shit, but I must have just blasted it to bits instead."


We are pretty sure they are letting them ride. In fact, we are pretty sure they held two motos that Jessica Patterson, Ashley Fiolek, and the rest of the WMX talent raced.


Scott riders kept their vision clear with new 2013 designs. Scott formally launched their entire 2013 line at the Colorado Rockies/Los Angeles Dodger game Friday night at Coors Field. Stay tuned later today for a peek at the new line.

Geico Honda's Wil Hahn started his day a bit slow, grinding out the first moto for ninth, but returned the second time around with a holeshot in the second moto. His lead, though, was cut short immediately by his teammate Justin Barcia. Wilbur managed to hold on for seventh and secure eighth overall in the highly competitive 250 class. He sits seventh in points heading into High Point.


Team Troy Lee Honda's Jessy Nelson didn't fare as well as he did last week in Texas, but he still finished 16th overall, in spite of a handful of crashes. "I fell so many times in the first moto," said Nelson. "I can't remember the last time I crashed that many times during a race. The track was gnarly!" We caught up with Nelson on Sunday at the opening round of the Muscle Milk TransWorld Motocross Race Series Summer Cup, as he came out to cheer on a few of his good friends.


If only the skies at Thunder Valley had stayed as clear as the trophies…

In the upper part of the track, where may riders found themselves picking up their bikes from a crash, the soil is deep, dark, and pretty tacky. Well before the weather turned ugly in Lakewood, the dirt was still extremely sticky. Mechanics had their work cut out for them after each practice and moto to get the bikes ready for the next line-up.


Team Honda's Ashley Fiolek suffered a horrendous crash while leading the second WMX moto, slamming the mat in one of the hard-packed sections of the crash. The defending WMX Champion was somehow able to remount and recover for sixth in the moto, and third overall. Immediately after the race, she collapsed to the ground and was taken to the Asterisk Mobile Medical unit, where she spent a couple hours before going to the local hospital. Fiolek was diagnosed with a bad concussion and will have to spend a couple extra days in Colorado before flying home to St. Augustine, Florida. Get well, soon, Ashley.

Honda Muscle Milk's Justin Brayton looked comfortable on the Thunder Valley track, but didn't quite manage to hold the same pace as the front-runners. After scoring a ninth-place finish in the first moto, however, Brayton did improve his results in the second with a sixth just behind Valli/Star/Yamaha's Nico Izzi.


Following his first win of the season, we asked KTM Red Bull's Ryan Dungey how the first National win aboard the KTM 450SX-F felt in comparison to his first Supercross win in Phoenix. "It feels great, but it's hard to compare to the Phoenix win, which was the first-ever win for the new bike," said Dungey. "The bike is getting better and better, and the Supercross series taught us a lot about set-up for the outdoors. I hate to win this way, with James going down, but I really do feel like we are getting faster each week as we learn more about setting the new bike up."


With his overall win, Dungey took the red plate away from James Stewart. Dungey now sits 35 points ahead of Jake Weimer, who is just one point ahead of Stewart.


Following his last-lap crash in the second 250 moto, KTM Red Bull's Ken Roczen suffered a noticeable limp and many on hand speculated that he may have tweaked his knee in the crash. "I got the worst charley horse in my cramp," Roczen told us after the race. "I got up and it hurt so bad, and I tried to stretch it out while I was riding but it just came back. I'm gonna be feeling this one for weeks!"


Speaking of Roczen, the popular German rider has been staying with his former teammate and good friend, Andrew Short, in Texas. "It is good to train with a friend and practice in someplace other than Southern California," he said. "For me, it is good to ride and train in the heat of Texas, because it will help me prepare for the hot races ahead this summer." The worst thing about staying in Texas? "The closest Chipotle is over an hour away in Austin!," said Roczen, who was delighted to find one of his beloved restaurants in Denver. "They told me that the first-ever Chipotle was from Colorado! I went there twice this weekend!"

Hometown hero Andrew Short took third overall to the delight of the fans. He said after the race that he is happy with the progress they have made and that he is very proud of how hard the team has been working.


After his Texas Massacre last weekend, Geico Honda's Eli Tomac was visibly dejected with fourth overall at Thunder Valley. "The extra five pounds I have on most of the guys I am racing against really hurt me here in the altitude," said Tomac. "It certainly didn't help on the uphill, tilled-up start straight!" Still, Tomac is happy with his season as a whole, especially after chalking up his second National win last weekend. "Talk about getting a monkey off your back!" he joked.


Honda Muscle Milk's Sayaka Kaneshiro enjoyed her best-ever WMX showing at Thunder Valley, posting a third-place finish in moto two and fourth overall on the day. "I'm very excited," said Kaneshiro. "This is my best finish ever. Being on the Honda Muscle Milk team is like a dream." Spinning the wrenches for Kaneshiro is our good friend Charlie "Mr. Charrey" Flippen, and all-around great guy and former Suzuki Country Racing superstar.


They say a photo speaks a thousand words, and we would agree with this particular example. Fan devotion: check. Youthful ingenuity: check. Local brew: check. The list goes on.


Fox riders and Red Bull KTM teammates Ryan Dungey and Ken Roczen are sporting some dope one-off Fox pants. With Red Bull logos integrated into the TPR patches and venting, the pants are about as factory as possible.

Ken Roczen chased down Justin Barcia in the first moto. Lap after lap, he yo-yoed behind the Geico Honda rider. Late in the moto, however, he made his push and cut Barcia's lead to just a few bike lengths. Just when it looked as though he was about to be in position to challenge the lead, he tipped over in a turned after his front wheel pushed over the top of a small rut. Barcia took the win, but Roczen managed to hold on for second.

When the weather decided to wreak havoc on the race, it did so with furious wind gusts, intermittent rain, and lightning. The winds were so bad, that just about every piece of branded track decoration was torn from its posts. Even the start gate backdrop was not safe from the Rocky Mountain fury.


The Colorado ladies love Eli Tomac.

Before a rock ended Tommy Hahn's day, the replacement Honda Muscle Milk rider scored a big holeshot in the first 450 moto. In previous years, Hahn has had some decent luck at Thunder Valley, and after this holeshot, it looked as though he might continue down the road to good fortune. Unfortunately, the track had other plans.


Nick "Lil' Swap" Paluzzi (center) returned to racing this weekend in Lakewood, trying his luck in the 450 class. He put in a relatively forgettable performance, but it was encouraging for him to be back on the race track.

Although the weather was absolutely scary and damaging, the Colorado fans toughed it out. After an hour delay, racing resumed with a full crowd to cheer the racers on. Colorado natives are devoted ( and apparently pretty used to sketchy weather).

Pro Circuit's Blake Baggett secured the red number plate for another week, but Geico Honda's Justin Barcia and Red Bull KTM's Ken Roczen aren't far behind. The 250 class is shaping up to be a pretty incredible season-long battle.

See you at High Point!