Making it to the big leagues of professional motocross racing is a feat only conquered by a small fraction of those who attempt to turn this sport into a career. Before getting to this point though, sacrifices must be made. Having a normal social life is seemingly out of the question with all of the necessary riding and training, along with the inevitable injuries that every racer will face. Let's not forget the astronomical amount of money that it takes to get to this point, either. Years and years of heartbreak, adversity, failure and loss are all experienced by these athletes even as young amateurs.
This sport is not for the faint of heart, as it requires discipline, dedication and the willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed. Before graduating to the pinnacle of dirt bike racing though, these athletes must first cut their teeth in the amateur ranks where they’ll learn just about everything they need to know about racing before lining up under the lights of Angel Stadium.
January 7th 2017 marked a special day for the LaFountaine family, as Tallon (the youngest of three boys) raced under the Saturday night lights for the first time in his young career. Tallon's journey as a racer didn't begin when he was three or four years old like most racers though. Instead, he grew up on the sidelines watching his two older brothers race on the weekends. Josh (the oldest brother) became an established "A" class amateur racer, but after years of injuries he made the conscious decision to leave the sport. Following in his older brother's footsteps was Jeagher (the middle brother). Jeagher also climbed through the amateur ranks to reach the "A" class, but that all came to a screeching halt when tragedy struck within the family in May of 2010. After returning to the family home after another long day of riding and training, Jeagher went to sleep that night and never woke up. He passed away at the young age of 18.
In early 2012 – about a year and a half after the death of his brother – Tallon suddenly took an interest in racing, and after displaying some promising potential early on the family dove right back into the racing pool. Fast forward five short years to January 7th 2017 and you'll find that we arrived at the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross season opener at Angel Stadium; Tallon's graduation day!
By his side throughout the entire journey has been Tallon’s dad Marlow. The pair can be found any given day of the week at the practice track with Tallon’s trainer Randy Lawrence putting in moto after moto preparing for his promising future. Marlow has a racing background, as well and after grooming all three of his sons to become top rank amateur motocross racers, it’s safe to say that racing runs in the veins of the LaFountaine family.
“More than anything I’m ready to get this night going.” Said Tallon when we asked how he was feeling upon arriving that morning. “I’m definitely excited and obviously a little bit nervous, but most of all I’m feeling extremely anxious. I want to take this all in and enjoy the process of my first day as a professional.”
From the time he started racing back in 2012, Tallon upheld the number 59 as his amateur number, but unfortunately he was unable to hold on to it when he turned pro. The number 59 holds a special place in the hearts of the LaFountaine family, as it was originally Jeagher’s riding number, and although that exact number was taken Tallon still managed to come up with the same number, just in a more creative way (1+4=5/9).
In the week leading up to the season opener, Southern California saw a bit of rain, which is obviously something that no rider wants to encounter at the first round. Luckily though, the rain never made an appearance on Saturday, but the damage was already done, and the first non-timed practice had to be removed from the schedule; not exactly the ideal situation for Tallon’s first Supercross race.
After Track Walk, Tallon, his father and his trainer Randy returned to the pits to prepare for the first of two timed-qualifiers. Just before throwing his helmet on and heading out to ride the Anaheim One course for the first time though, we asked Tallon how he was feeling, and this is what he had to say: “I’m trying to be as calm as I can because I’m a little nervous, right now. My plan is to stay loose out there and to get in as many laps as I can. I want to feel things out in the first practice, so that I can put it down in the final practice.”
Once both timed practices had concluded, Tallon had officially qualified into the night show; a task that only a fraction of the entrants conquer. “The first timed-qualifier I was anxious and I was riding tight.” Said Tallon. “The second timed-qualifier is when I started to feel good, but I still need to up my level of intensity and aggression. If I do that, I know I’ll finish in a decent position in the heat race. This is still my first Supercross race, so I’m going to learn as much as I can. Everything I learn tonight I can bring with me next weekend to San Diego.”
A short relaxation period ensued after practice and then it was time to prepare for the night show. “I’m feeling pretty excited about the race.” Said Tallon just before Opening Ceremonies kicked off. “I’m feeling better now that I have some laps under my belt, and now I just have to focus on racing. I think that I was more nervous for practice than I am for the night show (laughs). Hopefully I can have some fun and bang bars with some of the guys.”
Tallon qualified into 250 Heat 1, but with a less than ideal gate pick that nearly put him on the outside gate. Once the gate dropped, Tallon got off to a good jump, but there was only so much he could do from the far outside gate. The 149 began to pick off riders in an attempt to move into a qualifying position, but it was too late. Tallon then headed for the Last Chance Qualifier where he was dealt with another bad gate pick. Once again, Tallon was forced to fight his way through the pack, but the qualifying positions were too far out of reach for the young rookie.
January 7th was an extremely emotional day for the LaFountaine family, as mom (Carol) and dad watched their youngest son graduate to the epitome of motocross racing. Although Tallon didn’t qualify into the main event, there were still lessons learned along the way that will undoubtedly be put to use this weekend in San Diego. After Tallon’s night had concluded we sat down with him one last time to get his take on the day and this is what he had to say: “The biggest lesson that I learned today was that I need to be more aggressive and intense in the opening laps.” He said regarding his performance in the heat race. “I need to work on making practice count so that I can have a better gate pick, as well. Honestly, I’m not happy with the way I rode, either. I had a decent jump off the line, but I didn’t stay in it long enough. I got schooled (laughs), but I learned a lot today. I’m extremely motivated to race next weekend because I didn’t ride to my full potential. More than anything though, I’m excited to keep progressing!”